Polish developers Road Studio S.A. have made a bold statement with the tagline “Be a Trucker, not a Truck!”, as it makes its first venture into the driving video game world with Alaskan Road Truckers.
Truck-orientated games might be a tiny blip in the simulation genre, but with leading titles such as Euro Truck Simulator 2, American Truck Simulator and SnowRunner, these games have all shown off a healthy slice of Steam’s daily player base, with the former comfortably sitting within the top 25.
However, these titles are all missing a crucial element to the genre which is something that Alaskan Road Truckers brings to the table – role-playing game elements. But does it hold true to its tagline?
As it says on the tin, this game is set within an Alaskan sandbox with a plethora of missions to complete and places to explore – the longest of which could take up to three hours to complete.
After pressing ‘new game’ and selecting one of 10 characters, a quick introductory video plays out and informs you of “the last job” you are about to take on. Once it ends, you are then placed into the world and introduced to the mechanics, as you hook up the trailer by connecting cables together, winching up trailer supports and climbing into the driver’s seat.
Available to you are the standard steering and pedals, but also the range of buttons to press and levers to pull that you would expect within a truck, such as the lights, wipers, differential and so on.
These can all be controlled by key binds, or you can look around and select which one to use, which involves a jarring animation of punching your selection. For example, if you wanted to start the truck, simply look at the ignition keys, press E and your character punches the keys, which miraculously starts the engine.
Once you have arrived at the destination, your parking is graded from one to five stars according to the parking precision of the delivered freight. Once you are happy, you clamber out of the truck and unhook the trailer by repeating the same points you learnt earlier. Then it is time to hand in the tutorial mission to the nearby Job Manager, and you are then off to forge your own path in the Alaskan world.
Nearby the tutorial area is your headquarters to help operate your business, which contains a workshop to fix or customise your vehicle and your very own office. Extra parts to your headquarters can be built too, such as a tyre workshop and an expansion to your parking areas to allow for more space.
Selecting your first mission is simply making a waypoint to the selected Job Manager, getting a job, and loading up the trailer for the destination. Reputation is at stake here too, as you cannot take on every mission on the map without making a name for yourself first. This is a nice touch to the overall gameplay, as it feels like you have something to work towards.
The aforementioned RPG elements are the one place this game shines the most. There’s a surprisingly extensive range of elements to manage. For example, your character contains three components to keep an eye on; health, hunger, and energy. Inside your truck’s cab is a microwave for heating up food, a storage area for items and a bed to restore your fatigue level.
You can also open the truck’s hood and fill it up with liquids, or repair damaged components, with the latter involving a skill-check system that is inspired by a game mechanic from Dead by Daylight.
There is also a skill-tree system at play here too, with three paths to go down. The personality path is all about your character, where you can increase your character’s resistance or increase inventory space. Trucking, meanwhile, is about unlocking extra licences or job classes, while the mechanical route focuses on customisation and repair options for trucks.
The way to earn experience for each is to simply operate within those specified paths, so repairing your truck for example earns experience points in the mechanical tree.
However, what Alaskan Road Truckers does right, is completely outweighed by what it misses the mark on. For an RPG-orientated game, the world feels completely empty, as there are no pedestrians walking about, the AI vehicles love to get in your way by driving slower than the speed limit only to then brake sharply upon reaching a junction or a speed limit change.
Job managers and shop owner NPCs stare off into the distance while going through their singular animation cycle, which feels off to interact with.
The driving experience also falls behind other simulation titles too. The steering itself is one set speed on a keyboard. That means if you were to turn into a sharp corner, it would bring the wheel back to the centre at the same speed, whether you have the opposite key pressed down or not. The truck also seems to lurch in the opposite direction when switching between drive and reverse in an automatic gearbox, and there is not enough precision available to line the truck up with the front of the trailer.
Unlike in Euro and American Truck Simulator, the game does not penalise you for going over the speed limit, driving through red lights, driving on the opposite side of the road or not turning your lights on in the dark. Crashing into other cars is the only part here that penalises the player, but slow crashes or light taps are okay in some specific cases.
The laws don’t seem to apply to you in this version of Alaska. Or rather, some do and some don’t. Simply travel as fast as you want just as long as you don’t touch other vehicles.
The worst part about the game, however, is the lack of polish, as there are a lot of rough edges needing to be sanded down. When refuelling your truck, for example, your character slides the nozzle into the gas tank without the need to undo the fuel cap.
Hooking up the cables from your truck to the trailer involves the character’s hands clipping right through the trailer itself. The waypoints disappear the moment you arrive at a destination, leaving you confused and uncertain about where to deliver the load.
Controller support is also seemingly unreliable, as my original attempt to play this was on a DualSense controller using Steams in-built support, but this presented a lot of issues such as jittery steering and the pedals bound to the left analog stick, so I resorted to using the mouse and keyboard instead.
My colleague Tom did test a pre-release version with a Thrustmaster wheel and noted that while it worked, naturally having a keyboard and mouse to hand was essential and preferred.
Now while there are a lot of negative points within this game, its potential for immersion is just poking its head from underneath the surface thanks to, mostly, its unique truck driver role-playing elements.
At the time of writing, two patches have already been set out within the first 48 hours of release, meaning the developers are listening to feedback.
There are a lot of factors here that can make the experience so much better that need just a bit more attention, and with the upcoming PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S editions just on the horizon, it could very well be a decent contender within the genre.
Alaskan Road Truckers is available on Steam for PC users for £18.49/$19.79, with a 10 per cent discount taking place until the 25th of October.
|Developer||Road Studio S.A.|
|Release date||18th October 2023|
|Available platforms||PC (PS5 and Xbox Series X|S set for a later date)|
|Best played with||Keyboard|
Full disclosure: A game code was provided by the developers for review purposes. Here is our review policy.