Expeditions: MudRunner Game – The First Preview

As you can probably tell from the name, Expeditions: A MudRunner Game is an extension of MudRunner and SnowRunner’s unique slow-paced brand of off-road driving simulation. These open-world trucking simulators turn their swampy sandboxes into complex puzzles that will suck your hapless trucks into their swampy bowels if you make the wrong decision or overestimate your vehicle’s capabilities. The core of Expeditions is different – ​​removing the heavy trucking aspect and instead focusing on navigation and exploration – but the spirit is the same. That is, stay upright, don’t get stuck, and if in doubt, winch out.

After a few hours with Expeditions, it’s clear that this spin-off hasn’t strayed far from the MudRunner/SnowRunner wheelhouse. It feels and looks largely the same, the controls are largely unchanged, and it’s backed by the same physics-based, deformable earth materials. Thick mud sticks around the struggling tires. The water ripples and boils as the engines vibrate and the wheels spin below the surface. It remains a great thing.

However, expeditions forge their own path when it comes to their goals. While scouting in smaller vehicles is something that both the MudRunner and SnowRunner support, they’re primarily for moving bulky cargo and construction materials from facility to facility with the toughest trucks this side of the Tonka. A few missions I’ve played in Expeditions show a departure from this.

Mission selection and preparation seem a bit more accessible here than in the likes of SnowRunner.

Expeditions still presents us as experienced off-road truck drivers, but here we are part of a research team, not a specialized transport company. So far in Expeditions, I’ve spent my time delivering scientific equipment, discovering new sites and efficient routes, and rescuing drowned trucks that have gone black after failing to cross water. Mission selection and preparation seem a little more accessible here than in the likes of SnowRunner, which is probably indicative of Expeditions’ purpose of serving as an entry point into the series for new players. It’s certainly possible that there will be people who find themselves engaged by Expeditions as a technical driving simulator with a clearer list of goals who may not necessarily have been drawn to the time-consuming, heavy-handed aspect of mainstream games in the past.

There are three maps in Expeditions – Colorado, Arizona and the Carpathians in Central Europe – and they already differ from the environments of MudRunner and SnowRunner by being noticeably more untamed. That is, while the environments of its predecessors felt like sparsely populated rural areas after a few weeks of bad weather, Expeditions feels more like a frontier. How do you get over this mountain? You made it up. Will your truck make it out of this creek bed? Of course I hope so! It’s a sensation that may fade with more time in the environment, but for now I’ve been enjoying the uncertainty.

Looks like we’ll run into each other hints of previous travelers – like jury-rigged totems that, say, indicate the best route down a rocky hill – but otherwise there’s an effective sense that you and your team are alone in the wilderness.

There is an effective feeling that you and your team are alone in the desert.

There are some new tools for tackling this wasteland in Expeditions, including a jack you can use to recover from a capsize, and anchors that can be sunk into the ground to provide winch points when there are no trees in range . There’s also a drone we can use to scout the area ahead, plus a river crossing aid that charts the water depth around vehicles with colored spikes.

Expeditions also introduces the ability to control your tire pressure on the fly, allowing us to get even more traction out of them on the toughest rock climbs and the slickest mud. There’s also a visual change for tires when you deflate; the wheels fall off and the sidewalls bulge under the weight.

It would be fair to be concerned about Expeditions if it represents a permanent focus away from the series’ traditional theme, but positioned as a complementary experience to (as opposed to a replacement for) the excellent SnowRunner, it shows a lot of promise.

Be ready to dive into Expeditions: A MudRunner Game in early March.

Luca is a Senior Editor on the IGN Reviews team. You can chat with him on Twitter @MrLukeReilly.

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