Whenever and wherever gold is found in the world, the mining folk home in. This surge of people, upon the unearthing of gold, is known as a gold rush. There’s also a popular reality TV show on the Discovery channel called Gold Rush, which follows the exploits of mining companies looking to make a fortune. Given its sheer popularity, a mining simulation game has arrived in the form of Gold Rush: The Game and now you too can reap the rewards of being a miner. Will you strike gold with a purchase of Gold Rush: The Game, or is it just pure dirt that only brings disappointment?
There’s no sugar coating it, Gold Rush: The Game is a terrible, terrible offering in so many ways and has very few redeeming qualities. With that said, please indulge me as I hope to explain exactly what lets it down.
Even though Gold Rush: The Game is based on the aforementioned TV show, right off the bat it’s clear that it won’t matter too much if you’re unfamiliar with the series. First and foremost, this is a gold mining simulator which aims to throw you deep into every aspect of the industry, from the leasing or purchasing of the rights to work on the land and setting up the equipment, to actually getting behind the wheel of various machinery and maintaining it yourself. Managing the finances to ensure you’re making a tidy profit off of the end product is also a part of your job.
So, in order to kickstart your new career and put you on the path towards success, a tutorial is needed. Sadly, it’s less of a successful path and more of a highway to hell. Due to the overwhelming amount of aspects involved in the business, the optional tutorial is rather lengthy – clocking in at well over a few hours, for various reasons. You’ll begin on a claim (where you have the rights to dig) that’s well kitted out with equipment. It’ll have you perform some excavating, before stripping down the parts of a wash plant to extract gold from the mats.
Almost immediately it becomes apparent that the control system on Xbox is stupidly complex. Depending on whether you’re driving a machine or operating its primary function, there are likely two separate schemes to get used to for each. It’s incredibly fiddly and counter-intuitive, to the point where after lots of playtime you’ll no doubt still require the controls displayed over half of the screen as a reminder. With various setups for different situations and no option to remap buttons, it’s tough to grasp.
The other instantly noticeable issue is movement, specifically around the land while on foot. Any slight incline or minor step poses a real problem, which sees you either dramatically slow down or actually come to a halt. The fact your character possesses a decent sized jump comes in handy here, but it’s bloody ridiculous needing to leap everywhere like some kind of platformer. What’s worse is that to interact with certain sections of the mining setup, you must awkwardly find a way to climb on top of the equipment – health and safety would have a field day.
Nevertheless, after learning a few things on a ready-to-go plot of land, Gold Rush: The Game turns the attention to a new place for the foundations of your business to be laid down. You’re going to be maneuvering various pieces of gold-digging equipment into their designated areas and utilising power sources, while creating a fully functioning system using cables and hoses. The sheer depth comes to light upon realising even the smallest of tasks are your responsibility e.g. keeping the pickup truck’s tank full, refuelling generators and fixing key components when required. It’s hard to really appreciate these elements though because every action taken is a real chore.
The ragdoll physics are the main reason, with items often behaving bizarrely when being carried in your truck or a wooden crate. They’ll fall out regularly and if you’re really unlucky, items like buckets can just melt into the ground after doing so. Transporting the sluice boxes, the shaker and trommel just a few metres using an excavator is tricky too; suspended on cables, they’ll go haywire if you accidentally catch them on another object. At one point, minimal contact saw all of the cables flung off and the equipment went flying. Given how tedious some of the tasks are, you lose any desire to put in the hard graft upon witnessing the glitches occurring, which can be costly in terms of time and money.
The world itself doesn’t do Gold Rush: The Game any favours either, with the local town bereft of any lifeforms and the four claim areas lacking character. It’s almost as if you’ve woken up in an apocalyptic wasteland, with store owners and bank staff only dealing through doors without making an appearance. The visuals are very outdated, with short draw distances and ugly textures like something from the Xbox 360 generation. Surprisingly, pauses in play for loading are far too frequent and it’s not unusual to see a handful of them during a drive that should last under a minute.
Unfortunately, the negative points don’t end there. Numerous times the manual save system stopped working altogether and on a few occasions the game just completely froze up. Neither of which you want to happen after putting in a bit of hard labour in order to dig up the gold. It’s so disheartening when put up alongside the other irritations and issues, and there are tons more I haven’t even mentioned.
In the end, Gold Rush: The Game has all of the tools – literally – to make for a deep gold mining simulator, yet fails to succeed in any way. The controls are awful to get to grips with on console, the sheer volume of aspects to learn is overwhelming, and the lengthy tutorial still leaves you with unanswered questions that the in-game help guides simply do not explain well. On top of that, the weird movements, the nightmare physics and the mountain of technical problems just confound the experience as one to be avoided.
Gold Rush: The Game is out now on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One