by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Time of Simulations
Pop around on Steam for a few minutes and it’ll become clear that simulation games are a pretty big deal. Just about anything seems fair game for the sim treatment, from managing a sports team, to driving a semi-truck, to running a trade empire or even being a goat. That being the case, it makes sense that people would be interested in simulating some of the biggest machines and vehicles on the planet. From transporting space shuttles to digging for silicone, plowing snow to cutting trees, Giant Machines 2017 lives up to its name. Unfortunately, a concept that should be a no-brainer for low-key entertainment ends up being little more than a slog.
How It’s Made
I really like how Giant Machines 2017 sets up its gameplay. Instead of a random smattering of missions that can be played through, players will bounce around and work through some various tasks involved in the process of building and launching a space shuttle. It obviously doesn’t really make any logical sense that one person would be doing these tasks, much less under the verbal instruction of the same boss, but it adds some connectivity to what you’re doing, and really did make me think a little about the immense amount of work that goes into creating many of the products and events that a lot of us probably take for granted.
When the campaign first started, it was exactly what I wanted the game to be. My first instructions were to head over to fix something on a giant digger. To my pleasant surprise, the game didn’t just teleport me around, but had me drive a small ways over to the site, grab the wire, and climb all the way to the top of the machine. It was then that I realize just how big “giant” machines are. This behemoth of steel was bigger than my entire apartment complex, and having to navigate up various sets of stairs, platforms, and ladders really drove home the absurdity of these things’ very existence. Surprisingly enough, the time in between objectives, walking around from point A to B on my tools of transport and destruction, were, for better or for worse, my favorite parts of the game.
The Bigger They Are, the Slower They Move
Unfortunately once I actually started operating the titular machines, the experience went downhill pretty quickly. The central issue with Giant Machines 2017, and it’s a pretty giant problem, is that operating said giant machines just isn’t any fun. In fact, it’s quite a bore. Now before you get upset with claims that I just don’t “get” the genre, and that the point is to revel in the mundaneness of the subject matter at hand, I can assure you that’s simply not true. I have put quite a few hours into various train and truck simulators over the years, and I’ve found them to be peaceful, cathartic experiences. The beauty with them, and others like them, is that while you may not always be doing anything particularly challenging, there is always something to keep you engaged. It may be something as simple as watching pretty scenery go by, but there is something. They also either present a simulation realistic enough to make you feel a sense of engagement with the subject matter, or make it so ridiculously far off that there is humor in the disparity. Giant Machines 2017 manages to do none of the aforementioned.
What you will do during your time in the campaign is multiple slow, dull, repetitive tasks that are neither realistic enough to be considered good simulation, nor fun enough to be arcade-y. The first mission in the giant bucket wheel excavator, the one that first imbued me with a sense of such grandeur and scale, ended up having me dig out the side of a cliff. This consisted of using the WASD keys to move its arm, all while staring at a brown wall of dirt. Plowing snow consists of driving down a road at incredibly slow speeds to clear three rectangles. Transporting a space ship includes holding down one button to accelerate - but don’t accelerate too much or the spaceship will explode. I suppose this is probably what life is like operating these machines, but it all takes so long, and with nothing interesting to look at or do, it becomes a chore. This is exacerbated by the fact that wonky physics make many of the machines feel completely wrong to drive - especially the trucks with wheels that bounce around at the slightest bump or are brought to a standstill by small rocks or chain link fences.
Giant Disappointment 2017
I really wanted to like Giant Machines 2017. I really, really did. It’s unfortunate that a game that can make me feel like I’m entering a darned megazord one minute can so completely turn me off the next. While I applaud the attempt to weave missions together and show the various steps in bringing a shuttle launch to fruition, I can’t help but feel like the developers just didn’t really know what kind of game they wanted to make. By either spending some more time to make the game a truer simulation, or pumping in some nitro and letting it be more of arcade experience I think there would have been more fun to be had, but as it stands it’s not much more than a bore.
The sense of scale when climbing machines is great, and I appreciate the attempt to weave together missions.
Most machines are incredibly boring to actually use, and the simulation elements and physics are quite off.