SnowRunner is the type of sequel that I love seeing and playing from developers. Developer Saber Interactive has taken the 2017 cult-hit Spintires: MudRunner, and simply made everything in the game better. The environments are much larger, newly licensed vehicles from Ford, Chevrolet, and Caterpillar can be driven through hazardous terrain, and not to mention there are so many more tasks for you to complete.
Becoming stuck in the cold and dark wilderness of Alaska, as snow continues to fall, is a scary predicament, especially when you’ve exhausted all options, and your winch falls to pull you to safety. Perhaps an online friend can rescue you, but in my experience, they are more likely to become stuck in the process. At least you won’t freeze alone in the wilderness.
Without the constant struggle of freeing yourself from rain flooded roads, deep mud, and snow, SnowRunner wouldn’t be as exciting to play. The opening tutorial sequence briefly acclimates newcomers to the series, with some of the primary game mechanics and hazards you’ll come across. The pickup you start with is no match for the muddy paths carved up the mountain, and you’ll need to make use of everything in your arsenal. Lowing your gear when dealing with the thick muddy trails can help keep you from getting stuck, and you are free to turn the all-wheel-drive (AWD) on and off as needed for better grip.
The mountainous regions of Michigan just saw incredible rainfall forcing you to assist the folks and take part in repairing the damaged infrastructure (hence all the mud). Mountain paths are treacherous, and trudging through the muddy roads is slow. Being introduced to a winch, you can pull yourself to safety, granted you are close enough to proper vegetation or trees that can support the weight. After refueling and learning about how damage to your vehicle can spell disaster, you come across your first real truck. At this moment, the sandbox experience opens up, and you are free to explore the map, although I’ll provide a few tidbits and tips throughout the review.
The starting location, the autumn forests in Michigan, USA, is the easiest of all regions that see you also traveling to Alaska, USA, and Taymyr, Russia. Alaska is, without a doubt, the best region, namely due to the sheer amount of snow and ice, just don’t get caught losing complete control over the ice. The Russian north is just as unforgiven, with swampy regions and dense woods. Each area consists of interconnected maps (11 maps total), all featuring various landmarks, and plenty of missions. Considering the sandbox nature of the series, you are free to tackle the missions as you see fit. Specific tasks are best done first, such as delivering materials such as steel and wood, to finish bridges and complete other road repairs. Although the best first step is to locate all of the watchtowers, filling in the missing regions on the map. At this point, contracts will be shown across the map, and you can begin completing them to earn currency and XP. Whether you are delivering spare drill parts to a factory or replacement parts for a fallen utility pole, there will be plenty of hauling and driving in your future. Empty trailers can be sold back at the garbage for additional income, and you’ll want to earn money fast to upgrade your tires for better traction.
Unless you are playing online co-op, you’ll have to try and free your vehicles yourself, and that means switching between to a different one when one gets stuck. Drive over to where the abandoned vehicle is and try to winch it out of its current predicament. If that fails, try pushing or ramming it out of trouble. Of course, there is a failsafe, and the means respawning back at your garage fully fueled and repaired. You’ll need to weigh your options, whether it is worth restarting, more than likely far away from your objective, or spend 20-30 minutes trying to rescue your truck with a low percentage chance of success.
SnowRunner’s realistic depiction of driving through thick mud and dense snow across a vast sandbox is quite admirable. It is, without a doubt, a far better game than its predecessor, complete with a ton more content, and future planned DLC. The three main regions feel distinct, and while beautiful, there are plenty of frustrating moments ahead. Now, if you excuse me, I have a big rig stuck halfway up a mountain in a couple of feet of sludge.
Note: SnowRunner was reviewed on PlayStation 4. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.
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