SnowRunner Review: My Trucks Bring All the Wrecks to the Yard
It really should not be this fun to drive at 10 miles per hour (sometimes less)! It is though.
Note: This review is a work-in-progress as I play more of the game. Currently, I have completed Michigan and am about half way through Alaska. I am aware it's possible to go anywhere, but I chose a progressive approach through the regions.
It really should not be this fun to drive at 10 miles per hour (sometimes less)! It is though. SnowRunner is the sequel to MudRunner, which I have not played yet. It is a driving game with an impressive terrain simulator. You play a trucker who completes tasks and contracts for money and experience.
It's Slow. It's Fun. Why?
I am not really a "car guy". Don't get me wrong, I appreciate mechanical engineering (see the title of this site), but I am not a true gearhead. Somehow though, this game captivates me. It enthralls my wife too as she watches me try to overcome some tricky terrain with too much loaded on the trailer my White-Western Star 4964 is hauling behind its already-loaded flatbed. She also sometimes tells me when I am about to do something not-so-bright (yes, in-game and out-of-game); a trait of a great partner. So, why is this game so much fun at such low speeds? I believe it has to do with a deep sense of accomplishment. You will:
- deliver wood and metal to sites to build/repair bridges,
- rescue mired vehicles abandoned by town folk and tourists,
- haul huge construction rigs to drilling sites,
- recover lost oil drums and cargo crates,
- investigate hard-to-reach areas for sensor data and the like,
- restore facilities to working condition with materials they desperately need,
- and much more.
There is also something to be said for acquiring more vehicles for your fleet. Each truck you find can either be kept in your garage/storage or sold for easy cash. However, getting the right truck for a difficult job is very rewarding. Such an impossible job suddenly becomes very much possible.
Did I mention you buy and sell vehicles for the same price, without a loss? Consider it mentioned. Buy a trailer for a contract, then sell it back for the same price when you no longer need it. The same goes for vehicles. If you purchase upgrades for a vehicle, the sale will reflect the costs of all those upgrades as well. I could complain this is unrealistic and robs players of better planning with the need for fiscal intelligence, but you already spend a bunch of time just getting places so I don't really think this is a problem. It saves you a lot of time and very likely, prevents you from getting to a point where you simply cannot buy a vehicle you absolutely need to accomplish the next contract.
I admit, when I first started this game, I thought maybe there was something off with my PC. The Chevy CK1500 I started with at, presumably, my character's house in Black River, Michigan (yes, it's a real place) was very sluggish and it was horrible to drive through the little bit of mud ahead of me before reaching the road. Then, when my tires met the road, it was still slow. Before bumping down my graphics settings to see how that fared, I was off to the webs to watch a couple videos of other players on various platforms (it's on PS4 and XBox One as well). Yep; it was slow moving for everyone. It turns out, you cannot expect your pick-up to...pick up and go, especially in the beginning. In time, you will unlock the ability to "pimp out" your ride with engine upgrades, new tire types (all-terrain, off-road, mud, and chains), raised suspension, locking differential, all-wheel drive, and more. Granted, my CK1500 still won't really win any dirt rallies, but it is much better for scouting now.
Finding these upgrades is key to making your trucking life easier. Gaining experience is also extremely important. Luckily, when perusing the customization list for each vehicle, you can easily see the requirements for anything that is locked. You may have to gain more experience or explore areas of a region.
Additionally, you will have to complete certain contracts before others. Even tasks are critical to opening up areas of a town by building bridges or delivering various types of cargo to abandoned/decommissioned facilities.
Bugs, Patches, and Active Development
I typically tend to wait a bit after a new game drops before investing in it. This is a similar tactic to waiting for an OS update to "bake" a little while before applying it. However, I happened upon the trailer for this game about a month before it launched on April 28, 2020. I sent a link to my dad, thinking this would be a great game for the two of us to play together. He included some extra cash when he sent me money for my old laptop I shipped to him (a big upgrade for him) as a birthday gift toward the game. So yeah, I bought it right after it launched.
Sure enough though, there are some bugs in the game. One very frustrating bug has your unpacked cargo fall completely through a trailer if you change to another truck. This makes it extremely difficult to multi-task with multiple vehicles in single player, or even to use multiple trailers to line things up for a multi-stage haul. I read the same happens if you load a vehicle onto a trailer. Luckily, a bug similar to this was already patched soon after launch and it was stated this one is on the list next to fix.