Expeditions – A MudRunner Game Review

I’m not much of a car guy, nor really much of a sim guy. If there are any elements of these in a game I’m playing I tend to go for the easiest options and move past any technical muckery. So it’s somewhat surprising perhaps that I’d be here reviewing Expeditions – A MudRunner Game, and yet, I can’t quite get enough of it.

For those unfamiliar, the MudRunner series came to prominence with its focus on physics-based gameplay, specifically looking at heavy duty trucks and putting them in environments with sloppy, slippery mud, tricky rocks, and steep inclines and seeing what happens. It’s the exact type of game I should run a mile from, but there’s something about the challenge and the way it’s implemented that calls to me.

I reviewed SnowRunner way back when, and so when Expeditions appeared on my radar I knew I had to check it out. In a way, it feels slightly fairer to players at times, but that’s not to say the challenge has dissipated at all – the individual missions still take time, skill, and patience to complete. Developer Saber have successfully struck a fine balance of making it just fun enough even when we fail without leaving us with too much frustration.

Set across three distinct biomes – one muddy, one rocky, and one more forest-y – we’re presented with challenge after challenge, all revolving around navigating tricky terrain, conditions, and an ever-dwindling fuel/repair supply. Before heading out we can choose which vehicle to use (some are better to suited to certain tasks than others), give it some extra supplies to carry, adjust things like the engine, tyres and more, and grab any mission specific items that we may need. Supplies will cost us, though the critical items are generally free of charge.

We can also add a specialist to aid us in a mission. Hiring one or more of these will give us advantages such as better repair % costs, easier spotting of new areas/items, better traversal through water and much more. There are more to unlock as we progress, each offering new bonuses to help too.

And we’re going to need all the help we can get. While I’ve found it easier to get going in Expeditions than SnowRunner, that’s not to say it’s easy at all. Even early missions won’t balk at the opportunity to punish us if we go in unprepared, while some of the latter ones I’ve attempted I’ve squeaked through by the skin of my teeth. Check out the recent live stream below where I played a single mission – note that the run-time is over an hour, and if you watch (or skip to roughly the 50 minute mark) to the end you’ll see just how close it all was to failure.

Another time, I spent probably close to 90 minutes on one mission (albeit stopping and starting throughout the day while I did other bits IRL) and failed it right at the last hurdle because I ran out of fuel. Replaying took a little while less, and it showed that if I had just a couple more minutes of fuel on my first outing I would have succeeded.

That might sound like it’d be a frustrating experience, but if I’m honest, I knew I’d fucked it up about half way in but wanted to push my luck. And the thing about Expeditions is that when I failed, it was my own doing, not because the game had stiffed me. I’d not brought enough fuel, or I took a risky route that damaged my truck, or flipped over one too many times and ran out of the Jack-Screw item which lets us right our truck a limited number of times.

Importantly, retrying a mission has never felt like a chore. There’s the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and come better prepared, and even when we fail after a long time the act of playing is still reward enough. Expeditions is a slow game by its very nature, but for as hard as it can get it is also incredibly relaxing to play. There’s something to being out in the wilderness, just our truck and us, battling against the elements to get from A to B.

As well as the main missions that we go through, there are ones scattered throughout each zone that can be tackled as and when, supply drops to find, and mild construction to create for an easier time out next time in the form of bridges and the like. We can free roam the areas too, forging paths and admiring the scenery. When the promised co-op play comes in after launch I can see this being a great way to get with a few friends online to hang out and explore.

One of the other draws to Expeditions for me was the ability to use a steering wheel. I reviewed the Thrustmaster T248 a few years back and have been waiting for a game like Expeditions to give me a good excuse to get it back out. While the force feedback isn’t overwhelming, it does provide a more tactile experience as we bounce over rocks and through mud. I’ve switched back and forth between this and controller and while I like them both, if I have the time and space the wheel is the way to go in my eyes.

We’ll still need a controller to hand mind you. The camera loosely follows behind the truck but at times there can be a lot of foliage in the way. We can use the stick to move it about and then instantly resume with the wheel, though it’s always have to have it to make small adjustments to better see where we’re going.

Mainly we’ll need it for one of the times we’ve doing something other than driving. Some missions will have us scanning an area with a drone or some binoculars, or moving a cursor around a patch of water looking for key items. The drone and binoculars are easy enough to use, and when we need to explore an area are all but essential. Wasting fuel is not the way, so flying up high and scouting around is the best way forward. I did find these sections to be less enjoyable, mainly due to the fact we are supposed to be looking around an area for points of interest but in reality all I was doing was watching a percentage number tick up as I moved the drone around. And the short range on the drone means we can’t just do 100% in one go; we need to do a patch, stop, move the truck forward, and do another part. We also can’t check the map while the drone is out, so there were a few times I’ve be flying around at 98% not really knowing where the last 2% was without putting the drone away first.

That, while not ideal, isn’t the end of the world. More frustrating are the scanner portions. Here, we get three or four pulses to find some hard to see objects under murky water. We have to hit a certain amount of coverage on these items to pass, but if we fail we just get to go again. It just wastes time and honestly is quite tedious to do, especially if we miss out on an item by a fraction and have to scan it all again. It’s not a long process really, but if we can just keep retrying why not just let us scan as many times as we like in one go. One mission proved to be too annoying even for me recently, where I found 90% of the scan but then spent 10 minutes looking for the rest before giving up after having to reset every three pulses. Considering how much I’m enjoying the rest of the game, everytime one of these has popped up so far I’ve sighed heavily before hoping I can get it over with as soon as possible.

As soon as we pass it though we can crack on, and the satisfying traversal quickly soothes over any lingering annoyance. I keep saying it, but playing Expeditions is just a fun, rewarding experience when we’re on four (or more) wheels, just the world and us and we explore and conquer. There’s enough here to keep players going for over 100 hours and while I initially recoiled at this number, I can easily see me getting to this over the course of the year as I dip back in for a challenge or two in between other games. And once co-op comes I can’t wait to jump in with some friends and help them find their groove.

Conclusion

Considering how much of challenge there can be in Expeditions: A MudRunner Game, there’s no denying it is a consistently rewarding and satisfying game to play. The three areas on offer are huge but packed with interesting terrain to traverse and conquer, and there are more objectives to tackle than you could ever realistically need. The non-driving parts are a let-down but are brief enough to not sour things too much over all. A niche-but-worthwhile experience awaits those who are willing to tackle the wilds.

This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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Good
  • Satisfyingly challenging gameplay
  • Excellent physics model
  • Massive areas that look great, are packed with tasks and are fun to explore
Bad
  • Non-truck based bits are a bit naff
  • Will test the limits of your patience at times
9.1
Excellent
Written by
I've been gaming since Spy vs Spy on the Master System, growing up as a Sega kid before realising the joy of multi-platform gaming. These days I can mostly be found on smaller indie titles, the occasional big RPG and doing poorly at Rainbow Six: Siege. Gamertag: Enaksan

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