Monday, 8 March 2021

IMHO - Train Station Renovation

Well, if we were going to try and play all the games in the month then we were going to have to get to it sometime, so we may as well get Train Station Renovation out of the way.

If you're thinking a game called Train Station Renovation doesn't sound all that interesting, then you and I have that in common. It is yet another of these clunky first-person simulator games that Humble in their wisdom appear to have decided that people are clamouring to add to their libraries every single month. Since September, the last time we had a simulator-free bundle, we've had Fantasy Blacksmith, Rover Mechanic Simulator, Tabletop Playground, PC Building Simulator, and now Train Station Renovation back to back. To be fair to these games, they could secretly be amazing and really mix up the formula, I really wouldn't know, as the only other one I actually even tried was Rover Mechanic. But to be fair to me, there's only so many hours in a human life.

The phenomenon of simulation games is a fascinating one. That people will happily spend hundreds or even thousands of hours flying planes through empty skies, trucking or training cargo across the landscape, plowing and seeding and reaping the same field is endlessly astonishing to me, but at least for those sort of things I can see some attractions; perfecting a skill, getting up close and personal with expensive specialised machinery, imagining what could have been had you lived in a different time, place or in different circumstances, or just a little mindless catharsis from an otherwise hectic life. I guess what all these things have in common with model railways and other similar hobbies is the sense of realism, simulating as closely as possible is the name of the game.

Then, of course, there's the spoofs of this genre. The ironic games. The Surgeon Simulators and Goat Simulators that take that idea and make something utterly absurd. I can see the enjoyment of taking a silly idea absolutely as far as you can push it, milking it for all that it's worth.

Access to a dozen tools and more in the truck, but here we are installing a light switch with a spanner

But if you're going to make a simulator, especially one in the very generic first-person mould, you really have to sit in one of these camps, either the realistic or the absurd, and to be honest, the absurd has probably done its dash. Train Station Renovation is trying to be the former, but not trying very hard. It sets the player the mind-numbing, repetitive task of cleaning up abandoned railway stations (surprising, I know) and then asks you to complete it while dealing with a clumsy control set-up with a level of inconsistent realism that is frustratingly jarring. The player can tear out weeds and vines with a single click, but sweeping small areas will take many repetitions. A whole wall can be instantly repainted, but any graffiti will need to be carefully and painstakingly scrubbed away. The player can instantly destroy some debris with a whack of their crowbar, but other types will need to be dragged to the dumpsters and then painstakingly sorted for recycling, and all of them can be instantly replaced by clicking away on your virtual ipad. As a guy who's done my fair share of train station renovation in my time, let me tell you this is just not a very realistic experience. And once you're done with your menial tasks, you're not even rewarded with a train rolling into the station. I'd do a lot for a train rolling into the station.

The satisfaction(?) of a job well done

Basically, I found the whole thing incredibly frustrating. Which is pretty much exactly what I was expecting from a game called Train Station Renovation, so at least the player is getting what they paid for. If you get really excited about making sure every single thing in the world is just perfect, or if even the mention of trains makes you drool and being near digital train tracks makes you drool, go ahead and get it and you'll probably be very happy, like the overwhelming number of Steam reviewers, but personally I think you'd be better off looking for something with a little more meat on its bones. The developers are currently working on Builder Simulator, which looks pretty similar but will allow you to build whole houses brick by brick, maybe you'll want to try that.

Me, I've got other things to do.

Some quick numbers

  • Time played: 1.2 hours
  • Train Stations Renovated: 2
  • Mixed waste skips filled: 4
  • Toilets exploded: 2
  • Rating: 3 mildly amusing pieces of graffiti out of 10
My suggestion: skip it

The rankings so far

I'm confident that this'll be the lowest-ranked title of the month. Even Valfaris absolutely knew what it wanted to be and went all-out for it:

  1. The Wild Eight
  2. Valfaris
  3. Train Station Renovation
Next up, the dice have determined that we shall play game number 6, Trine 4.

1 comment:

Naithin said...

Hehehe, I hope you're enjoying writing these as much as it seems you are. To repeat again -- absolutely loving this series and your takes on the games, even (if not especially) the ones you don't like!

Actually curious what you end up thinking of Trine 4 though. My last Trine game was the second, and apparently the third met with pretty savage reviews.