Edited by: Tiffany Lillie
Another Discovery Channel show has been licensed by the developers Code Horizon, who brought to life the 2017 title Gold Rush: The Game based on the TV series. Diesel Brothers: Truck Building Simulator tries to bring the realities of taking a broken-down, four-wheel-drive junker and turning it into an off-roading monster. At first glance, it seems to have taken all the things that their publisher's other developer, Red Dot Games, has done right in the Car Mechanic Simulator games, then attempted to take it to another level with its focus on trucks, customization, and four-person cooperative multiplayer.
The majority of your time will, naturally, be spent in your garage. In the beginning, you’ll get your initial start-up cash by completing tutorial jobs. This grindy-but-short cycle helps you get familiar with all the tools at your disposal. Your main tool is the “screwdriver,” which is modeled as a battery-powered impact driver, but there is very little in the way of screws to drive. I’m sure this is a translation issue with the name, but having battery drivers instead of a pneumatic impact wrench was the first tip that something wasn’t quite right.
The graphics and models of the vehicles are adequate, but don’t have quite the photorealism that is expected of modern titles. There are three different truck models in the game, with a couple of variations each (such as the cab size), but none of these are licensed models. However, it’s clear which vehicles they’re trying to convey. Generally, the graphics hold up until you get in multiplayer. Now, this is another reason why it’s lucky to have four screwdrivers: you have a screwdriver for each of your cardboard-cutout buddies. That’s right. They’re not 3D character models. They’re 2D cardboard cutouts moving around the shop.
As you get your initial jobs you’ll be walked through some of the locations. You’ll head to the junkyard where parts will be strewn across the lot. As you pick out the items, there’s no repair function for the parts, so all the mechanical parts are a straight swap if you’re lucky enough to find them, but the body pieces will need to be sandblasted and painted. It’s clear from little nuances, like sandblasting, that they’re really trying for immersion and realism over other genre titles. You’ll go to the sandblasting shop and have to remove the rust from body pieces — but only one side of them. Next, you’ll take the trailer of parts to the paint shop and you’ll choose paints and can adjust your spray. The lighting here can make it quite difficult to see that you’re getting an even spray on similarly colored paints. There were times that I would take the part back to the garage and in that light it was obvious that I missed spots and had to return to the paint shop to clean it up.
Another frustration was the way the jobs were set up. There wasn’t much of a way of determining what your objectives were without looking at the job description, in which case it was spelled out exactly. So instead of being guided to the area, it’s explicitly laid out. This is required as you can get a catalytic converter from the shop or junk yard but there’s no visible difference between those parts or the one you took off, regardless of their quality or repair status. So you’ll have tasks in explicit orders: remove door, paint door, install the door.
All of these frustrations could be overcome if other gameplay was smooth, such as removing and replacing parts. But as you remove parts, you’ve got to pick up your screwdriver and remove bolts or nuts. Then you’ve got to drop your screwdriver on the floor, take the part off, then drop that on the floor. Then, to remove another part, like a brake caliper, you’ve got to look down at the screwdriver, pick it up, and repeat the cycle of looking down and back up, and pick up parts and screwdrivers ad infinitum. Your mouse hand is going crazy picking up and dropping the screwdriver over and over, so you can guess it’s easy to lose. Luckily, you’ve got three backups, and there's a hotkey that will locate your screwdriver, which comes in handy, but it would've been better if gameplay had been designed to avoid this constant, stilted tool swapping.
When removing tires, you oddly remove them directly from the rims, without removing the wheels from the truck — an interesting contrast to Red Dot Games, who went the other way and included a tire machine to change them. While some decisions, like the tires, were likely meant to speed up the jobs, all of that gained time is lost in the shuffle of trying to maintain the location of parts and tools. When you order parts they will take time to be delivered, then show up in a parts staging area of your garage, and you’ll walk back and forth as you shuttle each of the parts over in a tedious march. All of this bustle of moving parts and constantly trying to locate implements makes the limited time to complete a job incredibly frustrating. If you blow past the time limit you'll get less money, lose fans (a largely useless stat), and get comments on the job, such as, “It doesn't run very well.”
The Verdict: Fair
There is so much potential for this game, especially when looking at the progress of the genre. The idea of customization is fantastic, but it may be that the game was rushed trying to get all this in, plus drag racing and a stunt track of sorts. While there weren’t too many bugs, the overall features and playability of the game truly feels like an Early Access title. It’s definitely one to watch over the coming months, because of mod support and updates, but at this point, it’s unclear from the marketing what you’re truly getting into. This is one of the weakest titles in the mechanic sim genre in recent years.