Releasing directly into Game Pass on Xbox consoles on May 18th, 2021. SnowRunner is the sequel to 2017’s MudRunner. Developed by Saber Interactive these games are a love letter to life doing deliveries on the open road. Through a comprehensive and difficult physics system that is paired with solid and sometimes downright pretty graphics, they have crafted something that is both fantastic and not for everyone. Let us take a look at this excellent niche title.
Earning Every Inch
It’s been said that the early play in SnowRunner is some of the toughest and most rewarding of all time, and this is absolutely the case. You’ll start out with a pick-up truck to scout with, and quickly you’ll be given a larger truck meant for deliveries. For your first many hours you’ll be skating and stuck in the painful/delightful dance that is getting down any muddy road. This is a simple game at its core, explore, deliver, and constantly struggle as you do either. The game features a deep physics system, though sadly it is only One X and not Series enhanced so it runs at 30fps. This is a game where you may spend four hours while traveling a total of a few miles back and forth. One wrong move and you’re flipped over, though thanks to up to four-player co-op you occasionally can get a saving hand from a friend. Co-op play only progresses the host’s game world though, so you’ll want to stay with one host if you plan on playing together for a long time.
Exploring is my favorite part of the game. I’ve built up my pick-up truck to have solid all-terrain tires, a stronger winch (which is key, as your trusty winch is the only way you can get out of the stickiest of situations), and multiple other upgrades during my 30 or so hours so far. The game features three main landmasses, Michigan, Alaska, and Russia. I’ve done a bit of time in the latter two, but since there are four main areas in each region I’ve barely scratched the surface of Michigan alone. The time commitment is real here. Until you’ve leveled up through the star system you are stuck with weak engines, mediocre tires, and every trip will be a perilous one with disaster looming at every corner. You do not go into this game without understanding that this is it. The journey is the game, and you need to both want that and have the patience for it. Thankfully, some beautiful vistas and incredible golden hours will help make the time fly by.
Solid Graphics That Need A Series Version Badly
As a Series X owner, I’ve been spoiled by 60 frames per second titles. SnowRunner is only One X enhanced, and while the resolution is high the framerate is stuck at a last-gen 30. The three biomes have a nice diversity to them. Michigan is lush, verdant forests. Alaska is a snow-covered; fuel pipe-line dominated tundra. Russia is also mostly forest but has quite a different feel to it from Michigan. There is a time of day and dynamic weather cycle system that helps add a much-needed variety to things. Holding LB and pressing B will turn on your headlights, which you will need often as the dead of night is pitch black.
One of the major parts of this game is the Mod scene. You can allocate a decent amount of space to hundreds of various vehicles, vehicle parts, and location mods. One word of warning though, most of these feature max stat vehicles that destroy the progression system, so I’d only use them if that somehow sounds like fun? (it’s not) There is one mod though that was critical for me and that is the one that gives you a frame add-on that makes carrying medium and long logs far easier than it is in the default game.
Zen Zounds in the Great Zoutdoors
There is no talking or voice acting of any sort in the game. Instead, every single sound is either your engine, your tires, and creaking trees as your winch pulls them down. It’s just you, nature, and up to 3 of your friends in the co-op mode. Everything is conveyed solely through text, and this makes it one of the best podcast games of all time. Put on an episode of the Xbox Era Podcast or You Had Me At Halo and spend a solid 3 hours trying your damndest to deliver a pallet of steel beams a mile from your starting point.
I haven’t had a single major bug since I started playing, which is refreshing after how many broken games have released in the past 8 months. The Mod browser can be a bit finicky at times, and the co-op system required me to restart my Xbox once before it would work, other than that though it’s been smooth sailing. The game has multiple save slots and works entirely on an auto-save system.
This game is so damned relaxing, but it is not going to be for everyone. It is never fast, and any attempts at doing things quickly will almost certainly end in disaster. If you’re looking for something that can last you hundreds of hours as you slowly and sometimes surely search through the wilderness and deliver much needed supplies then this is a Game Pass game that should be right up your alley.