May 28, 2024
Another entry in the frustratingly addictive world of vehicular rambling, is Expeditions: A MudRunner Game worth your time? Find out in the Finger Guns review:

Without getting too real-world dramatic, I’ll generalise with 2020 being “a bit rubbish”. But what did come out of it was a renewed sense of solace and distraction in gaming. One game really stood out in that regard for me: SnowRunner. Losing hours to vehicular rambling was a great experience, as you can read here. So when Expeditions: A Mudrunner Game was announced, that keenness was reignited.

As a series, Mudrunner is paradoxically calming and infuriating in equal measure, traversing harsh environments to do what seem like menial haulage tasks. Snowrunner expanded on that, offering bigger hauls and even bigger trucks, made more chaotically enjoyable with friends. So, where does Expeditions fit in?

Focusing instead on exploration rather than the lumber industry, Expeditions put us on sightseeing missions. That is, getting out into a variety of trucks and exploring canyons, hills and rugged terrain in a whole host of sticky situations. From seismic surveyance to truck rescue, it’s that refined MudRunner gameplay brought to current gen and hopefully a new audience.

Does is have the horsepower to carry the series to new heights, or will it be bogged down and stranded? Let’s get those horses powered and find out.

Expeditions review

Slowrunner

If you’re not familiar with how Mud/SnowRunner plays, allow me to briefly indulge you. Set across worldwide climates, the games largely consist of driving haulage vehicles, lugging large loads across uneven and slippery terrain. A lot of fuss was made about the mud and rock physics, reacting accordingly to vehicle weight, relying on the correct tires and drivetrain to navigate the precarious environment.

In short, Expeditions has done away with the heavier side of things. SnowRunner, my reference as I played more of that, was more a case of “here’s your map, tackle it however you think you can”. Whilst novel, it could be overwhelming if you didn’t have a decent vehicle.

This time around, Expeditions is a more narrowed affair, which actually worked out better for me. I won’t go into why my gaming time is limited, but it felt better to tackle smaller missions at a time than get overwhelmed in a big map. But again, I don’t speak for everyone.

Expeditions review

Off-Road Explorers

Whilst it may sound like a more streamlined, mission-led affair dumbs down the Mud/SnowRunner experience, it actually expands on it. Well, in as much as “ramble over uneven terrain in off-road vehicles” can expand on things, I mean. There’s only so much four wheels and an engine can do.

The first available map, Arizona, has five “training missions”, as it were, to get you rambling. These range in objective, from simple point-to-point scaling to item retrieval. As one expands, so do the locales and the mission types.

It’s not long until you’re lugging seismic surveillance kit, scanning crashed drone sites or setting up aerials on craggy, ruin-lined hilltops. Or on a literal deeper level, dragging broken vehicles from their knackered spots back to base.

It does soon become variations on a theme, but it’s because of that variety that it doesn’t get stale. Yomping over boulders to find a different kind of X is more entertaining than finding X the same amount of times.

Expeditions review

The Right Truck For The Job

The other big draw, if you will, about the previous titles is the sheer range of mud-mashing monster trucks one can utilise. But before your mind goes to huge wheeled, backflipping trucks, I mean the behemoth haulage vehicles that can be used. Again, in keeping in line with the more narrowed down experience, Expeditions has a smaller yet more versatile garage this time.

Now, you’ll have to pardon my lack of extensive SnowRunner trucks, but I do know there were some whacking big ones in there. From typical American gas guzzlers to big Russian units, they certainly got the job done. Expeditions has the pokey little jeeps for exploring, and some bigger trucks, but not quite the behemoths that came before.

But again, it’s because they’re not needed. The trucks on offer here, are more than enough to haul broken camper vans out of most. Yet it’s the versatility that makes them ideal, all with their own weights, fuel consumption and capabilities available.

A mission brief will tell you what you need for said mission, which helps. So if a player needs a metal detector, a jeep will do a perfectly good job. Some weather stations on a hill? Well, then it becomes a case of seeing which truck can use a flatbed, but is also suitable for some uphill struggles.

Weighing up fuel usage, if you’ll need to carry more or a jack to upright you, all becomes part of the strategy in Expeditions. But what’s it like to actually drive these gnarly gas guzzlers?

Pivot!

I did elaborate on the driving physics in my SnowRunner review, but I will retread it here for the newcomers: it’s odd. However, that’s not a detraction or anything, I love the driving in the Spintires games. It’s just… odd. But as long as you don’t come into it expecting jumps over edges and drifts down slopes, we’ll be fine.

No, it’s more a nuanced and calculated affair. For one, there’s making sure the correct drivetrain alignment is selected. Trying to get over a craggy ledge with just RWD? Oh you poor child, don’t you know you should stick in AWD to evenly distribute power and reduce wheelspins? Well, now you do, that one’s on me. As is having to switch to a lower speed, differential lock to avoid burying a vehicle deeper into some of the lesser-spotted mudholes.

But it’s more than that, yet doesn’t get overwhelming. Expeditions is good at reminding players to adjust their tyre pressure on the fly, to spread wheel surface over different terrain. This will sound like an oxymoron, but it’s a fiddly kind of easy to get the hang of. It can be frustrating to begin with, but when you settle in for the long haul (both mentally and literally in-game), it is chaotically cathartic.

If it seems like I’m being vague, it’s not intentional. It’s hard to explain how a Spintires game handles until you play it. I have moments of reflexive calm which can instantly turn to annoyance over misjudging a ledge.

Jacked Up

It might sound obvious to say, but Expeditions: A MudRunner Game is more than just driving and hitting checkpoints. There’s a degree of tactic involved, which is bolstered by the tools available as the game goes on. Jacks, winches and drones for recon are pretty basic, but there’s a few nice additions for accessibility and ease.

For the former, there’s a multitude of accessibility options to make driving easier (without deviating too much from the style it employs). Further still, there’s the ability to mark one’s route on the map screen. You can, if you’re like me, wing it with a good eye and trepidation. Or, if you’re smarter than what I are, you can plan like a sensible person and avoid costly repairs and recovery.

One of the newest and niftiest inclusions are the portable anchors. Winching onto items is easy enough, but there were points in SnowRunner where nothing was near and I’d have to dejectedly return to base. But with foresight to bring some, portable anchors are a godsend. These can be attached to near anything, and can’t be uprooted like, say, a tree will if a vehicle is too heavy. They are both lifesaver and purely optional, if one prefers the “natural” way.

I won’t sugarcoat how frustrating Expeditions can be at time. It’s less harsh than the previous titles, but it certainly takes some getting used to. But at least it’s pretty to look at…

Tipping Over Point

That ellipsis sounds a bit loaded, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because there’s a caveat, which nicely segues into my grumbles around Expeditions. Overall, it’s a beautiful looking game, and given that I haven’t been to the Carpathians, as beautifully rendered as one would hope. However, there’s so much scope on display that sometimes it forgets to load in the textures right in front of a vehicle.

Now, that could be down to me playing it pre-release (at time of writing), and therefore before standard day one patch nonsense, so it could be something Saber are aware of. But it is a bit jarring sometimes to take in a scenic vista and some of the rocks have forgotten to define themselves. Spoils the effort of dragging a meaty vehicle up there and looking like you’ve driven through a level of PS1 era Myst.

My other niggle is that outside of core objectives, and secondary tasks that can be found along the way, it’s all a bit… bare. Don’t get me wrong, the vehicle customisation and livery options brighten things up, but the ambience is deafening. There’s no voices, just text commands, and the soothing, generic butt-rock gets really boring after a while. I found myself listening to music or podcasts on my phone next to me to stop me nodding off at times. But then, maybe that’s me missing the meditative nature at times and not acknowleding my undiagnosed ADHD. Who knows.

And my final complaint, a drum I will always bang on: live service and Season Passes. I hate these, I’m a firm believer of a game being whole at sale. But given that SnowRunner is now on its twelth season, at least it shows that they seem to be useful in these games.

Once More Into The Canyon

Anyway, old man musings aside, I am still a big advocate of these games. As mentioned before, SnowRunner came at the right time and I sank hours into that. Made better with co-op, which is coming to Expeditions, hours were spent completing what sound like mundane tasks, made fun with traversal. In that regard, Expeditions is no different.

I’ve made it clear that it’s smaller in terms of objective, but not in terms of scope or longevity. With some near 80 missions from the go, there’s plenty to get stuck into. That’s before one factors in extra tasks that pop up, bits of kit to find and new climbs and fords to discover. There’s plenty of vehicle customisation to mess about with, bases to build and trade resources with, and innocent looking rocks to tip your truck over after misjudging the angle of it.

If you want to play it straightforward, taking trucks as they are and just tackling the mainline missions, you can. When I say bases to build, it’s not mini Sim City or anything. But it is an opportunity for those invested to really live in the map, setting up recovery points, trade posts and resource-filling points to keep one engaged for hours. That’s what I like about the versatility: there’s no forced way to play. But just remember to keep an eye on those funds, recovery and repair can get costly.

Saddle Up

To conclude, Expeditions: A MudRunner Game is a perfect example of Saber Interactive honing that craft that began with Spintires. From a mobile game showcasing flashy mud physics in 2014 to a wilderness exploration sim now, Expeditions is definitely a recommendation from me.

It always feels like a hard sell, like you’re pitching a boring game about trucks, which to an outsider Mud/SnowRunner might seem. With Expeditions, I feel like this would be a more appropriate gateway, a Runner-lite with enough depth to really dive into (again with the oxymorons). I may never have “finished” SnowRunner, and can see this replacing it, but if there was any game to replace it with, it’s this.

To wrap up, it’s a stunning voyage across some of the finest, knobbliest areas across the Americas and Europe. Whilst there’s not as many trucks as previous titles bolster [well, yet], there’s plenty available to have fun with. The ease of doing a recon mission one minute, to hauling geographical equipment the next makes for a smooth affair, which is welcomed.

It’s a tough but fair game. It doesn’t punish from the off, but will if you don’t “respect” its style. Once players accept the nuance in not launching off of cliff edges, it clicks. I’m having a blast, and once co-op is implemented, it can only get better from here.


Carrying on the success of previous titles, Expeditions: A MudRunner Game is a corker for current gen ramblers. More streamlined in terms of progression, Expeditions welcomes both careful drivers and veterans off-roaders with open arms. With a host of accessibility and in-game tweaks, there’s never been a better time to try climbing a truck uphill… or fall off it trying.

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game is available from 5th March on PlayStation 4 & 5 (reviewed on latter), Xbox One and Series S|X, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam. Preorder now and recieve access five days early.

Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Focus Entertainment

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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