Snowrunner is the follow up to the niche simulator Spintires: Mudrunner. It takes everything good about that games and improves on it.
Hell, it even feels a lot more accessible than the original title. All without losing any of the realism that made it such a unique game in the first place. The problem a game like this has, is just how to you sell it to the masses?
Well, I don’t think it needs to. Not by compromising on what makes it such an interesting game in the first place. There are already another accessibility options to let even clumsy idiots like me enjoy it.
I am getting ahead of myself. So just what is Snowrunner? Simply put it is a simulator where you are given various contracts to complete that require you to use various real-world trucks. Sounds exciting right? Yeah, I know… it really isn’t an easy sell.
As a game it lacks any of the real gamification you expect with modern games. Sure you get a tutorial of sorts, but it isn’t a tutorial that goes deep into easing you in. I found myself needing to call for recovery many times early on. Namely as I got used to the harsh environment around me.
You’re told early about how to do the basics, such as driving. Then how to use your winch, attach trailers, pick up cargo, etc. The very first mission in all fairness does a small amount of handholding. Yet it still lets you screw up.
It is a game that should be stressful to the more casual player, but somehow even to me I felt relaxed within the world. You don’t get any snow initially however. It is only as you progress and open up new areas you see the different environments.
This is a title that requires a hell of a let of patience and planning if you want to get the most from it. You can access a map and plot a route, but don’t expect a mini-map or an on road guide The most you get it a waypoint marker. If you want to see where you are going, you’ll need to stop and check your map.
You will need to stop too, as you don’t want to make the same mistake I did. Going down a road, popping into the map to check my location, returning and finding myself in a ditch. It seems the game remains in real-time throughout.
It all sounds stressful, especially with any mistake being punished by embedding yourself into the mud, snow, bogs, whatever and needing that recovery. But once you learn to approach the game in a calmer manner, plan things better, you have something a lot more relaxing.
Contracts are given to you and you’ll need to actually complete them, but you really can do this at your own pace. Even to the point you can just drive around the map, discovering the various locations that open up. It is very easy to forget what you should be doing and just explore.
Snowrunner encourages you to do just that, but without actually telling you directly. There are no restrictions on where you can go. If your vehicle can get there, then you will get there. Hell even if it cannot you can still try. It can be a meta game in itself, seeing how far you can push one the the many trucks before they get completely stuck.
I have lost hours to Snowrunner already and still feel like there is a lot more to discover. Including a persistent shared world for co-op play. Which allows you to host a session, invite your friends and complete contracts together. This adds a whole new dimension to things.
One thing that is super impressive is the physics within the game, how your truck effects mud, water, etc. What you do to the ground remains like that, even if you go back later. This carries over to the online co-op too. If one of you goes through an area and displaces whatever is covering the ground, everyone else on the session will see exactly that and have to react to it.
This leads to some funny moments where one player can get bogged down, try and brute force their way out and make it even harder for the rest of the crew to get through. It can also lead to some moments of clever partnering up. Using a bigger truck to go though, then help others through using a winch. Again, none of this is particularly pointing out, it is all just discovering how to solve problems.
So the host will be able to continue to earn game progression, which is great and whilst guests don’t get this, they can earn bonuses to take back to their own games. Making it worthwhile teaming up from time to time.
There are two disappointments that do stand out for me though. One is that when it is dark, I found it too dark and at times I was driving blind, even with my headlights on. I fiddled with the settings both in game and on my TV and it did improve slightly, but it isn’t something I want to be doing all the time. I get it adds to the realism, but I don’t know, it was annoying. I am still hoping it is something I am doing wrong and missed.
There other is more down to format of choice (I am playing on PS4) and not anything specific with the game itself. On the PC version of the original Mudrunner, there is a hell of a modding community and I have been down a rabbit-hole on Youtube watching videos of these in action. Knowing these will come to the PC version of Snowrunner and not PS4 is a crying shame. It would be great to see mods added at some point, but I doubt they will. [Update on incorrect info – See Footnote]
I kind of went into Snowrunner having bounced on and off of Mudrunner over the past couple of years. Knowing though I wanted to try again, as there is something about these games that intrigues me. I am so glad I did, because this is the sort of game that is just so different it compliments anything else you play wonderfully.
I tried to describe this game to someone and the best way I can explain the open ended nature of it. Snowrunner is like Animal Crossing, but in trucks. Sure, there are things you do to progress, but the joy comes from doing your own things.
Code provided by Focus Home Interactive for review purposes.
Update: Mods are supported on PC as expected, but console support is planned later.
Q: Will SnowRunner support mods?
Yes! SnowRunner will definitely have mods at launch on PC, through mod.io. We’ve worked a lot on the mod structure and this will benefit all platforms. We aim to support mods on consoles post-launch as well.