I will readily admit that my wheelhouse of games typically includes more adventure and RPG titles, but ever since my exploration of Farm Simulator and PowerWash Simulator, I’ve felt a strange allure to the simple and straightforward mechanics of the simulation genre. So when the opportunity arose to get behind the wheel of some heavy machinery in Construction Simulator and let my brain zone out while improving the local community, I jumped at it. And while I can say without a doubt this game will easily suck hours of your life away behind the controls of an articulated dump truck, I’m honestly not certain if I can say I was having fun.
Story – Amazingly, There Is One!
I don’t think many people would be surprised to find a lack of real story in their sim game, but to my surprise, there is one in Construction Simulator. Obviously, it’s nothing too drastic. You won’t be finding a secret plot to enslave humanity that can only be thwarted by the cunning use of a CAT 620 Cold Planer, but there was just enough to hold my interest.
You take over a business with only a couple of machines and the previous owner helps you get settled in. He has a dream to see the town revitalized and you are going to see that through. This plan includes, I kid you not, hauling, lifting, and burying a fake UFO to spark tourism. Somehow this leads to contacts with other city planners who are in desperate need of someone with a backhoe and voila! You’re working on improvements all over town.
I focused my attention on the up-and-coming tech entrepreneur which meant green energy projects, but there were three other desperate planners with their own campaigns and needs for revitalization. This meant a plethora of projects to pick from, not counting side jobs for locals like installing pipes and building parking lots.
Gameplay – Big Toys for Big Boys (And Girls!)
Gameplay is where Construction Simulator both shines and lags. First, I want to say the equipment and vehicles displayed in the game are insanely accurate. My wife laughed at me for correctly identifying several pieces of construction equipment after playing. Frankly, I kinda felt a little proud at being able to identify them with their proper names. But construction equipment isn’t for looking at, it’s for digging holes and laying asphalt. And brother, does this game give you that.
Whether you’re progressing the campaign or just doing a side job for extra cash, the order of operations is always the same. Open your jobs folder and look at the available jobs. Decide if you like the criteria involved, such as pay, equipment needed, and complexity, then accept. If you don’t already have the machines, buy or rent them, then head to the site and get to work. You don’t have a lot of say in the outcome, which can make some of the projects feel like a complex paint-by-number. Still, there is a certain catharsis to be found in the repetition.
Where It Shines
Getting behind the controls of some of these machines feels awesome. It’s a bit tricky at first, but once you get the muscle memory, it feels so satisfying to dig your loader into the dirt and pull up all that soil. It feels great to drop frameworks into place with a tower crane, to drill down with a massive auger, and even to lay concrete. The game physics can be a little glitchy here and there, especially if you get your machinery stuck in a corner, but there’s a forgiving reset option that usually gets you out of trouble.
It is immensely satisfying to watch a structure come to life after literal hours of work. I genuinely look forward to seeing how my efforts will pay off once I unpack that final load of materials. Like other simulator games, there’s something just so zen about turning off your brain and focusing on pouring sand, compacting asphalt, and leveling lots.
Where It Needs Some Polish
Basically, everything where you’re not onsite and behind the controls slows the game down. I appreciate the immersion that walking around in town on foot gives. I appreciate the realism of driving your giant equipment around town, filling up gas tanks, loading up with soil and gravel, and getting things repaired. The problem is the game’s driving mechanics and traffic AI make these tedious at best and straight up infuriating at worst.
Vehicles move horribly on the road. Yes, I know some of them are meant to be like that, this is, after all, construction equipment, but I’m talking about simple stuff like semi-trucks and even a tiny backhoe. Driving is a pain and it’s only made worse by the traffic and pedestrians. As a lifelong GTA player, I can tell you it takes quite a bit of restraint to sit patiently at a red light. It’s so much worse when other cars don’t actually obey simple traffic laws, like yielding, and just love getting right up in the armpit of your trailer and parking there, leaving you to figure out how to Tetris your way out of this imminent collision. Oh, and since I mentioned GTA already, make sure you don’t run those lights or speed, because the game will fine you for traffic violations.
I found a small measure of relief once I learned you can fast travel to places you been before. Sadly, that was quickly soured when I realized all fast travel comes with a fee. No free lunches in Construction Simulator.
Audio and Graphics
Right off the bat, Construction Simulator hits you with a powerful, driving soundtrack. Lift those loads! Drill those holes! Grow a beard! Paired with the imagery of all that heavy equipment going to work and it just makes you want to let out a big Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor grunt! And then it’s gone. The rest of the game does have a soundtrack, but it’s so forgettable I had to double check before writing this review that it even had music.
Graphics-wise, it’s hit or miss. The equipment has a lot of love and care put into each minute detail, and watching the dirt crumble or the concrete pour makes me feel like I’m really working the machinery. The city itself, however, could use a lot of work before I feel like I’m in the game. All the immersion you get from the worksite quickly disappears once the game sends you to grab more wood and you have to engage with the rest of the world. Pedestrians feel wooden. Landscapes look like a model set.
Construction Simulator was reviewed on PC with key provided by astragon Entertainment.