Coming three years after Bus Simulator 18, Stillalive Studios has returned with the subsequent entry in its hit franchise. Bus Simulator 21 kicks issues into a better gear with extra freedom, streamlined mechanics, and a richer open-world map to discover.
In numerous methods, it does really feel like a way more put-together expertise, however then there are different methods the place it looks like the lengthy growth cycle wasn’t put to nice use. That’s to say, these “new” buses might use a little bit extra engine oil.
The place the novelty of Bus Simulator 2 undoubtedly shines is definitely its new map of Angel Shores. It’s a completely attractive piece of digital landscaping, with surroundings and buildings which can be very detailed. The feel work is crisp, and every of its 21 districts has a really distinctive look and theme, thus permitting them to face out from each other. To not point out your entire sim itself is simply fairly. There are numerous environmental and particular results similar to reflections, wind animation, rain, and heavy reflections which do solidify that it is a 2021 launch.
One other tech flex is that your entire map is now one seamless open-world. When you load, you’ll not often must load once more, except for when quick touring is required. Having performed the sim with an SSD, I can report that from startup to leaping in-game, it’s all the time solely ever taken just a few seconds. This definitely is useful when making full use of the revamped bus route system.
Not like its predecessor, Bus Simulator 21 permits gamers to create new bus routes on the fly whereas nonetheless inside a session. Merely navigate to the Map menu and begin plotting away. Bus routes will be linked collectively effectively by the use of checking completely different traits of every of the stops.
Every bus cease has a unique degree of demand and completely different peak hours. Routes will probably be thought-about “balanced” if probably the most appropriate stops are chained collectively. For instance, having a route that consists of three low-demand stops and three high-demand stops will probably be balanced. However, three low-demand stops with only one high-demand cease will probably be unbalanced. Alternatively, a route of six stops with 5 of them peaking at evening can be extra worthwhile than two of them being in excessive demand at evening and three being high-demand within the day. Some quests will particularly require routes to be nighttime or daytime oriented, whereas others particularly ask for sure stops to be included.
An added layer of depth to the route constructing system is an RPG-esque expertise system. Not solely do you achieve EXP as a player, however every bus cease additionally features EXP anytime it’s served throughout a route—however solely by the player. AI drivers can solely generate revenue from routes. As soon as each bus cease in a district is leveled up, then the district’s personal EXP degree can even enhance. Once more, some missions require leveling up in an effort to progress the marketing campaign mode.
Sadly, Bus Simulator 21 doesn’t do a very nice job at explaining little nuances like this. In actual fact, I’d say its UI has each an excessive amount of and too little data directly. Some components of it, notably the map display, are arguably a little bit overwhelming. However, then there are the moments the place you will have an goal, however the sim doesn’t clarify precisely what’s wanted to realize it. Hopefully, the builders could make some changes in order to not frustrate newer or extra informal gamers.
Talking of frustration, nevertheless, my gripes primarily lie with a very powerful a part of the sim: the driving mechanics. Actual-life buses aren’t the best machines to regulate by any means, however these digital creations really feel nearly a little bit too cumbersome to maneuver. Whereas some buses, notably smaller ones, roll and switch a little bit extra simply than others, the general physics system simply felt odd to me.
Regardless of me twiddling with the steering sensitivity and help percentages all through my time with the sim utilizing an Xbox One controller, I’ve but to seek out one thing that feels “good”. I wasn’t even anticipating to have this problem as I lately bought a Thrustmaster T80 wheel for such events. Whereas it’s been a darling to make use of with American Truck Simulator, Bus Simulator 21 merely appears to solely midway acknowledge it on the time of launch. Whereas the sim acknowledges the steering, pedal, and brake axis, it fails to register any of the buttons, thus leaving too many gameplay mechanics unaccounted for. Switching between the wheel, controller, and keyboard to satisfy each process would’ve been too tall of an order.
The one actually good level is that controller assist is at the very least well-integrated because of the motion wheel. This wheel means that you can management many additional options within the bus’ cockpit, which far outweighs the variety of buttons on any controller. Nonetheless, the core gameplay of Bus Simulator 21 stays fairly enjoyable. Particularly now you could seamlessly swap between routes all with out leaving the session makes every thing circulate. Should you ever get tired of one route, merely move it off to an AI driver, after which leap to a different route mere moments later.
A brand new route may even be created whereas nonetheless using alongside within the preliminary bus, after which you may both assign an obtainable bus to the brand new route or reassign an energetic bus at will with no penalties. All of this freedom makes issues really feel fast, however the development continues to be a slow-and-steady affair, whether or not it’s grinding for EXP or money. No less than when it’s a cash matter you may all the time promote one among your buses to make a fast $100,000+.
Clear the windshield
Bus Simulator 21 clearly has some robust factors, however along with the aforementioned points, there are different areas that I hope to see rectified to actually assist its engine purr. The AI pedestrians are in all places, however there’s not numerous mannequin selection. Voice performing can also be plentiful, however there’s the same lack of selection within the variety of completely different actors. I ended up disabling dialogue altogether simply to have peace. They do at the very least realistically react to approaching automobiles by rushing up, which exhibits a step-up in intelligence. However, my fleet of AI drivers doesn’t appear to be as clever as taking some turns appears to be a problem, in addition to pulling away from a cease as they have an inclination to linger for a noticeable little bit of time.
However what actually interrupts this in any other case candy journey is the sim’s efficiency. Whereas I did sing its praises for its graphical constancy, Bus Simulator 21 appears to be a little bit heavy-handed on the useful resource necessities. When not driving, the sim would hit a stable 60fps (v-synced) on my rig with an RTX 2060 and Core i7. But, taking management of a bus all the time resulted within the framerate instantly tanking to the 40fps vary, and typically decrease. Enjoying with settings did assist a bit, however it’s not as clean as I used to be anticipating. Maybe some additional optimization is required, as a colleague of mine observed equally uneven efficiency on an much more succesful machine.
Regardless of these caveats, Bus Simulator 21 continues to be a step in the suitable route for the collection. For higher or worse, veterans of the final entry will discover numerous familiarity when it comes to the automobile roster, and the second map which is simply Bus Sim 18’s Seaside Valley yet again (albeit with the brand new route-building toolset, however it’s noticeably much less visually detailed than Angel Sneakers). Even so, Stillalive Studios appears to be on the suitable path right here. It has nonetheless managed to offer a extra genuine sim expertise, and some patches will solely make this all the higher.
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