Tag Archives: PC

An Arbitrary List Of A Few of My Favorite Free-To-Play MMORPG’s

The MMORPG has come a long way since Ultima Online and Runescape.  Even though World of Warcraft continues to lead the genre, at the same time they have been steadily losing players since the release of Cataclysm in 2010 and I think a fair case for this is the rise of free-to-play alternatives.  I have made the argument before that any company who continues to charge a subscription fee to play MMO’s is doing so at their own risk.  Thus far it has worked for WoW as well as the excellent Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, but how long will this last?  Even games like Guild Wars 2, which has an up-front cost to buy the game but no subscription fee to play, are on the rise.  So, with that I decided to list some of my personal favorite free-to-play games.  This is somewhat of an impromptu article but this is something that has been on my mind as we are starting to see a massive resurgence of single-player experiences dominate the gaming landscape as well as an overwhelming portion of the online market shifted towards competitive-focused MOBA’s like League of Legends and arena shooters like Overwatch.

So, without further ado, let’s begin:

TERA

Launching as a subscription title, TERA attempted to break new ground by focusing on fast, real-time action combat that centered primarily around engaging giant beasts.  The world is populated by mobs of monsters and is designed to pit you against little, regular enemies that you can easily dispatch in a few seconds of hacking and slashing as set dressing for the fights that really count.  The gameplay for TERA still holds up even against arguably superior action MMO experiences like Guild Wars 2 as TERA’s high level of customization rivals even the most sophisticated MMO’s out there.  The only downside to TERA , really, is its player base.  It is a generally low-population game, so finding players who are willing to regularly engage in skirmishes with the tougher monsters in the game can be difficult, especially around the mid levels.  Still, Bluehole Studio and En Masse have done a good job of keeping the content coming, with new classes being released and additional expanded content added with some regularity.  Add to the mix a dynamic and fairly complex and rewarding crafting system and some occasionally-entertaining story missions and you have a fun, fast and often challenging MMO for more experienced action RPG players.

 

Wildstar

Speaking of hard….  Wildstar may be the toughest MMORPG on the market right now.  I say this as someone who has played several of the classes and gone through much of the first half of the game (but need to get deeper into things, to be honest).  It’s complexity comes in the form of the combat, which focuses on abilties that require thought, timing and precision.  Unlike a lot of titles where you can simply spam your strongest skills, many of Wildstar’s class skills are utilitarian in nature, forcing you to save them for the right moment and think your way through engagements.  Wildstar also puts a lot of focus on exploration of the environment, themed on exploring an unknown planet, you can choose from specific jobs that range from documenting life forms to navigating the rougher terrain to scout out new settlements.  It’s a deep game with a lot of things to do, the only downside being its limited class customization.

 

Dungeon Fighter Online

DFO is probably the simplest game on my list in terms of design, but it’s also one of the most addictive.  Put simply, it’s an online equivalent to an old-school beat-em-up a la Final Fight or Streets of Rage.  Instanced levels with boss fights at the end are a staple for many of the lower-budget MMO’s out there but DFO handles things well by being fast and fun.  Classes are varied and have a fair degree of customization considering how simple the combat is.  The only downsides are the fact that its age is starting to show compared to some other games, and the implementation of “charges” that limit your playtime unless you are either willing for dungeon charges to replenish over time or are also willing to use or buy items to replenish them from special drops or the cash shop.

Eden Eternal

I honestly have not picked up Eden Eternal in a while.  I had thought about getting back into it, too.  This is a really fun MMORPG with a surprising turn that sets it apart in the genre.  It allows you to create a character and freely change classes as you see fit.  Think of it as something akin to a Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest game that uses a job system.  You can change your classes, which change the equipment loadout, skills and function of your character and as you level individual classes and combinations thereof up, you unlike more complex and unique classes down the road.  The ability to switch jobs makes Eden Eternal pretty interesting as it motivates you to be a little more experimental in your approach.  The downside to Eden Eternal is the gameplay is very dated.  Eden Eternal launched in 2011 and it feels like it.  While I did enjoy it the last time I played it, I’m sure I’d find some fault with it at this point just on these grounds, but that will remain to be seen.  That said, I have fond memories of Eden Eternal and for its time, I would say it was a pretty smart take on the classic MMORPG formula.

 

Dragon Saga

Yet another action MMORPG, Dragon Saga puts you in control of a chibi anime hero as you traverse a vivid 3D world fighting through hordes of enemies and chaining together ridiculous combos for bonus loot.  Dragon Saga is as simple as it gets with its beat-em-up style that is similar to DFO’s only with a little more complexity in the classes.  However, unlike DFO, Dragon Saga is not entirely locked to a HUB town connected to instanced dungeons.  Instead, there are field areas populated by other players and within those are special dungeons you can choose to enter for quests and loot.  The quests are pretty standard “kill 10 wolves” type-missions but the fast, addictive combat helps to elevate much of the repetition.  Dragon Saga is also a good “starter MMORPG” for those gamers who are intimidated by the vastness and complexity of many of the prominent games in the genre as it focuses primarily on fast, accessible action gameplay opposed to dense character micromanagement.

 

Rift

When World of Warcraft launched it was a demarcation point of sorts.  It’s difficult to understate what WoW did for gaming as a whole.  That said, I believe it has been on a steady decline of quality over the past eight years.  I do not want to call it a “bad game” since I haven’t played it since a few patches into Cataclysm, but I think it’s safe to say it has been greatly simplified to the point of having little to know feeling of control over the development of your character.  Controversial as this opinion may be to some, I feel the changes made to WoW around February of 2011 were the beginning of the end.  The game still does well but it appears to be in many cases that the players aren’t so much sticking around as they are being replaced by a younger crowd.  Enter Rift….

Rift is my favorite MMORPG of all time.  It’s not everyone’s first choice for sure, but I feel it being effectively a clone of WoW, captures everything Blizzard had done so right for 5+ years of running the dominant MMORPG while expanding upon those ideas and not taking countless steps to undermined the flow of the game and progress of long-time late-game players.  Rift’s world is nowhere near as large as WoW’s, but the game is primarily focused on large-scale public events, bringing players together as zones are overtaken by hundreds or even thousands of enemies, forcing players to defend the towns and hub areas of the map while closing the Rifts from which they pour and clearing a series of quests to spawn a massive raid boss and saving the day… at least for a time.  On top of the scale of these events is the fact that Trion Worlds does not make you wait until you are at the level cap to be able to participate in these events.  Rather, from the starting areas you have an opportunity to take down big raid bosses for special rewards, joining public groups to clear Rifts and exploring challenging and unique dungeons.  Lastly, Rift only has 5 classes, but each of these classes has a list of sub-classes of which you can choose 3, and each sub-class may play very different from another.  As a result you may have ranged-caster-warriors, melee tank mages and rogues that operate as healers.  It allows you to experiment with ideas and explore new ways to play your classes.  It also allows you to break up the monotony of churning out the same DPS rotation over and over again to take down a boss.

If you are like me and have grown disenfranchised by World of Warcraft and want to share in a similar gameplay experience with depth and engaging character progression, I give Rift my strongest recommendation.

Please share and let me know what your favorite F2P MMORPG’s are.  Maybe they’re some I haven’t played!

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My Top Ten Favorite Video Games of 2017

It’s 2018 and looking back at 2017, I would say despite a few notable controversies, it was a pretty solid year for games.  It was certainly a diverse year!  First-person shooters are back in force, MOBA’s continue to take over and multiply (for better or worse), the war between Western and Japanese RPG’s is back on and it’s like the 90’s all over again (and if you remember, that little war gave us Chrono Trigger and Diablo II so… Yeah, imagine what could be around the corner), and there is a concerted effort to bring back classic genres like run-and-gun shooters and 3D platformers to the mainstream!  Things are looking up!

So, here is my list of the ten video games from 2017 that I played and truly enjoyed the most.  You’ll notice an absence of a few titles from this list almost immediately and I’ll tell you, it’s because I haven’t played Super Mario Odyssey and the Wii U version of Breath of the Wild did not land at the best time for me, so while I played some of it, I haven’t played all of the way through it yet.  I plan to give it another go once I pick up a Switch, which I definitely intend to do in the not-too-distant future.

Until then, let’s begin….


10. Ever Oasis (Nintendo; 3DS)

Going into Ever Oasis completely blind, I did not expect to enjoy as much as I did.  It is a truly rewarding feeling as the game doesn’t just show your progress via level numbers, stat points and story progression, but you get to watch as your Oasis expands and becomes an even more complex and vivid town.  The mix of dungeon crawler action/RPG with some simple crafting and city management is actually pretty interesting, and it is a very solid introduction to these genres for younger gamers who look to get into more challenging titles but seasoned gamers will find little challenge here.  Still, it was a fun game and I would honestly not mind giving it another playthrough.


9. Forza Motorsport 7 (Microsoft; Xbox One)

I’ve been a fan of the Forza Motorsport series since 2005 on the original XBox.  To this day I am partial to the Forza franchise over the other key racing simulation competitors.  It’s an engaging, challenging and rewarding game that offers a lot more than just standard races, and the car selection is just phenomenal.  The only thing that keeps it from reaching a higher ranking on my list is it is yet another entry in the long-running series and outside of new cars and some new features, it is just another Forza title.


  8. Destiny 2 (Bungie; PS4)

The long-awaited Destiny 2 hit shelves in 2017 and, at least for me, it didn’t disappoint.  I was hoping it would at least live up to the first game and it did that and more.  I was impressed by the sheer frequency of public events and while they often did lack in variety, I went into Destiny wanting to shoot aliens, and that’s what I got!  The new weapons are fun to use and quite varied, especially compared to its predecessor, it looks great, and the multiplayer really works as you do feel like you are contributing to a greater fight through much of the game.  Also, the last act of the story campaign is just one of the coolest levels I’ve ever played through in a first-person shooter.


 7. Dragon Quest Heroes 2 (SquareEnix; PS4)

Okay, okay… I’m kind of cheating putting this one on the list.  I imported Dragon Quest Heroes 2 in 2016 shortly after it’s Japanese release date.  However, it did only get released in the US in 2017, so I’m counting it because it’s my damn list!  I loved DQH and the sequel is a worthy successor.  Adding two new heroes to the lineup as playable characters and bringing back the likeable cast of the first with some fresh-yet-familiar faces, DQH2 lands a fun action RPG brawler that mixes free-roaming exploration and tactical, large-scale, Warriors-esque battles.  It plays well with the characters offering a variety of skills, unique perks and a rewarding crafting system.  I own both a Japanese and NA version of this game on the PS4.  It’s a truly solid title and for those of you waiting to play it on PC, here’s hoping the port turns out alright.  I may pick it up on the PC too just to review it with a comparative lens.


6. Metroid: Samus Returns (Nintendo; 3DS)

Super Metroid is my favorite video game of all time.  Period.  That said, I have a somewhat rocky history with the Metroid franchise as a whole.  I actually am not a fan of most of the games, including a few of the 2D titles.  There have been a few I’ve enjoyed through the years though, and after seeing the trailer for Samus Returns during Nintendo Direct, I was thoroughly excited to play this one.  I was not disappointed.  Samus Returns is flashy, it plays well and while it does veer from the Super Metroid controls I’m so very used to quite a bit in terms of the flow and speed, I really give Samus Returns a glowing recommendation.


5. NieR: Automata (SquareEnix; PS4)

Action RPG’s are where it’s at for me.  If the action is varied, fast with a few insane boss battles thrown in for good measure, then all the better (see #1), but NieR: Automata checks all of these boxes and then goes a step further adding a flair and feel that only a Japanese action title can bring.  While every attack is brutal in its strength, every little touch in NieR’s broken world is delicate and well thought out.  There is a degree of freedom in the combat but the game is built for speed, and it is a fast game.  A sudden hard turn in the game shifts the moral compass and mood of the entire experience as well and adds to the complexity of a game that makes you question your role as a hero in past games where you were encouraged to carelessly polish off hoards of nameless enemies.  NieR: Automata is a commentary on gamers, their attitudes towards games, and the way the games themselves may perceive us.


4. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy (Naughty Dog; PS4)

Of course Naughty Dog would make my list for 2017 and Lost Legacy, while not being nearly as good as the masterpiece that was A Thief’s End, was a fun, well-written and beautiful game with some solid action set pieces.  Chloe Frazer makes a great lead and the game does her justice after her absence from the 4th chapter in the series.  It also ties things together with the inclusion of characters from the predecessor and filling in some history at the same time.  The only thing that keeps it from being higher is it is just another entry in a series that never disappoints, but evolved so much with Uncharted 4 that Lost Legacy really does feel like DLC.  Nevertheless, the reduced price point was an acceptable bargain considering the package you got.  It isn’t a long game, but it is a complete experience and a solid standalone entry with solid female leads and an absolutely excellent villain.


3. A Hat In Time (Gears for Breakfast; PC)

I had just tried this one on for size (for lack of a better phrase), and I must say, ‘I’m impressed’.  This little Kickstarter gem came up to the surface in 2017 on Steam and just surprised the Hell out of everyone.  A Hat In Time is a charming, heartwarming little 3D platforming throwback to the heyday of the genre in the early 2000’s.  The controls are solid, the world is full of things to explore and places to see, the hats add a variety of gameplay ideas and the focus on platforming over combat makes it a welcome return to a classic genre that has been seeing a legitimate comeback in recent years.  I’m glad I played Hat In Time soon enough to add it to this list!  It’s the best 3D platformer I’ve played from 2017 (so far).


2. Cuphead (Studio MDHR; Multi [PC])

Cuphead!  It’s already legendary.  It has already become the latest speed-running staple.  This instant classic has been brewing around the Internet since its announcement years ago at E3.  A game that was announced at a conference out of nowhere and it was instantly unlike anything I had ever seen in a game, hearkening back to classic 1930’s animation and looking just damn-stunning the whole time.  Finally, in 2017 I got my chance to pick this one up and oh boy did it feel good to get the unpalatably-bitter taste of the betrayal that was Mighty No. 9 out of my mouth.  Cuphead is a polished, deliberate, precise platformer/shooter in the vein of Contra with a dash of Mega Man-X.  Insane boss battles and a twisted-yet-brilliant sense of humor come together to form a game that is full of memorable moments and a few of my new favorite boss fights of all time.  I still occasionally pick Cuphead up and fight a few escaped souls here and there, hoping to beat my best time.


 1. Horizon: Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games; PS4)

I had high hopes for Horizon since its PS4 premiere a few years ago at E3.  It looked like a fun game from a pre-rendered trailer and when I finally got a chance to play it, I could not describe just how good everything was.  Horizon turned out great and while Guerrilla Games could have just made a competent open-world, action RPG and got by with a few handshakes and high sales, they instead made a game so good that it raises the bar for the entire genre.  Throughout 2017 I was reflecting on what made Horizon work so well and it’s really hard to narrow everything down to just one aspect, but I would say it is the inclusion of a powerful and truly likable new heroine in Aloy and a vivid, stunning open world that rivals any other I’ve seen in lush beauty and creativity blended it with pinpoint gameplay and rewarding and fairly attainable character progression.  Then there’s the combat.  Oh!  That combat!  Fighting in Horizon is some of the most fun action I’ve ever experienced in a game.  I would count Horizon among the ranks of my favorite video games of all time now, knocking back a few gems that I still hold in high regard, but Horizon is destined to become a modern icon of the medium.


 

Well, that about does it for 2017!  I thought about doing a movie wrap up but 2017 was such a dead zone for movies I decided not to even bother really.  I did see a lot of movies in 2017, but very few of them (besides Coco and The Disaster Artist) really blew me away.  Please tell me what you think of my game picks in the comments section.  Did you like my list?  Did you hate everything about it?  Do you want me to set my PS4 on fire?  Please share and try to get the word out and I hope to start picking up the pace with writing again.  Things had just been hectic like you wouldn’t believe for me.

Happy 2018!

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Game Deals – Picks for The Week of 09/06/2017

So, I hope to be able to do this pretty regularly.  I will be updating a (mostly) weekly list of game picks that are on sale for numerous platforms.  I will probably feature maybe five or six choices per week.  I will try to diversify my sources as well, so not all of these deals will be from Steam.  Let us begin…

NOTE: All prices are in USD and are subject to change.

Valkyria Revolution (PS4)

  $19.90 $39.99

Amazon
While Valkyria Revolution isn’t the best strategy RPG out there, it is a solid action RPG with strategy elements and a pretty solid evolution of the excellent Valkyria Chronicles.  The only downside I can find is the flux of difficulty between the weak cannon-fodder enemies and the excessively-tough bosses is quite jarring.  However, a quality upgrade system, deep character customization with unique skills and pretty fun gameplay makes this one worth a $20 price.

 


NieR:Automata (PC)

$38.99 $59.99
PC/Steam
A must-have for September is NieR:Automata, a smart and exciting anime action/adventure game from SquareEnix.  If you have not played this combination shooter/hack n’ slasher, you owe it to yourself to give it a play, especially with it being more than $20 off retail!

 

 


SNK Publisher Sale (PC)

Various prices
PC/Steam

For arcade gaming fans like myself, this sale is awesome. Featuring a bevy of excellent King of Fighters and Metal Slug games, it really is a who’s-who of NeoGeo arcade brilliance! I would also check out the fun SHOCK TROOPERS series as well as the competitive, split-screen shooter Twinkle Star Sprites (Yes! That name is for-real) that has rarely seen a US release so far.

 


Dark Souls Series (PS4)

Various prices
Playstation Store
If you like a little punishment, you can always bet on the quality Dark Souls games and Dark Souls II and III as well as DLC and special editions are all on sale this week on the Playstation Store. Get your download on and good luck on the Nameless King!

 

 


God Eater 2 (PS4)

$14.99 $59.99
Playstation Store
For fans of the popular Monster Hunter franchise, God Eater 2 is a welcome change of scenery maintaining many of the core elements of the classic kill-and-craft action.  Effectively, God Eater 2 is a Monster Hunter clone but post-apocalyptic and in a sci-fi setting.  It is quite good though, with interesting classes and skills and some pretty challenging fights right at the start of the game.

 

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A Little-Late Game Review: Euro Truck Simulator 2

The simulator genre is one that I have entirely avoided for some time.  There really was no particular reason for this choice of mine outside of the word “simulator” merely being in the title conjuring images of a cheap, poorly-made game that is more-or-less thrown together with ugly pre-made stock assets and the concept of driving a simulated bulldozer never really appealed to me anyway.  However, I did have one simulator in my Steam library: Euro Truck Simulator 2.  I acquired it from a Humble Bundle a while back and it was just sitting there idly; un-played, uninstalled, unappreciated.  It didn’t seem like a big deal but out of the blue I see it pop up on sale in the Steam store.  Clicking on it out of sheer morbid curiosity, I discover an “Overwhelmingly Positive” user rating, so that piqued my interest.  In smokey-eyed indifference I subtly mumble to myself, “Oh well… I own it.  I might as well try it.”  The download was quick and I jumped in.  After the tutorial I looked to the window from whence came sunlight what seemed like moments before, was then shocked to see the sky was black as EA CEO Andrew Wilson’s soul!

So, what happened to those hours?  A few trips to Munich.  A run to Mannheim.  The occasional fender-bender with indestructible Renault Clios… The usual.  I cannot explain how addictive this game is, or why; I can only tell you that I seem to get lost in thought these past few days, imagining what is next on my long-haul agenda!  You would think endless driving through highways and industrial parks would get boring, but this game does something to you!  Something…

First and foremost, this is a simulator, which means you are going to have to get used to the controls.  Fortunately, the game has pretty solid tutorial, multiple control types and a selection of difficulty levels with varying grades of demand and pressure for the player.  As you play there is a fair difficulty curve for deliveries and you can freely choose a quick run that will take about five minutes to a continent-spanning highway odyssey that could take multiple hours!  Fortunately, the game is merciful, allowing you to save mid-mission so you are not required to marathon a journey from Italy to Denmark in one sitting.  The short missions are great for variety, but where the early money really comes rolling in with the longer drives.  

In the longer trips you will also find much of the depth of the game.  Having to stop to refuel, sleep, and even getting repairs at a nearby town or city along the route can be a necessity for lengthy runs and getting to know the roads helps.  The game tiers the world for you as well, focusing a majority of the randomized deliveries available on cities you’ve already visited, with the occasional new destination.  Arriving at these new locations makes these cities appear more frequently, and thus, from these new places you get more distant deliveries spanning more countries.  The roads are vast and there are many routes you can take with stops along the way.  When you accept your delivery contract, you start at the distributor and a friendly GPS maps out the best route to the destination, however you are free to use pins to alter your route if you so choose, but be warned, all missions are timed and you get graded on your promptness and the condition of the products you are carrying.  If you meander or wander off the beaten path too much, you could miss out on rewards at the end of the delivery.  So, you may ask: What’s the point of the open world, then?  Well…

Since you start the game dirt-poor, all you can do is take contract jobs on pre-loaded trucks.  You are stuck doing what you are supposed to, following the rules.  However, once you save up enough funds from the do-boy missions, you can buy your own truck!  At this point, the open road is yours to explore.  The world is an open, massive landscape of thousands of kilometers of highways, back roads and cities to traverse!  Of course, even these open trips cost money.  You have to pay for gas, necessary maintenance, and take the time to rest.  Also, while you aren’t doing deliveries, you are not making money, which means you’re technically losing money, but fear not!  Euro Truck Simulator 2 has you covered there, too!

Not only can you freely drive to any city or town, park at a delivery site and pick up a new delivery mission on the spot, but once the money starts really rolling in you can buy additional garages from all over the continent and then hire more drivers as part of your company to generate yet more revenue.  Expansion is the goal and once you have a steady stream of income, you can further upgrade your garage, buy more trucks, hire more drivers and expand your trucking empire!  The world (continent) is your oyster!

Now, if you are fearful of the long drive getting too boring, the game thankfully scales down the open world so a trip length that reads as two-and-a-half hours will actually only take about 15 minutes.  This is method to help you get the most out of the game quickly, and to incentivize more  exploration.  Towns are truncated as well, focusing entirely on a small industrial section of each location and marking it on the map as you discover it.  This is great, too as it allows you to focus on getting in and out and back on the open road, just remember to obey the speed limit to avoid getting a costly ticket.  However, in town things slow down dramatically.  The rules of the road still apply so you have to wait at red lights, watch for traffic and carefully navigate narrow alleys.  This does give you the opportunity to view the city scenery, though.  Naturally, hitting the highways is an entirely different story with faster speed limits, many lanes to follow and a flow of traffic that does require some concentration, however cruise control helps you safely regulate your speed so you can focus on steering and occasionally enjoying the scenery.

The world is lush and beautiful, too.  A stunning effort was put into making the world in this game seem natural and lived-in.  Small cabins and hamlets scatter the backdrops of the freeway along the countryside, titanic mountains tower over the terrain in the Alps and the Pyrenees, rolling hills create an illusion of depth and wide open fields welcome the wandering eye.  Buildings of many types are situated along the way and it never really feels like the developers lazily just reused assets over and over.  It all just feels natural and realistic, and considering the sheer scale of this world, this is an astonishing achievement.  Add to this natural beauty the dark of night and the pouring of rain and you have one of the most convincing, immersive open worlds I have ever roamed in any game.  While it doesn’t have the polish or deliberate design of something like Farcry or Just Cause, built for pulling off the impossible, it does feel real and so far, I have not been bored of just looking at it as I drive.

There is so much depth in this game that it seems almost insurmountable.  The game tracks the stretches of road you’ve traveled, marking completion of the map, encouraging you to explore every square kilometer of its expansive world!  Inside towns, on your first visit, driving by dealerships and recruiting centers increases your list of possible employees and future truck purchases.  You can even upgrade and customize various mechanical and cosmetic features for both the exterior and interior of your truck from a pretty impressive selection of parts.  Overall, there is so much to see, do and collect in Euro Truck Simulator 2!  I would say it’s almost too much, but if that’s one complaint then that isn’t too bad now is it?  The only other complaint I would have is sometimes the AI of the other drivers on the road is a little… What’s the word..?  Stupid.  Sometimes they will come from behind and drive right into you, occasionally block traffic for no reason and, if you happen to have an unfortunate accident, other vehicles can become ‘stuck’, as if they are unable to determine what they should do.  In a few occasions this has caused me to get trapped in inescapable positions.  The fix for this is using the game’s roadside assistance option to send a tow truck, which will by default bring you to the nearest available service garage.

In all, I would call this one of the best driving games released in the past ten years.  If deep simulation is not your thing, you may get bored, but if you like the Skinner box of rewarding game design, Euro Truck Simulator 2 has you covered.  It isn’t perfect, but it is, in my experience, the closest thing you will find to exploring the open road in such a realistic and immersive fashion.

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