Sometimes I wonder what life is like for people with actual, physically demanding jobs. Ha, just kidding. Even contemplating actual physical labor is enough to mandate an immediate nap. As such I was more than a bit skeptical at idea that I would find any enjoyment pretending to be an Alaskan gold miner. Nevertheless, I was compelled (by my boss) to take Gold Rush: The Game for a spin.
Gold Rush: The Game (as opposed to the breakfast cereal I suppose?) is yet another realistic job simulator Kickstarted by the folks at PlayWay. I’d previously written quite a bit about how much I enjoyed one of their other Kickstarted sims, 911 Operator. The developers on that project, Jutsu Games brought a great deal of authenticity to the table. They’d even gone so far as to use transcripts of real 911 calls for their in-game emergencies.
Based on the Discovery television series, Gold Rush: The Game promised fans a first-hand look at “the tough experience of gold mining.” Despite my lack of any experience what-so-ever with gold mining I downloaded the game and prepared to seek my fortune.
After navigating some menus my character appears just outside the town of Haines, Alaska. Next to me was an old pickup truck on a lonely road. Before I say anything else, I feel it important to mention that the team at Code Horizon did an incredible job texturing the gameworld. Every inch of rust, dirt, and disrepair on the whole town looks nearly photo realistic.
As I climb aboard my gorgeously decrepit jalopy I am informed that I can hit Z for a full rundown of the driving controls. Now, I may know less than nothing about simulated gold mining, but driving? I can fake drive, thank you very much. The game had already provided me with all the information I needed when it told me I could start the truck with X. Feeling smugly confident I start the truck and attempt to drive forward into city limits. Nothing happens, until another tip box appears letting me know that I must disengage the parking break to drive. Sheepishly I pull up the controls and correct my mistake. Upon reflection, this should have been my first clue of what was to come.
“Every inch of rust, dirt, and disrepair on the whole town looks nearly photo realistic.”
Finally moving, I awkwardly swerve around some landscape and make my way into town. I fumble with the controls once again and pull up my list of tasks. Step one, visit the bank and rent some land. Since driving is proving to be cumbersome I decide to explore and locate the bank on foot.
This proves rather simple since the town is actually relatively small and eerily unpopulated. Just as I started making I Am Legend comparisons I hear the sound of garage work. I excitedly circle around hoping to find some NPC’s to engage with, but to no avail. Frustrated I decide to just go talk to the folks at the bank and get to work already. Except, there is nobody at the bank either. Instead the UI pops up and gives me the option to rent some land.
Starting By Starting Over
There was also some information regarding a loan that I apparently already owed to the bank. Given the state of my truck and the fact that my next task involved purchasing mining equipment it seemed logical that I’d abandoned my previous life in the hopes of striking it rich. It didn’t seem like a particularly sound financial move, so I suspect that I’d probably had some other reason for selling off my worldly possessions and running away from any family or responsibilities I may have had. Maybe my wife had an affair, or I’d flunked out of college and it was either this or burger flipping? Basically, with no other people around and no actual gold mining to do as of yet, I had a bit too much time to reflect on my circumstances.
Eventually I pulled myself together enough to head to the warehouse where I could purchase my supplies. Having no idea what I’d need as an aspiring gold miner I prepared to profess my naivety to the salesperson and have them direct me on what to buy. Except, once again I was alone. My task list gave me a brief rundown on the equipment I’d need, but this wasn’t as helpful as you’d expect unless you already knew what a Hog Pan Slucebox Core was. As I did not, I spent a fair amount of time mousing over every item trying to decide what I needed.
“The game is so preoccupied with being authentic that it forgets to be entertaining.”
Once I’d finally selected my equipment I went to the register to pay for my items. As there was nobody working at the time I assume I just shoved a few dollars into the till and left. Outside all the items I’d purchased were ready and waiting for me to painstakingly load each one individually into the truck. I thought I was clever when I tried to drop some smaller objects into a bucket and carry them together, but the game’s magic physics prevented such tomfoolery. As such I took far longer to complete the task and it was already approaching midday.
Now, it’s important to mention that I had no idea what sort of time-crunch I was under to start producing gold. However, as the game was helpfully keeping track of the time and days I’d officially been a gold miner, I was beginning to feel like a slacker. Clearly I needed to take my new career more seriously if I was ever going to start finding nuggets.
On The Road (And Back Off It) Again
I climbed into truck, now full of equipment and began navigating my way towards my rental claim. There is a map, but navigating the truck along unpaved roads is clunky. Fortunately, you don’t crash into things. You will however get stuck on them. Once again, the realism extends only so far. They want you to have to drive back and forth to the town, but you can’t just go crazy and Grand Theft Auto the place.
Once I arrived at my claim I had to unpack each item from the truckbed and carry it to the stream where I finally got some guidance on what to do. Outlines appeared where I should place the items, although actually hitting just the right spot for the game to register this was less than precise.
“It was already early evening and not a single speck of gold had found its way into my inventory.”
There isn’t really a tutorial, but the game does offer several short in-game videos you can watch to see how things work. Of course since I was too proud to check the driving controls I wasted more time trying to figure out how to make gold happen before finally just checking the videos. Gold mining, as it turns out, is a long, drawn-out process.
Essentially, you use a shovel to throw dirt into your Hog Pan. It takes about 10 shovels full to fill it to 100%. That is 10 times of digging in the appropriate spot and lining up the shovel to access the dump command over the correct equipment. Next you pick up a bucket and fill it with water from the stream to pour over your dirt. It takes around 3 buckets to rinse the dirt. The “fill bucket” and “drop bucket” commands are mapped to the same key, so you’ll find yourself doing a bit of both during this process.
After that your miner moss gradually fills with debris. Eventually you fill another bucket of water and proceed to remove each moss sheet from the pan and dunk it into the bucket. Then you take the bucket back to your tent where your panning tools are. Now you can finally begin collecting gold.
Of course you need to fill your metal panning system with water before you begin. With my bucket was already full of nugget water I had to fill the pan from the stream. Hoisting it up, I navigated my way towards the water, occasionally getting stuck on rocks in the terrain.
After filling the tub I turned to leave only to get stuck again. I tapped the keys in frustration and found myself being launched into the air, panning system and all. I’d found my first massive bug.
While my avatar eventually fell back down to earth, the panning system did not. I was unscathed from my rapid decent, but now I’d have to drive all the way back to town for a new pan. At this point I was growing a bit frustrated. It was already early evening and not a single speck of gold had found its way into my inventory. It seems there was far less gold involved in gold mining than I had been lead to believe.
The Struggle Continues
Incredibly I did manage to soldier on. Granted it was only with the help of cheat codes that kept me from running out of money and patience. I wasn’t having fun, but I wasn’t completely failing. Somehow that seemed like the best possible outcome of my current situation. I’d show all those imaginary parental figures who’d told me that moving to Alaska to pan for gold was a stupid idea. I was ready to expand my operations.
I went back to the warehouse and bought the second tier of equipment, including some huge thing that came on its own trailer. Nothing says success like buying so much stuff that you need a freaking trailer to cart it all home. Noticing that I was getting low on gas for the truck I decided to swing by the gas station real quick before heading back to my claim.
“It seems there was far less gold involved in gold mining than I had been lead to believe.”
I was feeling fairly confident as I pulled in front of the gas station. This confidence was perhaps misplaced as I’d just spent nearly 10 mins trying to figure out how to line up my truck so I’d get the prompt to attach the new trailer. Still, after overcoming that obstacle I figured getting gas would be easy.
Since under the best circumstances the truck handles like a shopping cart, I figured I’d unhook the trailer before pulling into the station. I was so prepared that I’d already purchased a Jerry Can of my own volition. Now I could stock up on gas for later.
Digging out the can, I went to fill it at the pump. Here’s where everything quickly fell apart. It wouldn’t give me the outline to fill the can. Half the time I couldn’t even get the nozzle to line up with the can at all. Also, the game wouldn’t let me just fill the truck up where it was.
So, annoying, but not insurmountable. I put the nozzle back on the pump and returned to start the truck again. Only now a new tip appeared telling me I needed to “detach the fuel pistol”. I opened the hood moused around until it let me select the fuel pump. Maybe that’s what had it all worked up? I pulled the offending piece out and dropped it on the ground. Then I had to run all the way back to the warehouse and buy a new one. At some point it had begun to rain. Undaunted, I installed my new fuel pump and climbed back behind the wheel. The same error message greeted me, yet again.
The situation had left me utterly stranded. In the rain. With all the equipment necessary to progress stuck in my immobile truck. The idea of starting the game over again with an unstuck truck was too depressing to even consider. I attempted to buy a new truck with all my cheated-in cash, but I hadn’t unlocked that option yet. And so my ill-advised mining career met its stressful end.
The devs have made some updates since I tried this (including one that got my truck moving again). Even-so, I can safely say that Gold Rush: The Game and probably actual gold mining just isn’t for me. If anything this simulation will make you appreciate whatever else you do for a living all the more.
The game is so preoccupied with being authentic that it forgets to be entertaining. Players are discouraged from engaging in anything outside of the monotony of the mining process. Currently the most compelling part of the game are the bugs that completely break it. The pay-off for playing correctly, seeing the blacksmith smelt your minuscule nuggets into actual gold bars isn’t enticing, it’s depressing. All you can do is purchase additional claims and equipment so you can keep digging.
With the game set in Alaska, I was secretly hoping a bear or rabid moose would attack. Just so it felt like something had happened. Anything other than digging and panning, over and over again.
I’d almost write Gold Rush: The Game off as something made exclusively for people who are already fans of the Discovery television show. I say almost, because from my experience those shows tend to appeal to fans because of the colorful personalities of their casts. Not the mundane technical details they teach. Fans don’t watch the show because they want to see all the digging. They want to see if the “characters” succeed or fail.
Meanwhile, Gold Rush: The Game completely sidesteps the human element and leaves players isolated in tedious, time consuming tasks. As far as simulations go, the result is more frustrating than fun with the promise of more of the same as the game progresses.
- Excellent Graphics
- Accurately depicts the gold mining experience, including all the waiting around to actually find anything.
- Dull, repetitive gameplay
- Small, lifeless gameworld
- Fair amount of bugs and glitches
Gold Rush: The Game was always going to be a niche title with limited appeal. The developers did an admirable job staying true to the source material, but unfortunately the mechanics are loathsome and time consuming. This makes every minor setback encountered (through bugs or error) potentially devastating and frustrating for the player.