Ultra Off-Road Simulator 2019: Alaska
Developed By: IceTorch Interactive
Published By: Ultimate Games
Release Date: 10.25.2019
Ultra Off-Road Simulator 2019: Alaska is an off-road simulation title as you probably could tell from the name. Coming from the dreaded “simulator” genre, with which we have seen several rough titles, this one comes to the Nintendo Switch as one of the better versions from this genre. Being “better” isn’t saying a lot however, as this one has plenty of issues of its own. Besides that, this is a unique experience that has you rough riding through various terrain and with a dynamic weather system that changes the way you have to handle your vehicle. This is one that will be right at home for those hardcore off-roaders looking for a virtual experience but has such a niche reach that anyone else will get stuck in the mud.
There isn’t a story, as this is just about driving your vehicle around in the wilderness, but it does boast a short “career” mode as well as a freeride mode. The only difference between the two being that the career mode has you collecting items and reaching an end goal before progressing to a new stage to drive through. The career mode only has a few stages to work through though, so most of your time would be spent messing around in freeride, if you spent that much time here at all.
When collecting items, you are grabbing repair kits, gasoline, and food. I get the repair and fuel items; however, I am perplexed as to why you have to keep track of a food gauge in a game like this. Nonetheless, that is something you have to do as the games say you will drive worse if you are hungry. Which might be true, I guess. But as you gather up these random pizzas and hot dogs you have the portion that actually makes sense which is keeping track of your gas gauge and vehicle damage as you tumble down hills and crash into trees. All three gauges must be maintained for you to be able to continue your run. Although this gives you something to do besides aimlessly driving around, it is a weird system that feels like it was pegged on at the end of development. Not sure, but here we are.
As you drive around environments you can actually have a bit of fun if you are into two-tracking, off-roading, or anything else like it. I honestly didn’t have all that bad of a time when my supplies were topped off and I could just pretend I was driving the car. This is one of those zen moment titles where if you can put yourself behind the wheel and roleplay a bit then there is a light at then end of the tunnel. However, I think very few people will be able to get to that point, and the mechanics and systems present come back very quickly and take you out of this trance.
I found myself randomly getting stuck at times as there isn’t a ton of polish. You also are encouraged to follow the path, but that path doesn’t always lead to the end goal. The part about that that is troublesome is the fact that most of the time I went ahead and drove off the beaten track I found myself getting stuck, randomly as mentioned, or getting myself into a position where I could not progress further towards the end goal. This means you can’t just make a beeline for the end, or follow the trail there, so a lot of the time, you are just lost. Although that is considered a “feature” for the game, it just makes things confusing and frustrating.
I also think there isn’t enough explanation for how things work, and you are mostly just left to your own devices. If you aren’t already aware of traction and the inner workings of vehicles, then there will be some mechanics that don’t make sense. For example, differences in snow, rain, and clear pastures aren’t described, and thus sometimes you can take on that hill and sometimes you can’t. Also, the different cars offered, I think, have different stats for different environments and terrain. I say “I think” because again, the game doesn’t tell you. But I found myself have issues with a vehicle, but when I switched I all of a sudden could make climbs I couldn’t with the last vehicle. I don’t know if that is because of a lack of polish, or stat differences, but either way it is a crapshoot.
Graphics are pretty subpar and look like they come from a generation or two back. If there was a bit more of a fully-fledged experience here then I wouldn’t care as much, but with it being so content light I just wished it looked a bit better to allow for some scenery to gawk at while you are getting lost.
All in all, Ultra Off-Road Simulator 2019: Alaska is a bad game — front and center. The few redeemable qualities are completely overtaken by a lack of polish, content, and fun factor. For those hardcore adrenaline junkies who go out riding every weekend this may be a game that gets you through the week, but for anyone else, even those that play genres that include driving, I would say this is one you will want to avoid at all costs.
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*The Switch Effect was provided a code for this game*