Construction Simulator 2 Review

By Lucy Wood,
From a young age we are driven to build, yet we often forget how satisfying this is when we exchange our LEGO sets for the realities of adult life. Construction Simulator 2 lets players take on construction roles from crane operator to road resurfacer using more than forty specialist vehicles and machines made by Liebherr, Bell, Palfinger, Caterpillar, ATLAS, Kenworth, STILL, MEILLER Kipper and Mack Trucks. The game has room for improvement, but it lays a firm foundation for building the franchise on consoles.


Construction Simulator 2 is a port of a 2017 mobile game, and the franchise has been catering to mobile and PC gamers since 2012. Developer Weltenbauer is a software studio that sometimes creates games, amongst a diverse range of commercial projects including 3D applications such as a lift planner for Liebherr cranes and a training programme for setting up travel centres for the German railway system. Both of these examples overlap with aspects of gameplay in Construction Simulator 2, bringing an extra level of authenticity to the game. The game is also authentic inasmuch as the player has to complete jobs according to specifications as a real-life contractor would. The realistic elements of the game are fundamental to its appeal, but they will also frustrate players who want to use the tools provided in a creative way.

The premise of Construction Simulator 2 is that the player is a small-time contractor with ambitions to build a major construction company. What passes for story is told through the medium of transcribed conversations with the player’s foreman. These conversations do little to enhance the game but sometimes contain useful guidance. Fortunately, it is possible to rapidly click through them and get back to work. Initially, the player is confined to the starting area of Desert Springs, a small town in the fictional US state of Westside Plains. Another three areas can be progressively unlocked by leveling up and acquiring more vehicles, with a unique job to open each area. Each new area is home to a larger town or city, giving access to increasingly complex and highly paid contracts. Expansion has its downside though, as running costs increase each time a new depot is added to the player’s empire. The game includes a number of special jobs tied to story progression and achievements, but players will also need to work from a roster of 60+ recurring contracts to earn enough to stay solvent and build their business.

The business side of the game is straightforward, with some flexibility to suit different playstyles. Income is earned by completing tasks, and running costs are deducted once every business cycle. The game will always offer several recurring contracts, refreshing the list frequently and automatically excluding contracts if the player can’t afford the required materials. Special jobs are listed separately once the player fulfills their prerequisites, and remain available until completed. Bank loans are available at reasonable interest rates, and most owned vehicles can be sold if a quick cash injection is needed. The length of the business cycle can be adjusted to make the game more or less challenging, or to stay in step with time-saving skills that become available later in the game. Other skills can help with things like increasing load capacity, getting materials automatically loaded or delivered, reducing costs and increasing money and XP earned. It’s great that the skills allow for speeding up progression and skipping stages of jobs, but there’s some guesswork involved in spending skill points as the skill trees only show the next available ability.


Construction processes are simplified in several ways, facilitating advancement through projects and reducing scope for frustration or boredom. It takes a while to develop an understanding of how best to position vehicles and become accustomed to a diverse range of unfamiliar control schemes for mechanical functions. Task specifications are fairly forgiving, and many tasks will auto-complete when most of the work has been done. The game is somewhat quirky in its measurement of task progress, and it isn’t always clear which possible version of “close enough” will get the job done. This can result in some early frustrations such as apparently frozen progress on digging a hole while wrestling with the controls of a backhoe. A combination of experience, acquiring higher grade vehicles and remembering to scrutinise the builder view visualisation for red areas helps enormously, and after a while, the game becomes very relaxing to play.

A lack of polish in some areas results in Construction Simulator 2 not being quite as good as it could be. Transition of the UI from mobile to console has had mixed results. The developer has made good use of the D-pad to give quick access to important information and options such as vehicle tool controls and camera types. In contrast, the contextual menus have gone from being a fluid touch and swipe feature to a clunky radial selector that seems to demand too many button pushes. The map system is also a little problematic, particularly when attempting to use the minimap to drive to a waypoint. The minimap shows the direction of the waypoint but gives no indication of what roads lead there, making it necessary to refer to the main map to plan a route. The main map can be accessed quickly, but there is an annoying loading delay on returning to the game. Occasionally the game physics and AI will either add comedic value or be a little annoying, depending on the player’s mood. Try to unload a swinging object while using a crane and you may be treated to the spectacle of a wall section superjumping over neighbouring buildings. Fast traveling vehicles will sometimes reach their destination and drop through the map or bounce and land upside down. There’s even a road building job where traffic is using the road before it’s constructed, like a metallic school of fish swimming through the soil. The colours and textures are on the simplistic side, but the animations and 3D modeling are competent. Far more care has gone into representations of licensed vehicles than landscape features, which is appropriate as these are the stars of the game. The soundtrack is inoffensive but quickly becomes repetitious, so players would do well to listen to podcasts or their own music instead.

The achievement list is long but mostly straightforward, with the majority available through routine gameplay. More than half the achievements are for cumulative actions such as time played, distance driven, jobs completed and fast traveling. About a quarter are for game progression such as completing tutorials, leveling up, unlocking skills, buying and renting vehicles, opening up new areas and completing some of the special jobs. Exploration is rewarded with five achievements for collecting medals and discovering locations. Irresponsible drivers will be rewarded with seven achievements for stunt jumping and committing traffic offences. The remaining achievements are mostly for easy miscellaneous actions. Completionists will have to replay a lot of contracts to gain all cumulative achievements, which will be a long haul even if choosing the shortest contracts.

Summary

Construction Simulator 2 gives a fascinating insight into building processes, and a deeper appreciation of specialist construction machinery. Once past the initial learning curve, the gameplay is methodical with a meditative quality that will make it relaxing for some and boring for others. It strikes a good balance between realism and accessibility, and it’s genuinely satisfying to complete projects. However the realistic aspects of the game leave no room for creativity and will limit its appeal to those who can find satisfaction in completing set tasks. It's a niche game, but if you're interested in construction you might dig it.
3 / 5
Construction Simulator 2
Positives
  • Relaxing gameplay once accustomed to the controls
  • Large roster of licensed vehicles
  • Includes 60+ construction jobs
Negatives
  • Clunky UI
  • Can be frustrating at first
  • Limited choice in how to play
Ethics
The reviewer completed 49 jobs including all available types and earning 47 out of 76 achievements. An Xbox code was provided by the publisher.
Lucy Wood
Written by Lucy Wood
Lucy wasted her youth in the pursuit of music, art and stories. Eventually she discovered that video games combine all three with shooting and exploding stuff and a gamer was born.