Let's get this out of the way: this is a simulation game akin to Euro Truck Simulator. If you are going into this thinking you'd be able to roleplay as a happy prospector during the height of the historical period of the California gold rush in the mid 19th century, you will be disappointed. That isn't an indictment, but I realize the title could maybe mislead a history buff excited for some sort of 1850s drama. Rather, this is a realistic simulation of the modern gold miner in Alaska. At least, I think it's realistic, I cannot say I've ever had to mine for gold in Alaska. However, Play Way did at least do a good job recreating how someone like me, who has never mined for gold, would feel during the process. I enjoyed Gold Rush: The Game but whether or not you would is based completely on personal taste. If you're looking for a high-octane experience with a deep and engrossing story that will leave you forever changed, this isn't your game. However, if you're just listening to music or something and you'd just like to do something with your hands and your eyes, you will find an experience that is complex but accessible.
Gold Rush: The Game is currently unavailable for purchase, but you can add it to your wishlist on Steam or back it on KickStarter. The $8 USD tier gets you the demo, the full game on release is the $15 tier. The goal has already been reached, so this game is being made and will be released in Q3 2017.
You somehow have access to heavy machinery and are using it to mine for gold. Using the gold you will buy new heavy machinery. It's a simulator game, why are you looking for story? If you must, pretend your family was kidnapped by Scrooge McDuck and you need to pay the ransom but he will only take pure gold as payment.
As I said at the beginning of the preview, this game is most akin to Euro Truck Simulator (You had better get used to this comparison, I will be bringing it up more), though you do have more options. It is also a lot more slow-paced, for better or for worse. The closest thing to a stake is the gas you have left in your equipment, and later in development there will be the added motivation of better equipment. There are also more steps to becoming a literal gold digger than there are just driving a truck down the freeway, so let me walk you through each step and what I liked and disliked about each. They may add more steps later, but as of now this is what I played in the Pre-Alpha Demo.
The tutorial mode is incredibly helpful and I recommend you go through it first. There is just so much to setting up that you will not be able to grasp if you just decide you've played enough simulators so the tutorial will just be a waste of time. You need to drive to your camp which is only far enough to be a bit annoying, in fact I do have to wonder why they would start you there just to have drive over to where the action is every time. You then have to set up all of your equipment just right before beginning your excavation. Though the setup seems daunting at first, it is only something you need to learn once, then you get it. Whenever you have something that needs to be attached with something else, there is even a handy little outline to where the thing goes. That's great when doing things like attaching a hose or filling up your excavator. It is intuitive as it is complex, and once you get used to it, the setup takes only a few minutes. As I write this there is no save option yet, but this game is Pre-Alpha and that is something they plan on adding in the finished product so I can't complain too hard about needing to redo it every time I started the game.
For this you have to go into the heavy machinery, which is a ton of fun. Much like Euro Truck SImulator, you have multiple camera options to match your preference. I preferred the rotating camera, but there is also the option for a drive camera, which locks in behind you, and for a more realistic cabin camera. What I loved most about this game is how it only holds your hand when you need it to. When operating any of the heavy machinery, you can have the controls up constantly so you're never fumbling and dumping any dirt around where you would rather not be doing so. There is something satisfying about using all of the equipment, and though the process of excavation is monotonous I never got super bored. However, I am what the kids call "an odd duck" who sometimes likes to put on a TV show or listen to my own music while playing a game. This is the bulk of the gameplay, and it is definitely not for everyone. It is slow and samey, but there is something I found relaxing about it.
The panning for gold is the final stage of the process and it is what all of your efforts have led towards. It is also where you will inevitably be disappointed to see after how much dirt you shoveled and effort you put in, the most you will find is a fraction of an ounce of gold. That is, you will be disappointed at first, but given the fact that there isn't much by way of stakes all you are watching is a climbing number as you just keep on going on with the rest of the gameplay. I'm sure later they will add more to do with the gold you've found, but as of now there was nothing to do with it. Still, because this is a super casual game I don't mind just doing a menial task to watch a number go up.
For this part, you need to take your truck into the city. This is another reason to do the tutorial: otherwise you would not know where to go. For this you take at least one ounce of gold to the blacksmith, then get them to melt it down into bars. The game hints at the blacksmith improving somehow, but either I didn't use them enough to level them up or it isn't quite possible yet. The page from the kickstarter promises eventually being able to use the gold to buy new equipment, which is not quite there yet.
Graphics and audio
This world looks great and realistic. Yes, I do count those as mutually exclusive. A realistic game could just show a bunch of grungy browns and greys and look awful. In Gold Rush: The Game, the backgrounds and graphics feel like you are actually in the Alaskan wilderness. Granted you mostly look at a mud pit or heavy machinery and that isn't super visually appealing, but I give it a pass because there is actually a reason to be in the dirt and I don't know how you make a stripped-down landscape look appealing. Also, as is par in a lot of these games you don't have a player avatar. That's not a complaint, I just think it's hilarious to see a truck going around without a driver. I sometimes pretended I was the ghost of an 1800s prospector digging for gold.
The ambient sound is great and the music is nice but unnecessary. It's all in the name of realism, so there isn't much to listen to, but on the bright side you won't be missing out on anything if you turn off the game's music and put on your own selection of audio.
It is rare that I play a hyper-realistic game that I find as absorbing as Gold Rush: The Game. I do recommend it, but that is with the caveat that it sounds like your thing. If you are looking for high-octane action and excitement, this really isn't the game you're looking for. However, if you're looking to stream a new show or podcast and you need something to do with your hands that's low-pressure but that actually gives you some sense of accomplishment, this is certainly something to check out. It's slow paced, but after such a long time of slaughtering aliens and demons, I was getting a bit burned out. It was a welcome relief wince I started getting burned out on watching spaceships explode. It didn't completely blow my mind, but at the end of the day I was legitimately sad when I was finished with the game demo. It does have its problems, but I have to at least respect a game that knows what it is and doesn't try to make itself relevant to the kids these days and just does its thing. Gold Rush: The Game isn't an experience for everyone, but it was certainly for me.