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For 17 years Astragon is providing us with all sorts of simulations, edutainment and casual games. They presented to us their current line-up at gamescom.
It’s Tuesday, August 21st 2017. We find ourselves being at gamescom, the biggest consumer expo for video games, and the first appointment is upcoming. The usually easy to reach entrance to Congress Centrum North is an obstacle parcours since the Chancellor is joining the opening ceremony of the show and preperations are ongoing. North of gamescom is basically blocked off.
Arriving at Rheinsaal we’re faced with ten new products being presented to us, one of which is a world premiere. Let’s start at the beginning.
Police Simulator 18 is developed by Portuguese studio Big Moon Entertainment. Paulo J. Gomes (fittingly named “Games” on his business card) is the enthusiastic head of the sympathetic devs. He’s presenting a whole range of activities like writing parking tickets, chasing bad guys and securing a bank while a robbery is taking place in it, all of which sum up to the daily routine of a patrolman on the force. While these actions appear to be varied, we’re not satisfied with the technical state of the game considering the stiff animations and choppy framerate. One of the core elements is that it’s for you to decide how to rule over the city (which is an odd position to be in as a cop), whether you frisk any civilian and abuse your position of power or you use your authority carefully. That’s an aspect that piqued our interest. The game is being released on January 25th 2018 on PC.
While in TransOcean you controlled a fleet of gigantic ocean cruisers over the world’s seas, TransRoad: USA takes that idea and transposes it over to the roads. This PC simulation let’s you manage a logistics company to fullfill the American Dream to send your trucks over the whole of the U.S. and parts of Mexico and Canada. There’s various licensed trucks e.g. from Peterson which is reminiscent to another Astragon-published game, American Truck Simulator, and a multitude of trailers for cars, food and hazardous material. It’s impressing that you can zoom from the overview of the entire game world to following single trucks without any loading interrupting the experience. In the game you find three modes: Story, Quest and Sandbox. Let us find out if on November 9th 25 Euro will let the American Dream come true.
Fishing: Barents Sea is another simulation game in Astragon’s portfolio. The charming opening let’s us control one small boat, but soon we’re recruiting the first crew members to rise up to a giant fishing company. There’s licensed equipment in the industrial fishing game such as a whole of six ships from manufacturers such as Hermes. Weather and day/night time are cycling dynamically in the game. Seafarers are able to explore a 32 square kilometres big ocean and they are able to argue with Norwegian lead designer Roland Mirland if the Barents Sea belongs to Norway or to Russia. An interesting part of the game which is in development since 2013 is that you have to take care of fish stock or they will deplete.
Stockholm-based Avalance Studios and their branch Expansive Worlds are popular for their games Just Cause 1-3 and Mad Max which are published by Square Enix. theHunter: Call of the Wild is a whole new affair even though it’s working with the same APEX engine of the stated games and therefore is the only product in Astragon’s press conference which isn’t based on Unreal Engine 4. It’s a hunting game set in an open world of the sitze of 50 square kilometres in which you can find 12 dynamically pathed animal species. You can hunt these animals through utilizing 14 weapons and play cooperatively with up to three other huntsmen. The huge distances can be overcome riding an ATV. The game was released on February on PC and it’ll be available from October 2nd at 40 Euro on PlayStation and Xbox One. On PS4 Pro theHunter: Call of the Wild runs in Ultra-HD (3,840 x 2,160 pixels).
As a side note there’s a small football-style teaser of Euro Truck Simulator 2‘s upcoming map expansion Italia. At the same time Astragon announces a new retail edition of Prague-based developer SCS Software’s trucking simulation. Heavy Cargo Edition launches at the end of the year priced at 30 Euro and consists of the main game aswell as every piece of DLC concerning cargo. Owners of the base game can digitally upgrade to the edition for 10 Euro. If you enter a store, there’s the probability of being confused since there’s already an Titanium Edition which contains the second map expansion Scandinavia and the Legendary Edition packing in next to Scandinavia also the first map pack Going East! and both include the Heavy Cargo Pack which also makes up part of the new edition. We’re excited to find out how SCS mixes up the road design in Italia and what cities are to be included.
The presentation of Firefighting Simulator takes us three years back when Ghostlight Games showed us Flame Over‘s realistic generation of smoke and spread of fire on different materials. This game is based on a voxel system. The fire spreads square-by-square and so we can see how the fire spreads to top of a wooden staircase before lighting up to the side. After the pillars are destroyed the whole construct collapses in tiny parts. You can check out the super detailed models of fire trucks on Steam right now in the Showroom which gets updated with new fire trucks by Rosenbauer & co. over the course of the development of the game until it gets released in the beginning of next year on PC.
Farming Simulator 2017 also gets a new retail edtion. Hobby farmers will be able to grow sugar cane and use a whole array of licensed farming machinery and equipment from South America on a fitting new map from November 8th on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Mac. You can acquire this edition either as the full package or upgrade to it if you own the base game.
On November 14th the franchise celebrates its premiere on Nintendo consoles in the Farming Simulator: Nintendo Switch Edition. The game is based on the PC version and is said to have the same amount of content. It’s up to you to build a farm in North American or Eastern European terrain, harvest different kinds of crops, move your goods via trucks, trailers and drivable trains and look after your livestock such as chicken, cows, sheep and pigs. You can use 250 detailly modeled vehicles and tools of 75 companies.
Astragon is keeping the big surprise for the end. Bus Simulator 18 is coming. Compared to Bus Simulator 16 there’s a lot of improvements on what players disliked. The condensed map of the predecessor is getting expanded to 2.5x of its size and bus driving enthusiasts can join with up to 3 friends to drive their routes. In Bus Simulator 16 a lot of the routes crossed each other because of the limited map size. Also there was only the possibility to partner up economically with other online players but not to actually drive with each other. Iveco is a new licensed partner which means more buses. The visual fidelity gets improved by a new version of Unreal Engine 4 (what engine would the be else). Modifying buses was already previously possible. In Bus Simulator 18 you’ll have the opportunity to mod street signs, lantern and so on. We’re looking forward to seeing the creative work of the community. Bus Simulator 18 has a release window of 2018. The host just could’nt get the developer to reveal any more about when we can actually get our hands on the game..
Considering this line-up of simulations we expected a tired start into expo day one. Astragon managed to give us an understanding of genres we haven’t been in touch with all while maintaining a relaxed atmosphere. Personal anecdotes of developers and the witty moderation aded to that. The games are aimed a very specific group of costumers, should the Mönchengladbach-based company open itself up to consoles, as with theHunter, joypad enthusiasts will have the chance to check out these games. Astragon is taking that literally and provides the means to smell a farm on their consumer booth of Farming Simulator. Is that a 4D feature we’re missing in the age of virtual reality? We’ll see next year.