Sponsored By: Steam Sale
Time Mined: 9 Hours
If ever there was a game that I wanted to stream, it’s this one.
The release date for this game is profoundly unfair. Had it come out even a month sooner, it would have been my game of the year for 2017, knocking Breath of the Wild down to number two, and Farming Simulator to number 3. That is not hyperbole. As mundane simulators go, this game rivals Farming Simulator for me. It may not have the breadth, but the depth is breathtaking. Maybe even breadth-taking.
You start the game in a small, Alaskan town with nothing but a pickup truck and a journal. The journal will tell you where to go, and the pickup will get you there. The journal is, in my opinion, one of the best mundane simulator tutorials ever created. It tells you exactly what you should be doing and what equipment you need, but it stops short of telling you exactly how to hook everything up. That’s part of the fun, after all.
A lot of mundane vehicle simulators try to streamline processes, boiling everything down into easy chunks that capture the gist of operating equipment, but often they feel kind of sterile as a result. Even Farming Simulator, one of the best examples of the genre out there, falls prey to this. For example, operating a combine in Farming Simulator boils down to about three button presses: one to turn on the combine, one to lower the combine, and one to set cruise control. This is entirely understandable, as it gets to the wheat of the experience without weighing the player down with tons of chaff. It’s the culinary equivalent of buying your pistachios already shelled.
Again, if you’re like me, you consider shelling pistachios to be part of the experience, as enjoyable as the eating. The developers of Gold Rush feel that way too, and nearly every operation is completely manual.
Panning for gold, which is the first step in your mining operation, is completely manual. Once you have a bucket full of dirt and gold, you pour some of it into a pan and use the pan with a wash tub to rinse the dirt from the gold by literally shaking your mouse around, taking care not to spill the precious nuggets onto the ground. Then, as if that weren’t enough, you have to use tweezers and a vacuum bottle to pick each individual nugget out of the pan before dumping the common dirt and starting another pan.
It’s a delightfully meditative experience, and I recommend it to anyone looking to slow down.
Of course, one of the things that most people miss about mundane simulators is that it’s not just about doing tedious work over and over again. It’s about earning money for doing tedious work over and over again, until you can buy better equipment to do the tedious work more efficiently. So once you’ve sold enough gold (which you do by bringing your haul to a blacksmith to melt into bars, before bringing the bars to the bank to sell), you buy larger, automated equipment. You trade in your handheld pan for a magnetite separator and electric washtable. You trade in your shovel for an excavator, which you can later trade in for an even larger excavator and, if you’re dedicated enough, a front loader.
All of that equipment needs support hardware. The water table needs a generator and a water pump, which means you need gasoline and access to a water supply. You’ll also need electric cables and hoses of various sizes. You’ll be making a lot of trips to and from the local warehouse to buy equipment, all of which must be loaded or hitched to your pickup truck – you guessed it – manually, just like refueling your generators and vehicles is manual, and replacing the battery in your truck when you leave the lights on for too long is manual.
If that doesn’t sound fun to you, I completely understand. I pity you, but I understand.
Have I got Gold Fever?
There aren’t a lot of different activities in Gold Rush, but there is an impressive amount of depth. Every piece of equipment has systems nested within other systems for things like operation and maintenance. I’ve put nine hours into it, and I haven’t yet reached the end of the upgrades available for the first claim, and it is my understanding that there are other seasons and other claims.
So in other words, not only will I keep playing, but I might actually buy my first piece of DLC just to get the new Frankenstein equipment they’re selling. That’s how enthralled I am.
Let me be blunt: If you like mundane vehicle simulators, you need to play this game. It’s one of the best examples of the genre ever made, if not the best.
Is it the Dark Souls of mundane sims?
The extensive and informative system of tutorials called DigTube say no. If you ever get stuck trying to get equipment to work, pop open the journal and navigate yourself over the the DigTube tab, which has short, specialized video tutorials for just about every piece of equipment in the game, organized by what it is and what you’re trying to do with it.
For example, after trying to hook up a water pump, I couldn’t figure out why my sluiceboxes wouldn’t turn on and process any dirt. It turns out that I had to pull the rip-cord on the gas-operated water pump to start it. I would never have dreamed that any simulator would have that level of fidelity in it, and would have been forced to ask embarrassing questions in the user forums had it not been for a ten-second video explaining how to set up and operate the water pump.
So Gold Rush is not the Dark Souls of mundane simulators, but it doesn’t hold your hand unless you want it to. Again, I can’t recommend it highly enough. In fact, I’m off to go play it some more. I encourage you all to join me.