Bus Simulator 21 is another simulation about buses published by Astragon and the third one produced by StillAlive Studios. As I mentioned in first impressions, this is definitely not a production for everyone. From the title you can already guess that the quality of the production doesn't come close to the AAA titles. However, let's not delete it at the beginning and start over.
Where to the stop?
We can start the game in two ways - in story mode and in free mode. Yes, you read that right - we have a story mode here! But don't expect a Hollywood budget and the Oscars in the credits. I would rather describe this mode as leading us by the hand in an interesting way. At the beginning we get a few tips, so that we can continue to develop our company with the next missions. The only element of the actual narrative are snippets of speech when one of the staff calls us and explains the details of the next assignment. And you need to create a new line, stick the bus in ads or, of course, drive a route. In free mode, on the other hand, we get a million to start with and are the forges of our own destiny. In this mode, all buses and the maximum levels of districts and stops are unlocked from the start. Nobody will tell us what to do :).
You have two large maps at your disposal - one inspired by a city from the USA, the other from Europe (this is the map from the previous version). The second can only be unlocked after completing the tutorial on the first. It is worth noting that the tutorial is only possible in story mode.
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We also have a choice when it comes to the level of difficulty. It depends on the further development of the simulation - either we are hobbyists who want to do everything manually and as realistically as possible, or we are occasional drivers who do not mind the intricacies of bus operation. Good mechanics that make everyone happy. I wish there were more games like this.
I wish it was a decoy head, unfortunately it isn't. Luckily, my limbs are fine, but when designing the steering wheel controls, someone overdid it a bit with the FFB power. While driving is not a problem, starting the engine causes a very sharp jerk of the steering wheel. Fumbling in the settings didn't help. Equally strong jerks create holes in the path. Aside from being too powerful, they are so hard to see on the street and can take you by surprise. If I had to stick to something else, the feel of the vehicle's weight could be better. It seems like the bus drives the same regardless of speed and weight. It didn't bother me too much though, the driving model is good enough to enjoy the ride.
The key to the game is driving the bus. But it's not just about turning the wheel from lock to lock. As drivers, we sell tickets or throw out a ramp for a disabled passenger from time to time. The gameplay has also been diversified with random events, e.g. B. when a passenger listens to loud music or a traveler wants to get off the bus quickly in front of the bus stop. Interesting flavors but too common in my opinion. However, as a transport company owner, we don't have to limit ourselves to just driving the bus. We can explore the virtual city on foot and travel with our buses operated by virtual staff. During this time we can control the tickets.
As already mentioned, driving the bus will not be our only activity. We have to determine the bus lines ourselves. Each line must be balanced in order to achieve optimal income. Each of the stops contains markers that add or subtract points from the total. The goal is to break even and only then is the route optimal. Very interesting mechanics that allow you to create thoughtful lines. It is just as important to adapt the timetable to the time of day. It's worth starting certain lines at optimal times of day for different parts of the city.
As company owners, we also have to take care of the rolling stock. The creators have given players a large number of fully licensed buses! We have MAN, Scana and Mercedes here, but also less well-known brands in Poland, such as: BYD. We can paint each of the buses and put advertising banners on them, for which we receive financial rewards. It is worth noting that in addition to standard diesel models, we can also drive around the city streets with electricians. It must be admitted that the vehicles are rendered in great detail and with high quality textures. Speaking of textures - the quality of the maps in the game is not that colorful anymore. Cities given to players look like they did a few years ago. The structure of the city itself is interesting, but the level of graphics is disgusting. Light reflections that look like they were taken from one of the GTA 5 mods with GTA 6 graphics do not help. As if that wasn't enough - the wipers don't work. Just. They move along the glass, but the water flowing from it flows down unmoved by the action of the wiper itself. I don't even mention that the water on the glass doesn't obstruct the view at all.