For some American or Euro Truck Simulatorettes, as I've decided we pretend long-distance haulage fans should call ourselves, news of a new type of vehicle or trailer is reason to celebrate. For me, the most excited I've ever been about American Truck Sim patch notes is the declaration that they've just made rain better.
ATS has long owned my heart, but I'm ashamed to say I've only just been able to visit its latest state DLC, Oregon, due to the small but extremely loud new lifeform that steals 99% of my attention. Today's patch 1.33 - which applies to any edition of ATS, i.e. some, none or all the DLC to date - was the excuse I needed to fire it up in work time.
I'm happy to say, my dream of forests has been realised. I'm chomping at the bit for ATS to reach Washington state, in order that I can play out assorted Twin Peaks roadtrip fantasies, but in the meantime neighbouring Oregon would seem to share some topography with it. Long, quiet roads, lined by trees or the sinister silhouettes of enormous electricity pylons- not the vintage, cheesier Twin Peaks tropes, no, but more than a touch of Lynch, including the eerier outerlands of The Return. I swear I saw sights I recognised from that immortal final episode and its 430 mile journey. With the right soundtrack, ah yes, I can recreate the distinction sensation of one's soul being flayed by a freeway.
Patch 1.33 sweetens the deal with this glorious tweak: "Rain drops behavior on glass improved."
A tiny thing, inconsequential, almost. But I noticed it right away. In that I noticed raindrops on my windscreen, whereas previously I was only really conscious of rain as something external to my truck. Sure, it landed on the windscreen, but it was a bit 'overlay obvious special effect here' whereas now it's more convincingly water-y.
These raindrops drive right into the heart of why ATS, this outwardly tedious thing for fans of engines and commerce (I have no interest in either), weaves a spell on me, and many others like me. Atmosphere. A sense of being somewhere else - and the more that place feels tangible, the more enraptured I am. Raindrops on windscreens? Beautiful, sad, meaningless, magical.
For those immune to the patter of tiny lens distortion effects, patch 1.33's a pretty chunky one in other respects. Headline feature is detours, in which you might now been directed down a different route if one of ATS's random accidents clogs up too many lanes on the road you're on. It's a lovely and true-to-life idea, though I can't help but feel that ATS needs many more roads than it currently has (the scale of the game's world is impressive, but its density perhaps less so) for this to really sing. Once all the states are there and connected, though...
We also get very welcome quality of life additions, including being able to save templates for your customised trucks and trailers, rather than go through the whole parts'n'paint-choosing rigmarole every time you want to buy another one, and - hurrah! - Steam Cloud support. Excellent news for those of us who play on more than one PC.
The Oregon DLC specifically has had the rather scenic OR-140 road added, which helps to fill in some of the gaps. I hope there'll be more little additions like that over time - I'm already extremely worried that the Washington state DLC, whenever it happens, won't let me drive through Snoqualmie and see those famous falls..
There are a few other bits and bobs too, which you can read about here or see in genteel action below: