TS is a hybrid, existing somewhere between game and simulator, because this gamulator lives in this middle ground anyone interested in casually driving trains for XP or serious rail simulation fans looking for the experience of driving a train like real driver in a simulated environment or those like myself with an interest in creating scenarios and routes may be frustrated in equal measure, however for very different reasons.
TS2014 is not a new product, its a compulsory upgrade from TS2013 which was a compulsory upgrade from TS2012 and so on.
TS2013 can be used off the shelf as a ready to play product, in this form it works adquately but its very limited in scope, to get any meaningful use from TS2014 requires a serious financial investment in some of the DLC (depending on your area of interest) and an investment in time in making your own content in the form of scenarios and routes. For anyone interested in simulating reality making your own scenarios using the editor is essential, this is probably TSs strongest aspect however if you undertake this you will come up against many of the software’s myriad bugs and design limitations, the process can be encapsulated in one word: "Frustrating” however it can be rewarding when you do discover a work-around for any of the problems you will encounter.
TS also suffers from (in my experience):
*Poor unhelpful patronising support with less than a rudimentary understanding of the product.
*Falling value for money in packs that come with less skins than previous releases and routes released without the common stock that use them, Ubiquitous stock is conspicuous in its absence while the developers release rare and one-off locos.
*A complexity of incompatible assets, and cut down incompatible replacements for withdrawn DLC making the sharing of scenarios impractical. (for instance there are 5! different versions of the class 66, all incompatible with each other!)
*Variable quality in DLC from “outstanding” to “not-fit-for-purpose”, some DLC cannot be driven without using the driver interface, because of little omissions like the sounds of doors closing not being included, this is bad news if you want full immersion. The sounds on some of the DLC are diabolical others less so.
*A game menu UI that is a temple to style over functionality.
*Long standing unresolved bugs including, benign graphical bugs such as floating passengers and more serious CTD session ending bugs such as the corrupted asset in the scenery folder of London to Brighton that crashes the editor.
*Aggressive marketing, in-your-face advertising and the monetisation of almost every aspect, you are spammed with advertising when waiting for scenarios to load and you cannot even work towards achievements without investing in DLC
*Widespread censorship of genuine concerns on official channels, giving other users advice on workarounds or patches for bugs is prohibited.
*Design limitations, such as its impossible to create “late running” scenarios because the software wont allow the pick-up of passengers from a stop you arrive late at and a save and resume system that can cause AI to be mistimed, collide, derail and off-path in scenarios.
*Unless you have a powerful set up you will have to chose between graphical quality or performance, if you take the performance route TS is ugly but it can be pretty if you don’t mind some stuttering.
All of these things you should not expect from a premium priced product but can be overlooked or worked around if you are a serious rail simulator buff, I would still recommend this product even with these (and other) Shortcomings.
The reason I cannot recommend TS2014 is confidence. Every autumn there is a compulsory relaunch of the product, Its called a “Free update” and in general it carries new ways to monetise the software, some new bugs and a few “bread and circuses” changes, the important part of this is the software changes and unless you want to isolate yourself from ever using the product again you have no choice in accepting it. [EDIT: On the 6th Jan my last working copy of TS2013 was automaticly upgraded bypassing Steam disabled automatic updates, It appears its not actually possible to prevent the update at all, only delay it by a few months. the updates are fully compulsory, as a customer you have no choice]
Because things change every year it has completely smashed my confidence in the product, how long before it becomes intentionally or accidentally unusable? There is no way of knowing if all the hours that may have spent on scenario creation or weeks of gaining achievements or months on route building or the considerable amount of money spent on DLC will just be wasted or unusable a few years down the line.
I find this single aspect utterly demoralising, I simply can no longer be motivated to spend time creating something that may in future be taken away from me without my consent, in this sense its a self fulfilling prophesy.
The release of TS2014 has turned a flawed but enjoyable entertainment (TS2013) into my biggest ever regret, I feel like I have been conned. All the hours I spent making scenarios and routebuilding in TS2013 have been wasted because I have been forced to "upgrade" to TS2014.
Not recommended, unless you are a masochist.
EDIT: 4/12/2013, I think the fact that Railsimulator marked this and many other reviews as "off topic" says more than I could ever say about TS. Actions speak louder than words.http://www.pcgamer.com/2013/12/06/train-simulator-2014-developer-hiding-negative-steam-user-reviews-flagged-as-off-topic/
EDIT: 6/12/2013 Steam moderators overturned DTGs off topic flagging and made this review visable again.