American Truck Simulator: Montana — Is it worth it?
Continuing its westward journey, American Truck Simulator has now formally expanded to the northwestern state of Montana. SCS made sure to keep Montana's charm and character throughout this condensed, virtual rendition. Known as the "Treasure State" and "Big Sky Country," Montana is home to just a smidge over 1 million people, large swaths of farmland, and heavy industries.Truth be told, though, it's the state's rural nature of the state that nearly caused me to write it off.
Yet, I somehow managed to end this 9-hour road trip feeling far more satisfied than expected. My Montana adventure began by first picking up the new Western Star 57X and driving it to the northern tip of Idaho, which is one of the two states that border Montana. From there, I made my way to Thompson Falls before heading south to Missoula due to a blocked road .
The detour allowed me to knock out two of the 15 settlements in one relatively quick go. I immediately noticed how sparse Montana really is when it comes to people. The tree to human ratio must be outrageous.
Outside of the few buildings that most of the towns and cities have, there just isn't much in terms of human architecture. If it weren't for the acres and acres of farmland and huge industrial complexes, Montana would likely feel even more empty. This is a feeling that stuck with me well into my journey, but I'll return to this point a little later.
After leaving Missoula, my next point was to continue northeast to Kalispell. This is where I got my first real taste of the "country charm" that a few of the towns in Montana have to offer. Kalispell isn't as rustic as the two prior settlements were; while still small, it features some nice, modernized architecture and decent landscaping.
But it'd be a while before I encountered another Montana town that would impress me. Thus, the next good chunk of the trip was mostly uneventful. I picked up a job that took me southeast to Great Falls, which lives up to its name with some refreshing scenes of some of the states many rivers, and there certainly are some nice looking waterfalls here, too.
At this point, about five hours into the journey, I was really beginning to form my opinion of Montana. And, perhaps for the first time with an American Truck Simulator map expansion, I wasn't feeling very enthusiastic about it at all.
I knew it wasn't the fault of the scenery designers; they've always done a great job bringing these virtual renditions to life. But this digital version of Montana really showcases the state's main feature: plain ol' farm country.
It isn't muchto write home about, just a lot of grass, trees, and dirt. Honestly, it was beginning to feel like a bit of a slog to keep going, especially since I was already pressed for time. Still, I continued to hunker down, already suffering from saddle sore, and keep on going.
As if the timing couldn't have been any better, I finally stumbled upon the next settlement of Lewistown. See, had I entered in from the Wyoming border, this would've been one of my first stops. But, quite fittingly, it ended up being one of my later discoveries.
Lewistown was truly the first city that actually got a reaction from me, I was quite impressed by its design. Kalispell is pretty, but something about Lewistown makes it look like one of those excessively cozy-looking places you only ever see in a nice movie.
I made my way westward once more to hit Butte, via Montana's capital city of Helena. Around here is when I began to think that the state didn't really have much going for it in terms of scenery variation. Other states in the sim have a healthy selection of different regions.
California, for example, has the Pacific Coast Highway that runs along its western stretch, then the red, rocky desert scenes to the south. Heading up north, there are lush green forests as you make your way to Washington, and then the east of the state has some tricky yet gorgeous mountain roads. Of course, SCS can only emulate what the real life state has to offer.
I was under the impression that Montana only has small pockets of beauty, whereas the majority of it is mostly open and quaint. As if I didn't already learn my lesson in Lewistown, I was once again proven wrong.
A slow-opening surprise
After I picked up my final job that would take me from Butte to Laurel via Bozeman, I finally turned my attention to the two spots in this expansion made for nature lovers -- the national parks.
Montana is one of the few states in the US that can boast having multiple national parks. Down to the south it shares Yellowstone with Wyoming and Idaho. After introducing the city of Cody to the Wyoming map a little while ago, the designers have now also added in a new section of Yellowstone that starts in Wyoming and ends in the southwestern section of the Montana map.
This new section features a more visceral area of the park, with swaths of trees in a state of decay. It isn't quite the inviting scenery I was expecting, but it's very moving that the designers decided to include it. On a much brighter note, some of Yellowstone's iconic geysers can now be seen from a closer view point, rather than the brief glimpse they were originally allowed.
Finally, this new path through Yellowstone concluded for me in the very picturesque small town of West Yellowstone in Montana. It's not named on the map, but it's certainly modeled with some stellar detail.
The rich forested areas and stunning wooden architecture shown here in American Truck Simulator legitimately make me want to plan a trip to the area for myself.
Flanked by mountains and forests of on all sides, this virtual route through Glacier takes you up-up-and-away into the winding mountain roads, looking straight down into the vast acres of tall trees below. There are waterfalls and rivers to behold, all of which cascaded beautifully in the evening sun while I rode through it. I found myself bumping to my playlist throughout the other parts of my journey, but here, the right tunes set the mood all too well.
Destination: Lean, green, and not much machines
Indeed, the Montana expansion for American Truck Simulator threw me for a loop. Over half-way through, I really began to think this was the weakest expansion for the sim, and not for a lack of trying.
I was ready to write it off as a neat extra location to deliver to, and nothing more. In actuality, however, this big chunk of country has a lot of charm to it. The rolling farmlands are ripely green, and its "Big Sky" title truly is quite fitting.
Seeing the contrast with the green earth below and the deep blue sky above made me wish for volumetric clouds in the sim to really bring out the environmental depth. As per usual, SCS has done a great job at capturing the state's essence and preserving its character.
While there's nothing in the realm of urban sprawl, it's certainly worth checking out just for its stunning views alone.
And though you can't take a job through either of the national parks, sometimes it's great to put the trailers down and take the scenic route for some good-ol' R&R.