Wot I Think: Giant Machines 2017

Stand aside, other construction simulators. Do your vehicles require ladders to get on board? Do they have enough surface area to host a cocktail party? No? Pshah I say. Which I also say to this pile of crap. Here’s wot I think of Giant Machines 2017 [official site]:

I will admit that I have not hitched a ride on the Enthusiasm Simulator 2018, whether genuine, ironic or post-ironic, for your bus driving, truck trundling, bus stopping simulation games. I think I came in too early, taking a look at the earlier wave of Farming Simulator and the like when things were very, very poor. But Giant Machines 2017 grabbed my attention simply because my almost-two-year-old is presently obsessed with all things machinery. Perhaps this could be something I play while he watches, instead of having to sit in front of more sodding Blippi YouTube videos. (I now know that what I thought were just “diggers” are in fact “back hoes”. I didn’t want to know this.) Turns out it’s even more dreary than he can cope with. And he can cope with Blippi.

The intention is good. Provide a series of enormous vehicles to drive about in a story scenario tangentially linked to launching a shuttle. But the game opts for this utterly berserk approach to embracing realism, with its focus entirely placed on the banality of such industrial work, and not in the simulation thereof. This is a game in which you’re required to repeat the exact same dull, achingly slow task four times in a row, but you can climb ladders at 5 metres per second. Operating a crane takes about ten minutes to manoeuvre it into place, but setting a machine’s fuses into the correct position is a puzzle minigame. And perhaps worst of all, despite implementing a physics engine, you don’t actually ever hook anything, or pick anything up – it’s done automatically by putting one thing in the proximity of another, and a little countdown clock ticking off.

The result is a very silly set of tasks set in slow-motion, with no real sense of operating the heavy vehicular machinery, but quite a lot of climbing ladders and plugging in batteries. Apparently that’s a big part of large-scale industrial work – plugging in batteries.

It’s a shame, because the novelty of controlling such enormous apparatus could have been quite the thing. It’s still kind of fun to pootle about in the spectacularly huge bucket-wheel excavator, driving what looks like an on-land oil rig to mine rocks out of a nearby cliff-side. But then when operating the enormous digger-wheel-doodah (it really made an impression, you can tell), it’s a colossal mess of a broken engine, as you watch the metal structure impossibly slide into the rockface, then be told you broke it when seemingly far more appropriately placed. After digging up a couple of tons of silicon rock, you’re then tasked with putting it in a massive tipper truck (we’re talking ladders to get on board scale) and driving it over to the plant. Make sure you don’t spill any out! Except goodness knows what you’d have to do for that to happen, considering the way I wildly off-roaded to get back.

It is ever thus. Using a crane to move four containers from one place to another is immensely dull, and the only possibly interesting bit – getting the crane hook into place – is done for you. Which makes no sense, considering the engine seems to be able to accurately swing the hook around. The game’s last few sections involve getting a space shuttle ready for launch, which sounds far more exciting than it is, instead involving even less involved tasks than you’ve encountered previously. This culminates in a challenge so silly as to be surely a joke – you must drive the shuttle precariously balanced on the back of a vast platform, such that accelerating to 5 kph too quickly causes the spaceship to topple over and explode. And then have to drive it up and down a ramp. Because that would be a thing. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of space-bound equipment loosely placed on a platform then driven over an assault course. I blew up that rocket so many times.

Like those dreadful early tractor sims, the most fun is to be found in subverting its po-faced requests. Off-roading a 20-ton vehicle is entertaining for a bit, while doing handbrake turns in an eighteen wheeler crane lorry is certainly something no other game has offered me. But unfortunately such frivolity is in short supply, and you’ll more often be stuck operating a hydraulic excavator required to dig out ice from an ice wall (in order to pick up handy balls of uranium, no less), which defies all known physics, fails to simulate digging, and often the front bucket falls off if you tap it too hard. Which is as nothing compared to a wildly broken sequence using a small excavator to pick up rocks from a pile, in which they impossibly pass through the sides of the metal bucket, both in and out, rendering the entire simulation a farce.

Which, well, it seems to embrace. After being deadly serious throughout, in the last sections, as you attempt to get that rocket into place for launch, one of the instruction screens reads:

“If you are born to hang, you will never drown. I specifically asked not to experiment with teleportation this week.”

I have literally no idea what this means, but the segment involved carting barrels of toxic waste out of a building on fire, and had no apparent place in this game about driving big metal toys. Soon after I was asked to put out another fire, but invisible barriers wouldn’t let me down off some steps so I had to give up before getting that space rocket into outside-space.

Yeah, it’s poop, which is disappointing. And it doesn’t help that you have to switch off one of a whole bunch of hideous German techno/thrash metal music stations every time you start a vehicle. That’s weird. It didn’t entertain me, it didn’t distract my son, and it’s very broken. Maybe it’ll be a cult classic by Giant Machines 2023, but not yet.

Giant Machines 2017 is out now on Windows via Steam and Humble for £12/$16/€16.


  1. KDR_11k says:

    I think parents with kids fascinated by machinery or various jobs are the main audience for these “simulations” that fail to be accurate at simulating anything. Kid saw a TV show about being a fireman? Buy Feuerwehr Simulator*. Kid playing with toy garbage trucks? Buy him Müllabfuhr Simulator. Etc. They’re being churned out by the dozen, a few crappy assets stuffed into a janky physics engine to cover all the dreams a kid might have. And crush them without mercy.

    *=Actually buy Real Heroes: Firefighter which is probably the closest to a quality game.

  2. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    Were any of the two thousand and sixteen previous versions any good?

    • Pravin Lal's Nuclear Arsenal says:

      The 1455 version was all right, it had a rudimentary sandbox mode but it was dreadfully incomplete: you could print the entire Bible, bug only in German and Latin and the letter S was bugged. It looked like a weird S.

      • Pravin Lal's Nuclear Arsenal says:

        *like a weird F. The bugs are still there on modern phones, it seems.

      • Nauallis says:

        But that version had the sailing ships with the weird “morale” stat, which you could only temporarily boost by flogging crew, and otherwise always degraded the longer the ship was away from shore. Also I recall that if you sailed too near to the edge of the map the game would crash.

        • Pravin Lal's Nuclear Arsenal says:

          Yeah, that’s the kind of stuff that happens when you go from 2d to early 3d. That particular game breaking bug was fixed later in the “Vespucci” patch, though: basically, the game was trying to spawn two huge land masses in the same place.

    • Shazbut says:

      The first few were pretty bad

    • gwop_the_derailer says:

      Uff, don’t get me started on the controversy over the 1750th edition – artificially raising the difficulty of the simulation by still refusing to include lemons and limes in the game and letting your crew die of scurvy, regardless of James Lind’s findings two years back! Of course, it was only later we realized that the flying rat carrying the message of Lind’s breakthrough to the developers never reached its recipient.

      Complaints over the issue took an additional two years to reach by mail.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      After the ‘Descartes’ patch of the 1637th game you’d suddenly take control of bears and weird-ass looking rhinoceros in a super glitch that the devs just explained in later editions as the game basically tagging animals as giant machines too. Was quite a fun bug though

    • phelix says:

      This comment thread is objectively the best comment thread

  3. Jac says:

    Not PC related but Giant Machines related is Blast Corps on the N64 (and Xbox re-release) by Rare. It’s basically what I thought this might be. The 2017 in the name should have been a clue but on my phone the first screen provided hope at first glance.

  4. lglethal says:

    Ummm just to be “that guy”, the Space Shuttle is actually brought to the launch pad on a huge Crawling transporter which basically just balances it all the way to the launch pad (link to en.wikipedia.org). And yeah, it actually tops out in speed at 1,6kph. It takes it 5 hours to go the 5km to the Launch pad.

    It is a frigging amazing piece of engineering, and I imagine hugely stressful to drive in real life. However, I also imagine it must be pretty much the most boring thing EVER to simulate… So yeah cool in reality, total bollocks in simulation!

    • Phasma Felis says:

      I would hope that the real thing is physically incapable of making movements that would topple the shuttle (e.g. accelerating too fast).

      • Fnord73 says:

        When Trump becomes president, that process will just take 5 minutes. Trust me! That shuttle will be launched so fast you wont believe me!

        • gwop_the_derailer says:

          And the Shuttle will be carrying materials to build a wall around the sun to stop global warming because Trump International Beach Resort Miami is going under the water!

    • hpoonis says:

      ummm… 5km / 1.6kph = 3.125 hours

      I deliberately clicked just to edit…however, why a countdown timer and not just an edit button?

      This message will self-destruct in 5 minutes.

      I clicked again…just to make sure.

      and if one is quick cut/paste. Why is such freedom limited? It’s like dangling a carrot in front of a donkey cart.

      Click to Edit – 1 minute and 47 seconds

      • inspiredhandle says:

        Praise be to the edit function!

        He said “tops out at 1.6kph” sounds to me like the average speed is 1kph. It might need to stop/slowdown for crossing wildlife/school children. My bike tops out at 167mph, it’s not the speed I travel to work at ?

  5. thekelvingreen says:

    To be fair, I think “backhoe” is what Americans call them. Over here, the usual term is in fact “digger” or, more often, “JCB”.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      “Backhoe” seems like the better name (referring to the backwards pulling motion it uses). “Digger” is awfully vague given how many different machines dig, and “JCB” appears to just be the name of a British heavy equipment company.

      • thekelvingreen says:

        It’s much the same as Americans refer to tissues as “kleenex”. The dominant brand becomes the generic term. I’d never seen the term “backhoe” until I read this article, but I know a JCB when I see one.

        • Fnord73 says:

          Why is there no forklift or Bobcat-simulator available in this universe? I know tons of people from my days in industrial work who would buy it and all the DLCs.

          • grundus says:

            There’s at least one really real actual forklift simulator, but it’s a simulator and not a game like most simulators with “…Simulator (year)” in the title. It is boring. It is for to be teaching people how to forklift.

      • inspiredhandle says:

        I always thought it was named a backhoe because the digging arm was at the rear of the vehicle (the front being a bulldozer type blade/bucket).

        Certain countries tend to have specific weird affinities with brand named products: Britain has tipex, Hoover, JCB, etc. Australia has Textas (felt tip pens), Glad wrap (cling film) and nikkos (permanent marker) and so on.

        Australia (might be the same in other countries) calls every skid-steer loader a bobcat for the same reason.

    • Maritz says:

      We used to call them backactors, and this was on UK construction sites so I’m not sure it is just an American term.

    • hpoonis says:

      Sounds like an industrial gansta-rap lyric:

      “Am here with ma backhoes, chillin’ in the hood. Giant machinery fo’ sure gives me wood.”

      and so on and so forth.

      • inspiredhandle says:

        It indeed writes itself. I wonder though, would it not be “fo’ sho'” instead of “fo’ sure”?

  6. -Spooky- says:

    da heck is this blippi channel?! *aRRRRggggLLLL*

  7. Gilmir says:

    “If you are born to hang, you will never drown.”
    I have literally no idea what this means

    That’s a Polish proverb. When I saw this, I checked the official website and… yes! It’s a Polish developer, alright.
    This game proves that Polish game developers not only produce award winning RPGs or deeply disturbing indy titles, but also utter crap :)

  8. Fnord73 says:

    I have a genius idea for a game in this genre called “Clean the factory”. When I worked summers in a huge aluminium-plant in Norway, one of the jobs us newbies were put to was to use industrial vacuum-cleaners mounted to a hydraulic system in the very walls themselves to clean up the carbon-dust. From 7 various floors of machinery, including 4 tumblers that had 5 meter long rotating knives. All the stories I heard about gruesome deaths through various machine and floating lava-related accidents got a whole new meaning when one guy drunk forgot to press the correct safetybuttons on those machines on another shift before entering to clean them, I can tell you.

    It would be a walking simulator AND a longwinded industrial simulator featuring 7 floor high machinery. You could add the forklift-sim as a DLC on the floor, even.

    (If someone produces this game 6 months from now, please send money)

  9. melnificent says:

    How bad can Blippi be? John introduced me to the excellent Braindead.
    *10 seconds later*

  10. geldonyetich says:

    The leaders of the world sat down around a secret table. There was a threat to human kind they must defend against. To fight against Godzillas they just simply were not able. Doom robots from the future could be met with no defense.

    The leader of the Germans stood with a triumphant roar.
    “I’ve got it! We will build a machine that’s totally great! A massive steel leviathan with blades covered in gore.
    Beelzebub himself will fear the Bagger 288!”

  11. NephilimNexus says:

    When I was a kid I played with Tonka Trucks. You know, metal things, made with metal, using my hands.

    • hpoonis says:

      “Big, tough toys for big, tough boys. TONKA!”

      I recall an advert which empahsised that very fact: they used one Tonka truck as a support for one wheel of a VW. I was impressed by the delivered toughness-ness.

  12. keefybabe says:

    If your lad likes machines, get him watching Dino Trux. They’re Dinosaurs AND trucks.

  13. Premium User Badge

    buenaventura says:

    My wife is American (we live in Sweden) so the kids watch youtube films sometimes, and actually Blippi is quite fun I think, as a foreigner it is exotic American stuff. I would recommend the Axel Show however, it also has big machines but with a real kid and very American Wholesome in general. Check it: link to youtube.com

    Otherwise the sleeper hit is this: link to youtube.com
    “All about fossil hunting! Finding fossils including megalodon teeth and other fossil shark teeth in South Carolina and anywhere else we can find them. ”
    This is pure first person finding awesome stuff (every kid’s dream) and they are SO HAPPY FINDING TEETH!

    Having kids broadens your horizon.

  14. inspiredhandle says:

    “getting the crane hook into place – is done for you. Which makes no sense, considering the engine seems to be able to accurately swing the hook around.”

    Are you saying that you don’t move any loads in this game, or that you don’t physically hook them before lifting them?

    If it is the latter, then a crane operator doesn’t connect/hook to loads themselves, they have riggers or dogmen to do it for them. They also aren’t responsible for orienting loads as that is done from the ground, with guide wires. A crane operator doesn’t work alone. They go by queues from handsignals/whistles etc from those on the ground, in a similar way that snipers work with spotters to correct for windage etc. between shots.

    If there are no riggers modelled in game then it’s a lousy sim. If there is no physical moving of loads at all then it’s a lousy game.

    • Einsammler says:

      It is the former. Get your hook near the connection point of the load and it will glom on by itself after a bit of waiting. Then you lift and turn and move all by your lonesome, pressing the let-go button at the far end.

      Like the Magnetic Fishing Game. link to amazon.com

      • inspiredhandle says:

        That’s a bit reckless… Animating all those little fluorescent helpers would be an absolute nightmare though, I imagine. Also the combination of controlling a giant machine and having many puny humans to smoosh might just derail the whole endeavour.

  15. inspiredhandle says:

    Still waiting for an answer as to why a space shuttle is being launched in 2017… ?

  16. MajorLag says:

    “If you are born to hang, you will never drown. I specifically asked not to experiment with teleportation this week.”

    Sounds like a Half-Life reference maybe?