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Expeditions: A MudRunner Game

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game

We've got down and dirty in this latest instalment into the MudRunner series.

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There are plenty of games that are very niche. What I've noticed, in all the years that I've played, is that if something is really well done, it doesn't really matter that much if I'm interested in the niche itself in advance, as it can attract me and then entertain, regardless of the genre. But it's still quite fascinating that despite having zero interest in vehicles in general and heavy machinery in particular, I can devote several hours to Expeditions: A MudRunner Game and have a lot of fun.

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This idea of slowly steering all terrain vehicles over rough terrain really needs to be good so I don't lose patience and get tired, and fortunately, in many ways this is. With two predecessors in MudRunner and SnowRunner, this series has now begun to establish itself. As a sequel, you naturally want to do something different and something that has been focused on here, as the title hints at, is pure exploration rather than transporting goods. The tasks are thus significantly more focused on driving around in huge environments and exploring and discovering every nook and cranny. There are, however, some more classic missions such as, for example, recovering a truck that has got stuck, but a lot of it is mainly about exploring the three maps that are available.

However, this very idea of discovery leads to my first bit of criticism. In the majority of missions you have to fly around with a drone to look at the surroundings, these moments often become time-consuming and interrupt the pure driving in a long and boring way. You see a circle where you have to explore and a percentage in the corner of how much of it you have mapped, but the process is disturbed by the fact that you mostly fly around on chance in the hope of reaching 100%, without really knowing what you are actually looking at. It is also not possible to bring up the map to see that you are flying inside the ring, and it becomes mainly very unclear where you have to fly for the percentage to be full.

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Expeditions: A MudRunner Game
There is certainly nothing wrong with the visuals as a whole.

In general, unfortunately, the use of instruments and equipment is also something that takes the focus away from the main thing you want to have fun with. There is a lot of going into menus and your vehicle stops as soon as something needs to be measured or mapped, which slows down the pace further. The interface with menus and everything just doesn't work quite as smoothly as I would have liked and I wish the developers spent significantly less time relying on all the tinkering with different kinds of equipment or at least made the process more dynamic. As soon as something needs to be used, it becomes like a break instead of being able to do it while driving around.

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game
The drone can show the beautiful views but is slow and cumbersome to fly around.

Yet, the driving itself is brilliant. It's great fun pushing the big vehicles through the treacherous terrain and going up steep hills, over small water crossings or through mud. There is something very satisfying about manoeuvring the vehicle through the terrain, it almost feels like completing a tricky course in a platform game. Here you are met with plenty of challenges and I also like how the three maps are distinctly different from each other regarding their environments.

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These maps are Colorado, which acts as a kind of prologue with five missions to complete, and then Arizona and the Carpathians, which are large maps with loads of missions. One thing that I didn't really like though was that you had to run missions in a certain order as they are unlocked, meaning if a mission appears that takes a very long time or is terribly difficult then you kind of have to get past it, instead of having the opportunity to play something else in the meantime. This created a frustration in being stuck on more difficult missions and I would have rather had the option to pick and choose between all the different missions on offer.

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game
With a few parts on the journey, you can build a small bridge.

Visually, Expeditions is often a feast for the eyes. It should be noted that there are some desolate places without any direct life, which is a bit of a shame, but the biggest graphical mishap is that the textures on the ground seem to disappear and appear randomly. If you turn the camera, what is supposed to represent mud or stone can just become completely flat, and then you drive a little bit or turn the camera and it is there again. There are areas where this is more obvious and it detracts from the overall impression, but overall the visuals are very nice. The soundscape also creates a good setting and even though the environments lack wildlife or movement, it is the sound that creates the best atmosphere and the vehicles also sound great when they are buzzing around.

In order to manage to get around in a good way, it is often necessary to rely on the objects you can carry with you. In addition to taking extra fuel with you for long journeys, there are also, above all, some aids that are used extensively. The one most often used is the winch, so you can attach your vehicle to, for example, a tree to get some traction. Here, there are often several points to anchor to, but not everything is equally durable and trees can be uprooted, which is a fun detail. Thankfully, you can buy anchors that you can attach to a surface where there is nothing else to attach to. You can buy a limited number depending on what your vehicle has available in a storage sense.

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game
It is a joy to explore the landscapes.

It is often necessary to plan one's trip well, something that I initially ignored quite thoroughly, but it is especially noticeable on the more difficult expeditions that it is good to take some time to recon and plan. Because once you set out on longer tours, it often becomes tough if you have to start over, so taking your time and planning what to take with you is one thing, as is opening the map and setting out markers along a smart route. This is something I started doing after nearly ten hours of exploration, and it actually elevated the gaming experience even more. You then don't have to constantly pick up the map to see which routes are best, but can devote your concentration to the difficulties that are in front of you.

It can definitely be too difficult. The physics are a bit uneven at times where the vehicles can often easily climb a steep hill that feels completely insurmountable, and there is also a bit of a bounce on the vehicles at times, which doesn't feel realistic. In the same way, an occasional stone under a tire can completely block your progress, while you can pull the car with the winch up a slope with sharp edges. However, one's vehicle takes damage when it crashes and I understand that there is a trade-off between being true to reality and offering something that is fun.

Expeditions: A MudRunner GameExpeditions: A MudRunner Game
Often you need to take some kind of equipment with you on your journey. This requires a larger vehicle.

A little story or some kind of contact with the characters would have been welcome. There are lots of side quests here, and you often feel satisfied when you've completed a tough expedition, but it would have helped a lot if there was something more extensive than picking a mission from a list where everything is only in the form of text.

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game
The task of pulling the downed lorry was difficult, but the joy of doing it is amazing.

While the story feels empty, there is a lot of focus on what is still most important and what makes this a really good game. Advancing your vehicle requires your patience, where mistakes and being careless can cost you a lot. You often have to switch between lowering the pressure on the tires to get grip in more difficult terrain, but this costs more fuel and the risk of damaging the vehicle is also greater.

There are many things to discover during one's expeditions. From finding the wreckage of an old airplane, to many other things hidden in the most remote of places. I also like something as simple as if you have enough parts with you, there are places where you can, for example, build a small bridge to cross a river more easily. Even though it's really just about driving from one place to another, it is a lot of fun. It should also be added that co-op is unfortunately missing from the beginning but will come in the first update, and it will make this even more fun when you can drive around with some friends.

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game
The game has a circadian rhythm and is pretty at night. However, you can fast forward to day again if you want to see a little better.

As it is, it offers a very entertaining experience, with the main negative criticism being the use of equipment and that I would have liked a little more well-crafted presentation regarding some kind of story. If you ignore this, it's just as fun and exciting every time you take on a new expedition on the vast maps. Expeditions: A MudRunner Game is a blissful mix that results in a fantastic end result. It's as stylish as it is entertaining, relaxing as it is pleasantly frustrating, but overall it's really something you should experience for yourself.

08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
+
Lots of missions and lots to play. Stunningly beautiful environments. Challenging and frustrating in a good way. Extremely entertaining.
-
Using the drone and other objects slows down the pace. Textures are missing and loaded at irregular intervals. Lacks any kind of narrative.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

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