The PC Building Simulator sequel feels like it’s still under construction

The PC Building Simulator sequel feels like it's still under construction
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I was unduly excited to play the sequel to that PC building simulator. The original game taught me the intricacies of PC building, combining the technical aspects with all the logistical drudgery of running your own business. Unfortunately, PC building simulator 2 doubles down on some of the more troublesome aspects while only adding a small handful of flat features.

A screenshot from PC Building Simulator 2 showing the physical storefront

Another day at the office, it’s not much, but it’s honest work
Image: Alice Newcome-Beill

As with many simulator games PCBS2 it’s about appreciating the everyday. Ordinary people aren’t obsessed with the differences between an NVMe SSD or a 2.5-inch hard drive, or fine-tuning the voltage on a GPU, but these are the details that PC enthusiasts crave.

Like the original game PCBS2 you have taken over a run-down computer workshop. You start with a small sum of money and a handful of jobs delivered via email. If you haven’t played the original game yet, PCBS2 may seem a bit surreal since you have to guide your character to an in-game computer to access your email and other applications. Luckily, a helpful tutorial walks you through the process step-by-step.

Each tutorial explains the intricacies of running your business, slowly completing more complicated tasks as you gain more experience. The tutorial will show you what to do when you come across a specific job for the first time. Unfortunately, there’s no way to easily revisit these tutorials if you’ve forgotten how to do something.

A screenshot from PC Building Simulator 2 showing the process of water cooling a motherboard.

You too can cool your motherboard with water in PC Building Simulator 2 for fun and profit
Image: Alice Newcome-Beill

The tasks you take on range from dusting off old PCs to overclocking CPUs or creating desktops from scratch while staying within your client’s budget. Finally, just like the original game, the jobs soon become an exercise in reading comprehension. In each email you will find optional requests which, if fulfilled, will give you access to higher-ranking jobs. It’s just unfortunate that there isn’t more variety in objectives that closely resemble what we saw in the original circuit boards. There are some additional goals associated with customizing a customer’s PCs with different decals and paintwork, or using new components, but PCBS2 does not add too many new creases to the jobs in the original.

A screenshot from PC Building Simulator 2 showing the job system

Their tasks range from the mundane to the complicated, but don’t deviate drastically from what we saw in the original.

Customization is perhaps the biggest innovation PCBS2, which allows you to turn any desktop into an aesthetically offensive gaming icon. You can apply layered combinations of vinyl sleeves, individual stickers, and spray paint to any PC. The customization tools are clumsy, and while you unlock new vinyl wraps and decals as you level up, there’s currently no option to use custom items, which is disappointing.

The customization capabilities extend to your workshop, too. The original game allowed you to personalize your office space, but this time you can go into more detail by being able to swap out desk designs, decor, walls, and floors. There aren’t many personalization options, but this feature is a nice touch. While you can’t renovate your office well, this time you have much more flexibility with your workspace, functionally and aesthetically.

A screenshot of PC Building Simulator 2 showing workshop customization options

With the tablet you can change the appearance of your workshop

Of course, once you have your workstation set up, you need to build some PCs. Thank God, PCBS2 comes with an impressive list of modern PC components ranging from GPUs to water cooling blocks and cases. Most components are from well-known manufacturers and are virtually identical to their real-world counterparts from NZXT, MSI, and Cooler Master. In the past, circuit boards has done an excellent job of keeping the parts lists up to date with free updates, which is no easy task considering we’ve seen a ton of new hardware from Nvidia and AMD, not to mention Intel’s new ARC graphics cards.

The list of branded parts in PCBS2 is really impressive, but navigating the menus is tedious

The list of branded parts in PCBS2 is really impressive, but navigating the menus is tedious

One of the other standout features that is changing the way you interact with hardware is the introduction of custom water cooling blocks on your motherboard, RAM or GPU. Getting into some of the more technical aspects is the right move PCBS2and CPU uncapping is a feature that appears to be on the roadmap.

It’s clear that the developers are taking steps to optimize the overall PCBS2 experience. Some of the quality of life features introduced with the original game are a welcome return, namely the tablet system, which gives you access to most of the features that originally required you to resort to your office PC. Some other clever additions include linking purchased parts to your ongoing jobs, which comes in handy when juggling multiple open projects. Some new features specifically for this PCBS2 include a Thermal Mapping app to help you troubleshoot specific components and an in-game RAM voltage calculator for memory overclocking.

A screenshot from PC Building Simulator 2 showing the application of thermal paste

The only approved method of applying thermal grease
Image: Alice Newcome-Beill

However, consider how much time you spend on menus PCBS2, they should be more intuitive. It’s a little confusing because many of the in-game apps you use mirror their real-world counterparts, but don’t have any of the usability features you’d expect. Imagine navigating your desktop without the ability to resize windows or use any of the shortcuts you’re used to. that’s how it feels PCBS2.

None of this is supported by the fact that PCBS2 is remarkably buggy. On several occasions I’ve encountered jobs I couldn’t do. Graphics glitches are less common, but I’ve encountered instances where floating hardware or components are clipped through objects. Most irritating, however, was a bug that made it impossible to interact with the game’s onscreen GUI. A lot of your jobs require installing apps or changing the BIOS on a given computer, which is impossible if you can’t interact with the screen.

A screenshot from PC Building Simulator 2 showing the EVGA motherboard BIOS

You can mess around with the motherboard BIOS on most computers, provided the on-screen UI isn’t broken

Despite its myriad bugs, PCBS2 shares the same addictive qualities as its predecessor, which made me say “just one more job”. However, currently there isn’t enough content to keep me coming back. There is a rudimentary achievement system, but there aren’t enough metagames to keep you invested for very long. The original game had a modest endgame goal of cultivating enough capital to secure ownership of your shop. Right now there isn’t much that will keep you playing long-term, other than leveling up to unlock new parts by completing progressively more complicated tasks.

At the moment, the game doesn’t add enough or do things differently enough to warrant a “2” given how much the original is circuit boards has changed since its inception, I’m curious to see where circuit boards will be in a year or so. But now, PCBS2 seems more interested in testing the waters with a handful of shallow features than diving headlong into a single one.

PCBS2 didn’t grab me as much as the original, but despite its flaws and general lack of content, I can’t overlook the game’s potential as an excellent educational tool. Before playing the original circuit boards, I had never built a computer. But playing games over time gave me the confidence to build multiple real world desktops. And while I won’t be using water to cool my GPU or motherboard any time soon, PCBS2 definitely piqued my curiosity.

PC building simulator 2 was released on October 12th on PC via the Epic Games Store.

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