Out of everything I saw at Gamescom, it's a space trucking sim that left me eager to play more

 Trucks driving through space.
Trucks driving through space.

I'm not going to claim Star Trucker was the best thing I saw at Gamescom, per se, but I did come away from my hands-on demo thinking: yes, I understand exactly what this is, and I would like to play more of it.

It's a trucking game, but in space. That's it. That's the pitch.

In the announcement trailer you get a feel for the vibe: Diners, country music, CB radios—an obvious nod to the mythologised trucking culture of the '70s. That it's all happening in deep space means it would be very easy for Star Trucker to lean into the comedy of the conceit, but as far as I can tell, that's not what's happening here. Sure, the conversations on your CB radio seem lighthearted in tone, but otherwise the action is played straight.

Hauling my cargo, it's clear just how many cues Star Trucker is taking from the peerless Euro Truck Simulator 2—everything from the deadline to get your cargo transported on time, to the unlockable perks that let you take on more intensive, high-paying jobs. You even need to reverse your truck into the space station's dock, a tricky bit of manoeuvring that reminded me of every time in ETS2 that I tried to back into a tight parking spot in Düsseldorf to unload my cargo.

The major difference, of course, is that there are no roads in space. Warping into a new system to head to the nearby space station, though, I see a couple of options. I can follow the space highway—a curving path of floating gates that guide me neatly to my destination. Or I can put the space station in my windshield and take the direct path. It's the quicker route, but the marked path has been cleared of any space debris. Going off-road could mean a nasty collision with some space rocks.

Any damage you sustain while out on your travels will need to be fixed up. Unlike in ETS2, where there are actual businesses to do that work for you, Star Trucker takes a more DIY approach. Here you can leave your seat, climb into a space suit and float around the exterior of your truck searching for holes to patch up yourself. It's a neat little interaction that does a good job of selling the base fantasy of any trucking game—you, alone with your vehicle, working towards your destination whatever the cost. It doesn't matter if it's the backroads of Helsinki or the outer reaches of the solar system, the pleasure is the same.

A truck approaching a wreckage (in space).
A truck approaching a wreckage (in space).

I particularly like how tactile your truck feels. It's not just the relationship you form as you fix it over a long haul flight, but all the other ways you interact with it too. There's a lever for unhooking your cargo, a radio you can turn on and off, and the receiver for your CB radio that you can hold to select branching dialogue options. You can even leave your seat and explore your cab—using the space to store any smaller items you might find on your way, which can be traded the next time you visit a space station.

In addition to the more legal options, you may also come across contraband on your travels, and—should you pick it up—may have to reroute your journey through the less regulated systems. The developers say there'll be around 30 systems to visit in the game—a number picked because it means there are more interesting routes to your destination, including one-way systems that you'll need to plan around.

The demo itself was short—make some repairs, unload some cargo, dock at a station—so I walked away wanting more. I'm interested to see how big each destination is, and how much might be lurking away in the quieter parts of space. Broadly, though, I'm looking forward to a more accessible, interesting take on the truck sim fantasy. The act of flying my truck felt intuitive and enjoyable—easily handled with a controller. There's a real sense of weight to the pitch and yaw, and that the touchstones lean more in the direction of ETS2 than, say, Elite Dangerous, means there's a slower, more considered pace of moving from location to location. Based on what I've seen so far, Star Trucker does justice to its unusual concept, and I'm now left eagerly awaiting its arrival next year.