When the Discovery Channel broadcast the first episode of the gold mining reality series Gold Rush back in 2010, it is doubtful that they had any idea just how popular it would become. But after 11 seasons, 258 episodes, numerous studio-based after shows and live specials, as well as no less than six spin-offs, it’s still going strong. Following the exploits of multiple teams of miners as they try to mine as many ounces of the shiny stuff as they can from the harsh Yukon terrain each year, Gold Rush is very binge-able viewing.
In a world where you can buy games based on being a refuse collector or a sewage plant operator, the show’s popularity meant that a game was always going to be on the cards sooner or later. Hence, we have the aptly titled Gold Rush: The Game. Fans of the show will be glad to see the familiar happy Gold Rush crew from the show when they boot the game for the first time. There’s young upstart Parker Schnabel, the fiery Dutchman Tony Beets, and the mild-mannered Todd Hoffman all peering out from the screen, inviting you to step in and become your own mine boss.
Wait a minute! Todd Hoffman and his crew left the show after the eighth season, back in early 2018. Why would he still be there? Why wouldn’t his replacement on the show – Rick Ness – be featured, given that he’s in every piece of promotional art released from the show in the last three years?
It couldn’t be that the development team have taken a PC game from 2017, thrown it onto consoles without the slightest improvement beyond making it barely functional, and then tried to charge people $25 for the pleasure, could it?
Well, you already know the answer, don’t you?
In case you have any doubts, that is exactly what has happened here. CodeHorizon hasn’t even bothered to spend the twenty seconds it would take to update one of the two pieces of licensed artwork that appear in the game, which you see on the very first menu screen.
That wouldn’t necessarily even be that bad if the original title wasn’t a horrendously buggy and broken mess, but it absolutely was, and this “new” console edition isn’t even slightly better. It judders and jumps and hops and skips as if it’s about to crash almost constantly. When driving out in your pickup truck to get supplies, there isn’t a single second where something in the scenery isn’t drawing in. At times, the game purposefully freezes dead and shows a “loading” icon as it loads in the 200-yard stretch of road ahead of you. The rest of the game engine doesn’t fare any better. Played from a first-person perspective, you must jump around your mine as if you’re leaping from ledge to ledge in Destiny because the game engine has enormous problems when you try to negotiate rough terrain on foot. That kind of sucks in a game where every single piece of terrain is rough, as every other step results in you becoming stuck on tiny rocks.
The point here is, as you would expect, to go from being a small-time miner with a bucket and a shovel to being a big-time mine boss with a tremendous amount of equipment that can plow through thousands of yards of dirt every day, leaving no glittering flakes behind. As the TV show teaches us, you can’t get there on your own. You need a team. Gold Rush: The Game tries to replicate this experience by giving players a system of hiring workers. That would be fantastic, was it not for the fact that they don’t actually do anything and once you’ve hired them, don’t seem to exist anywhere other than in the staff list. They can’t be seen anywhere around the mine and they don’t even invisibly complete any tasks. Hire an excavator driver, for example, and you still have to drive your one excavator around yourself. Of course, this means that owning more than one of any piece of equipment is largely pointless, given that only one can be in use at a time. Even getting the biggest washplant seems like a waste of time, given that it’ll stand dormant for most of your playing time because you can’t load the dirt into the hopper and also stand at the wavetable, processing the concentrate and separating out the gold.
Initially, it feels like putting the heavy-duty safety boots to Gold Rush: The Game would be mean since it appears to have a good amount of heart. There are dozens upon dozens of pieces of equipment to use and the gold mining process is reasonably faithful to what you would see the crews going through on the show. The intention of getting things right was clearly in place at some point, but that doesn’t really mean anything when something dumb happens, such as the pickup truck you’re driving just disappearing into thin air complete with all of the supplies that were in the back, which you just spent all of your money on. Or the bucket you just filled with water suddenly being empty for no reason. Or all the gold you spent forever and a day, y’know, mining, just vanishing into thin air, never to be seen again.
Even a basic skill such as panning is pointless. Tip the entire pan into the water and the game tells you what a great job you did and gives you the same amount of gold as if you did it properly because absolutely nothing about Gold Rush: The Game isn’t broken. Should you decide to persevere, you can always go to the in-game “DIGtube” (sigh) video repository for some helpful tips. Want to know how to drive an excavator? Ok! Fire up the old video tutorial and watch as somebody drives an excavator without telling you anything about how they’re doing it or why. It’s like asking a professional golfer how to be better at golf and having them tell you that you to just be good at golf.
Plus, in what should be the final kick in the nuggets for most, you can’t build your mine as you want to anyway. Each claim has pre-designated spots for installing equipment. So, if you were dreaming of going in and planning your cuts, settling pools, campsite, and water lines, you’re in for a disappointment. You follow the game’s plan. If you try to deviate from that plan then…oh, who cares anyway?
The rough edges that are constantly on display makes it all feel like nothing but work. The very first tutorial sees you manually digging thirty or so scoops with an excavator to fill a single dump truck whilst battling with a camera that seems to have been designed solely to obscure your view, and things don’t get any better from there. Every task requires painful repetition that is hindered by the terrible, terrible game engine. Simplified processes such as removing all eight of the miner’s grilles from the sluice runs with one command would be nice. But instead, you pull and move them one by one. Once they’re off, you pick up eight individual sheets of miner’s moss and transport them – again, one by one, since you can’t carry more than one thing at a time – to the gold nuggetator. Then when that machine has completed its task, you take them back, one by one, to the sluice run and refit them. Then you pick up each individual grille piece and reattach it. That’s all providing you’ve had the restraint to not take your controller and game console and hurl them into the garbage can by this point, of course.
Then, after what feels like another four hundred and ninety-six steps, you shut down your millions of dollars of equipment and rush off to the blacksmith. He smelts you a nice bar of gold worth $9,000. Good work! You’ll be able to put it in the safe next to the … bar that you mined yesterday using nothing but a shovel and bucket which is somehow four times the size and worth four times as much because Gold Rush: The Game is a horrid, unoptimized, broken mess that fails to make absolutely any sense at any point.
More importantly, it fails to provide the slightest bit of entertainment. If you want a better time, make a paper airplane out of your money and see how far down the street it can travel after you’ve thrown it out of the window.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 1 equates to “Awful.”
ComingSoon doesn’t enjoy giving out an awful rating, and it’s generally reserved for video games that are broken or entertainment that is devoid of any redeeming qualities.
Disclosure: critic bought his own copy of the game for the Gold Rush: The Game review. The game was reviewed on an Xbox Series X.