Train Sim World 3 The Holiday Express Runaway Elf DLC 1
Image: Push Square

If that headline is not what you were expecting – well, you’re not the only one! Train Sim World 3 is a game I love – I write about it quite a lot – but I fully appreciate it’s an acquired taste. This is a hardcore simulation where you really need to swat up on the operation of your locos, and while Dovetail has improved the tutorials a lot over the years, I’m willing to appreciate it’s not for everyone.

This latest Xmas-themed expansion is a big departure, then. You can tell the UK developer is just having fun, as it’s recreated an idyllic living room scene, complete with reclining sofas, a Famicom, and even a Sony Trinitron television set. The railway aspect is a toy one: it loops in and around all of the room’s furnishing, from a side-table to the tree. It’s very Micro Machines.

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Throughout the Scenarios – effectively TSW3’s version of quests – you’ll be recovering presents and delivering them to the tree, loading up on coal to keep the fireplace ablaze, rebooting a tin robot with a fresh pair of batteries, and even delivering the titular elf to the naughty step. It’s all tongue in cheek, with the nuggets of narrative delivered through rhyme, and it looks spectacular.

Operation of the included loco itself is straightforward: you get the sense that this is a DLC the developer envisages fans playing with their kids. Rather than giving the brake and throttle real names, it uses phrases like “a little bit of effort” and “maximum effort”. Stopping and starting the train can feel a bit cumbersome, but it looks great riding through the living room once you get moving.

Interestingly, a couple of the Scenarios here go full puzzle platformer, where you need to navigate to the top of shelves and above fireplaces in order to collect items. These don’t feel great because the first-person navigation primarily exists in TSW3 to get you in and out of a train, but I appreciate the effort that the developer’s gone to here. At one point you need to trigger a chair’s recliner to use it as a makeshift bridge.

There’s no traditional timetable to complete here, but you can create your own using the game’s Scenario Planner, and you can even import other locos you own to drive around the living room. Obviously these can look a little out of place due to their realism, but modern toy train sets are startlingly authentic too, and so it works.

Ultimately, it’s all just good festive fun. I wouldn’t say this is essential DLC because there are much better routes already available in TSW3 that better play to the game’s strengths, which is of course driving trains. But if you’re looking for a holiday distraction and you love toy railways, I enjoyed the handful of hours I spent with this. It’s just a light-hearted, cosy time.

Does this cheerful expansion in Train Sim World 3 appeal to you? Have you been playing any other festive content this holiday? Ho ho honk your horn in the comments section below, and let us know.