If I’m honest, my first day as a train driver wasn’t a great one.
After departing from my home in Slough, I was told to hop aboard a train to Paddington in preparation for my first job. As I waited on the platform, my nerves getting the better of me, I suddenly got struck down by fear. Was I really going to be driving this train? How was I going to do it? And whilst enveloped by that fear, I made my first mistake… I tried to enter the driver’s carriage as the train pulled in. You see, I wasn’t meant to be there, I was just meant to be a passenger. With my apologies made, I got back on the platform just as the train pulled away. Yes, that’s right, I had just missed my only way to London and it was odds on that I’d be late for the job. Then I turned round in a panic, and fell onto the tracks. It wasn’t the best first day at work.
A quick restart though and I was back in the game!
The sim world is all-encompassing and it can suck every inch of your life away. Ask any Football Manager fanatic who has burned through hundreds of hours in their quest for trophies. But our appetite for these games is huge. Maybe it’s the chance to escape into another person’s life for a moment, and sharing their experiences at work that appeals. And with that in mind, when you were a kid, everyone – and I mean, everyone – at least at one point wanted to be a train driver. Train Sim World: Founders Edition gives you that chance.
But being a train driver isn’t easy and you can see why the real world drivers want pay increases; getting to grips with these huge machines is tough. Thankfully there a number of tutorials within Train Sim World that put you in the driving seats of a number of trains, ranging from a small shuttle train to the huge locomotives that pull the goods trucks.
Straight away, you quickly realise that it’s not just a case of sitting in the front seat and pressing the go button. No, there are switches, master keys, reverse levers to pull, headlights, amps, throttles, doors to unlock, and buzzers to beep twice before you get to go on your way. The game guides you through all these steps before you hit the tracks, and as you would expect from a sim, everything is incredibly detailed and researched.
Moving along, slowly gaining speed and watching out for the next red signal and speed limits is pretty much your life in Train Sim World, with the aim to get to a certain location, dropping off and picking up passengers along the way. It’s simple stuff in theory, but in practice is much harder. You see, the trick is to get every single component of piloting these trains right, not overshooting or pulling up early to any platform. You’ll need to keep to a timetable too; this is very hard… and I couldn’t blame any leaves on the line for my lateness.
The actual journeys are all played out in real time, so if it takes 30 mins to get a high-speed train to Reading then that’s the time it takes to play through your journey. This can be quite daunting at first, but the journey does become quite a pleasant experience and because of the constant checking for signals it flies by.
Should you tire of the constant stress though, you can also take a train as a passenger to any of the selected locations, after which you can walk about the train exploring the carriages or through any of the different areas of the stations on the Great Western Railway. But not the toilets. I wasn’t allowed in there for some reason. You can take part in any service timetable on the GWR area – of which there are plenty – but it does need a few difference variations in terms of the routes.
Thankfully though, you won’t ever be tasked with travelling the length and breadth of the country or ‘enjoying’ a 7-hour journey to Glasgow. There are however 40 odd miles of track to explore and the insanity in me would love to have access to every track in the UK in the future.
So how does Train Sim World: Founders Edition play? Well it plays pretty well actually; the trains all work fine and the amount of detail is great. There are some minor bugs every now and again, the train stations seem very empty and there should most definitely be more scenarios to complete, as it’s pretty limited at the moment, but actually taking control of a train and going to ‘work’ is something that I found to be a bit addictive – no more so than when I put some music on and just worked the rails.
The game looks good too with all the trains replicated in the minutest of detail. The passengers scared me a bit though, with an obvious limit to their variety – there were a lot of twins sitting next to each other, which is highly coincidental on the Reading to Ealing line. The skies are lovely and from switching cameras to the outside, journeys look good as the world rushes by at 90 miles per hour. There are the occasional small frame rate issues, but nothing to get worked up about.
As you would expect with the audio, it is all about the effects and it delivers all the required sounds of a real train. However, there isn’t a soundtrack to speak of, so put on your own playlist, but should all else fail, there’s a very calm voice-over lady, who seems to the nicest, most patient, rail controller in the world… even when I can’t start the train for the 100th time!
Overall though and I surprised myself by actually enjoying my time on the railways. Train Sim World: Founders Edition is actually quite addictive and it’s fascinating to be given a glimpse into the life of a train driver. I would have liked to have seen more scenarios and tracks, perhaps taking in the whole of the UK, but downloadable content is a thing so maybe that is coming further down the line.
If you like trains though and want to step into the shoes of the driver, then playing Train Sim World would be a great start.