Review: What Alaskan Road Truckers lacks in polish it makes up with charm

alaskan road truckers

There has been a style of videogame that I’ve come to enjoy a whole lot since the start of the pandemic. You know the ones, where otherwise commonplace jobs become the whole point of you playing, such as Saber Interactive’s Snowrunner, where I plunked more hours than I care to admit during quarantine, getting my vehicles through all manner of rugged terrain.

Now there’s Alaskan Road Truckers, which is in a somewhat similar vein to that, but with a narrower focus: driving cargo over a large map that’s supposed to be a condensed version of Alaska, all the while managing several aspects of your cargo company as well as your driver’s health. Considering that a very small team is behind its development, aptly named Road Studio, out of Warsaw, Poland, it’s a very ambitious game that can grow on you if you can overlook its quirks.

And there are plenty of those abound in the game, for better or for worse. The multitude of details ranging from the amount of fiddling you have to do in order to even start hauling cargo to managing hunger, thirst, and even curing headaches, that make up the comings and goings of Alaskan Road Truckers are impressive on paper, but their execution leaves a lot to be desired.

That’s because every interaction that happens in the game, outside of driving your truck, is unwieldy and unresponsive. Context sensitive pop ups are fiddly and sometimes don’t even appear as you are frantically trying to, for instance, fill up your tank. 

alaskan road truckers
Haul all sorts of cargo through Alaskan roads.

For as neat as it is to have to manually uncouple a bed from your truck, it can be a pain to do it, and I’m not even talking about having to wrestle with the controls while doing it in pitch black of night. Yeah, that’s something else that can also put a damper in your trucker career. While the day and night cycle as well as the different seasonal weather are downright awesome, they serve to highlight the game’s limitations and overall lack of polish. 

There are no options to turn on lights outside of your truck in order to complete the basest actions that Alaskan Road Truckers demands of you, let alone see where you are going down the road, since your headlights don’t shine enough of the path ahead of you at night. And I haven’t even talked about how it is to drive in a world that’s populated with computer-controlled cars and other fellow truckers.

It’s definitely something that I felt was missing in the ‘Runner games, having an interaction with another being outside of the environment, which in those is a character in and of itself. In Alaskan Road Truckers, you get the option to pick if you even want to bother with other vehicles while out driving, although it comes ticked to ‘on’ by default. Let’s cut to the chase: they are total assholes, swerving in and out of your way causing you to rack up hundreds of dollars in fines in accidents that are often completely out of your control.

By this point, you might be ready to ask how, with all these blemishes, I have managed to come close to liking this game. Well, when everything is working after taking the time to do every single item on the list before jumping into the truck’s cabin and driving off, there’s a simplicity to Alaskan Road Truckers that’s undeniably charming. 

Driving from point A to B and then very carefully parking your truck and running through that very same list of actions only in reverse can be extremely rewarding and cathartic. This game tickles the same nerve that Snowrunner did with its core gameplay. Having a straightforward objective that’s to be carried out can be downright relaxing, if you come into this with the right frame of mind.

alaskan road truckers
There’s nothing quite like life on the road…

Then again, if we’re to analyze Alaskan Road Truckers as a GAME game, there’s more to it than just driving, but that alone is what the majority of your experience playing will sum up to. The downtime from hauling is usually spent finding ways to make use of your hard-earned cash making improvements to your home base as well as your vehicle, not to mention your character’s health, and that’s all fine and dandy, but it would all go to waste if the main act of driving wasn’t enjoyable.

Now, I have never played any of the Euro Truck Simulator games nor its laundry list of DLC, so I can’t draw a comparison to this, and in all honesty, taking into account the small number of people that have worked on Alaskan Road Truckers, it’s quite an accomplishment. Surely, it’s not as pretty as those games nor does it have excellent controller support to make it 100% playable outside of a keyboard and mouse, but even so, it just works.

That and the simple joy of driving and possibly listening to a podcast or three while doing so make Alaskan Road Truckers a tentative recommendation. As long as you don’t come into it looking for an emotional rollercoaster or a whole lot of gameplay variety, but instead are willing to look past its faults – which there’s no denying there are plenty of – you might just like the way of living us virtual Alaskan drivers have for our day-to-day.

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