There's nothing that quite defines fantasy vacations so much as the idea of a cross-country road trip with friends. One can picture it now: a beaten-up Volkswagen van, a few close friends, and nothing but conversation to pass your time cruising through the open road with the wind in your hair. According to research posted on the US-based National Centre for Biotechnology Information, out of the 91.2 percent of surveyed members had a bucket list, and a whopping 78.5 percent of them had a desire to travel in some form.
This should come as little surprise. Many consider traveling across the globe a luxury for those with the money and the time to do so, but it turns out that a rich lifestyle isn't the only way to experience the joys of a road trip with companions at your side. I've been traveling Europe with the aid of Euro Truck Simulator 2 and a multiplayer mod called TruckersMP. It's worth mentioning that both Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator have now had multiplayer support added since July, which makes it a lot easier for everyone to get an online game, but the official Convoy multiplayer is an eight person affair. TruckersMP, while getting on a bit, is on a different scale.
Initially released on the 1st of May 2014, TruckersMP is a massively multiplayer mod for Euro Truck 2 that allows players to join one of several servers and travel Europe with thousands of other truckers. The mod makes a multitude of changes to allow for a streamlined multiplayer experience, including removing NPC drivers and putting speed-caps on certain servers. It also adds radio channels for voice chat and even its own radio station which the community runs.
Using the mod, which requires two hours of single-player gameplay, to avoid the dangers of newbie truckers learning the ropes on the busy highway, players can band together in a convoy, journeying everywhere from the pleasant hills of Aberdeen to the gorgeous beaches of Iberia. Provided that players come equipped with Euro Truck 2's many DLCs, travelling from Russia to Paris is as easy as putting your foot on the pedal.
A typical journey from one end of Europe to the other takes approximately two to three hours, depending on stops and traffic. Traffic is a real concern, too. Since TruckersMP has a massive playerbase cruising across Europe, traffic jams can and do happen. Calais is especially susceptible to congestion, since it's a popular starting destination and is one of the central base-game cities. It can see anywhere between 50 - 200 vehicles at once, which is especially daunting since it's merely a condensed hub of various pit-stops. Thankfully, Truckers MP has truck collisions turned off in cities to ensure your safety from shoddy drivers or trolls. However, collisions are active on the rest of the road, so watch your driving!
TruckersMP and, by extension, Euro Truck 2 are so serene that it's hard not to find yourself falling into bliss as you view the lovingly crafted scenery around you, enjoying the company of your friends and a good tune to pass the time. Your experience will differ depending on which of the several driving styles you pick. Simple automatic is the easiest to handle with no gear shifting, whereas H-shifter is for trucking pros, requiring a PC wheel and gear stick.
Euro Truck 2 also features VR support for added immersion. Seeing the monolithic mountains of Scandinavia in VR is nothing short of awesome. When playing with a crew, it only gets better. Conversations will often stop mid-sentence at some of the sites, views, and landscapes the game has to offer.
This intrinsic beauty is a double-edged sword, however. Since Euro Truck's post-launch development has mostly been on the various expansions available to purchase - aside from graphical and gameplay improvements - base-game cities feel inferior to their DLC counterparts. Sure, the English countryside is still beautiful, but it doesn't compare to the enchantment of Stockholm and Paris.
Not only this, but it also means that DLC maps suffer population issues on TruckersMP. Newly released countries can feel deserted because people either can't afford to or simply don't care to buy them. It's rare to see a truck passing by in Russia, whereas places like Berlin are brimming with drivers. There's an emptiness to driving in the premium parts of Europe, in other words. If you don't have companions by your side, it can feel devoid of what makes TruckersMP so compelling.
That is not to say that Euro Truck's many, many DLCs are required to enjoy your time with the title. Of course, traveling in the vanilla portion of the map is just as fun. It's also worth mentioning that despite the downloadable content jumping in quality, the vanilla roads are fantastically accurate and legitimate. Driving through England at night in the pouring rain invokes a sense of nostalgia to those who reminisce about the road trips of their younger years.
And if you're used to European roads, you'll feel right at home here. Being able to share those experiences with a social group can feel rewarding. Those who may find the single-player portion of Euro Truck rather drab and unfulfilling may find that TruckersMP is the cure. That enjoyable monotony of the open road never ceases to keep you gripped, despite it's unapologetic repetitiveness.
Even if you don't have a group to drive with, the community has you covered. TruckersMP has forums dedicated to convoys looking for people to join their ranks, and the community Discord is always active. Even when you're playing there's the opportunity to converse with fellow drivers on your recent journeys. Convoys are usually easy to spot too, with matching paint jobs or tags on their usernames.
All in all, TruckersMP has become a lovely addition to an already pleasant game. There's something so wholesome about sharing a journey with those you care about. The intimacy of the online voice call, the fun comparisons of truck brands and colour schemes, even repair issues feel personal as you plan which city you'll meet at to continue your adventure into the heart of Europe. It's an experience that might not draw everyone in, but for those who are already allured by the notion of a group road trip, this is exactly the kind of thing to get started.