Game Info:

Bus Simulator 18
Developed by: stillalive studios
Published by: Astragon Entertainment
Release date: June 13, 2018
Available on: Windows
Genre: Simulation
Number of players: Up to 4 online
ESRB Rating: Not rated
Price: $34.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Astragon Entertainment for sending us this game to review!
Note: This review was written before the 12-17-2018 patch was released that adds new game modes.
Bus Simulator 18 is the (likely much better) sequel to Bus Simulator 16 that we have a review for here. This game has much better graphics, as it uses Unreal Engine 4, and it does look and sound great. It has full wheel support, though sadly the game is mostly unplayable without a keyboard and mouse available. The main reason is that the menus are clearly meant with mouse support in mind, and occasionally you have to get out of your seat, which requires WASD and mouse controls. Most things are customizable, so I suppose wheel-only play may be possible, but it’s clearly not simple to do.
In this game, everything from the bus station, bus itself, the town you are in, other cars on the road, as well as the people who ride as passengers are all rendered in very nice 3D graphics. The bus’ sound effects, what people say while on board, and so on are also nicely done and realistic enough to bring a nice sense of believability to the experience. I did get a kick out of them referring to others as NPCs, though. Can’t hate on fourth-wall breaking too much in a game like this. I less enjoyed having the degradation of our society thrown at me once again by hearing a deep-voiced man talk about his husband behind me.
Bus Simulator 18

Strong Points: Nice graphics; sounds pretty realistic; wheel support is pretty good
Weak Points: Default force feedback setting on the wheels needs adjustment; you have to really want to drive a bus to get anything out of this game
Moral Warnings: Some of your passengers are LGBT and want to make sure you hear about it

Once you start up the game, you are asked to create a bus company. Apparently, the town had shut down the municipal bus system some years back, and you are being given a chance to start it back up again on a trial basis. As your experience and company grows, you are given the chance to expand onto new bus routes, hire more employees, buy more buses, and so on to not only grow your profits, but to serve more and more of the population. There are several long and detailed tutorials that you better pay attention to – if you don’t, you may find yourself needing to open the doors and drop the ramp for a handicapped person without a clue in the world which buttons to press to make it happen.

The first time you approach your bus, you are asked to open each of the locks on the doors, open them, go inside, and start the engines. I checked out both basic and realistic difficult levels, and if you are going to play a game like this, you might as well go all the way and choose realistic. It does add a few more steps in a few places, but nothing I couldn’t handle. The buses are all modern and with automatic transmissions, so sadly my clutch pedal was once again ignored on my racing wheel.

Once you are inside, you have to familiarize yourself with the ignition process, switching between drive/neutral/reverse, initiating the parking break, headlights, opening and closing doors, putting out the wheelchair ramp, and so on. You also have to charge customers for tickets, make sure no one sneaks on, help them if needed, and more. While driving, you have to obey all traffic signs, stoplights, and so on. I did find speeding very easy to do, and I had a hard time finding out what the limits were supposed to be, though perhaps I just missed them (honest, officer!). Thankfully, ticket costs are easily absorbed by the company. ;)

Bus Simulator 18
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 74%
Gameplay - 12/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 88%
Violence - 8/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 6/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The simulation itself is overall really pretty good. I found the default setting for the wheel to be a bit broken; the incredible force it put on the wheel was really cool, but often it would just start swinging left to right and back in such a way that it just can’t be real. If it was, buses would whack far more pedestrians and other cars than they do. What I had to do to fix it was set the force feedback strength from a default of 10,000 to 100. This solved all issues, though now you don’t feel much but curbs and speed bumps.

You can hit other drivers or pedestrians, and they can cost quite a bit of money, especially pedestrians. It doesn’t otherwise affect your driving; the screen flashes white, and it resets your car in your lane, but that’s it. Hitting other vehicles leaves them unfazed, except that they may stop in the middle of the road and otherwise be annoying for a while. Unfortunately, I lost interest quickly once I started following the rules. Since you get punished for messing up, there is only so much to keep you playing a game like this, since after a while it starts to feel like work, and I game in part to wind down after work.

Bus Simulator 18 is a decent bus simulator, if you want to play a game about driving a bus. If you have a moment of rare cognitive dissonance like I did and think ‘why in the world would I want to play a game about working?’ then you do not want to play this game. However, if you love the idea, then it’s a well-executed implementation. I personally found the imposition of deviant lifestyles a massive stain on an otherwise perfectly clean game, that left a strong negative impression. Well, if you believe that our culture is quickly slipping from the honorable Christian morals that we were once based on, then let’s just say the passengers in this game are very ‘2018’ and leave it at that. If you want your simulators free from commentary on modern relationships, then you will want to look elsewhere.

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Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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