Public transport is probably the most feared type of transport, especially if you’re required to use it for any lengthy journey. It’s stuffy, it’s often late, and for the most part, it takes double the time it would if you were driving from A to B. But what about the driver? How do they feel carting your butt across the traffic-ridden city? Well in the Bus Simulator series you can find out for yourself, and Bus Simulator 18 is no different.
Bus Simulator 18 is the latest in the Bus Simulator series which has brought a number of improvements over the last title in the series making for a more pleasurable experience across the board. The same great simulation gameplay is there, but with a few minor tweaks to make things a hell of a lot easier.
In addition, Bus Simulator 18 brings with it a bunch of new vehicles and customization options to make your bus driver experience much more in-depth, and with the addition of multiplayer you can join friends (or strangers) and build up your own bus company and dominate the world of public transportation.
I’ve often found simulation games like this a bit of a gag. Surely people don’t enjoy things like farming or driving around a bus all day, but after giving Farming Simulator a whirl a few years back, I’ve been hooked on any and all simulation games. There’s something quite cathartic about cultivating a crop or driving a bus route picking up passengers. It’s a weird thing to enjoy, I’m very aware of that, but nonetheless, I do really enjoy these games.
Following on from Bus Simulator 16 I wasn’t so sure if I’d actually get too into Bus Simulator 18. There were aspects of 16 I didn’t find too enjoyable, such as the need to do quick arithmetic in my head whenever someone bought a ticket, people just hopping on the bus without paying, and drunks.
The good news is that Bus Simulator 18 has improved on all of these features. Now, the ticket machine tells you how much change you need to give with the number depleting as you dish it out. You can still give too much change if you’re not paying attention, but wasting too much time figuring out how much change to give is a thing of the past, which is great. Another change, which may seem little but is a massive improvement, is that ticket bunkers – those who don’t have a valid ticket – can now be checked on and called out. If passengers are found without a ticket, boom a £120 fine.
As for content, compared to Bus Simulator 16, Bus Simulator 18 is bigger and better. The game offers a total of 8 original licensed city buses from brands such as Mercedes-Benz, Setra, MAN, and IVECO, what’s more, the game’s map is 2.5 times bigger. The map itself is split into different districts which you gradually unlock as you progress through the game. These districts differ from each other too, with one being a small town, another being out in the countryside, another being industrial, and the biggest district being a traffic-dense city.
Throughout the game, you will be encouraged to develop your own routes and this is where most of the joy comes out of Bus Simulator 18 as you’ll be able to decide just how much or how little time you want to put into the game. Whether you want to grind a much smaller route or go for a long-haul, there’s an option for everyone. Sometimes the game will ask for you to go on a long journey in order to complete a mission, but once most of these missions are over and you’ve unlocked most of the game’s map, you’ll have the freedom to do as much or as little as you want.
This freedom of choice allows you to concentrate on the other side of Bus Simulator 18 which is the ability to grow your own fleet of buses and drivers. As you populate the road with more drivers and go on more journeys yourself, you’ll start to earn more money which will allow you to purchase more buses and hire better drivers. All in all, however, the main meat of the gameplay is driving the busses yourself. This isn’t any old mobile game, time doesn’t continue when you’re offline. In order for other drivers to earn, you’ll have to go out into the world yourself.
Unfortunately, it’s not all lollipops and rainbows for Bus Simulator 18 as there are a few areas which could be improved, namely the game’s driver AI. More than once I found myself “stuck” in traffic only to discover that there was nothing stopping vehicles from moving, they’d all just… stopped. This is a pretty frustrating bug as I either have to restart the entire journey or just go full-on GTA and just drive my bus through traffic incurring several thousands of euros worth of damages.
Now considering this is a PC simulation title, you’d probably expect the game to be played best on mouse and keyboard? Well, honestly for me personally that wasn’t the case. Thankfully the game offers controller support with most of the controls you need during a regular journey available at the push of a button. There are a few exceptions, such as lowering the ramp for passengers in wheelchairs (which is the G key, for anyone wondering), but overall driving and controlling various aspects of the bus can be done from the comfort of a controller, which is a huge plus for me.
The sound design in Bus Simulator 18 is also pretty interesting and an overall improvement over the previous title. While in the bus you’ll often hear the passengers chat utter nonsense, it’s incredibly tedious, but that’s the joy of it. No one really talks about deep, meaningful things on a bus, if they meet old friends they’ll probably gossip, or they’ll talk about some dumb TV show, and that’s exactly what you get in Bus Simulator 18. Outside of idle chit-chat, the sounds outside of the bus, or whenever the bus doors or window is open, are pretty well done and keep the immersion going.
As for the game’s multiplayer mode, it seems to, unfortunately, be tied to Steam friends as there are no server browsers. Players can choose to either go online or stay offline, which is a plus if people don’t want to be bothered by other players, but once you go online that seems to be it. There’s no way to disconnect or go back offline. I found this out the hard way. Fortunately, you can choose to be invisible, but at the end of the day, with no server browser available, I doubt I’d get hounded by random people trying to join my fleet.
Overall, Bus Simulator 18 is a huge improvement over the previous title and one I’ll likely be playing for some time. Being able to slowly expand your business and fleet of buses and discover new roads and routes to travel is one of the many joys of this game, and with the ability to mod, the game or even dive into multiplayer with friends is a huge plus.