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Feb 29, 2024

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game Review

Lights Off
4 Awesome
Retails for: $39.99
We Recommend: $31.99
  • Developer: Saber Interactive
  • Publisher: Focus Entertainment
  • Genre: Adventure, Racing, Simulation
  • Released: Mar 05, 2024
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Switch
  • Reviewed: Windows

Before embarking on an expedition, there was a tip in my briefing that I should “bring spare parts”, and so I did. I wasn’t fully sure as to why, but halfway through my traversal of a muddy riverbed, the water was too deep to pass. It was here I noticed a spot was accepting a delivery. I was sure that it was looking for something I didn’t have, but it wanted spare parts. Once I surrendered the parts, it built a bridge cross the gap that would have otherwise been impassable. It was such a pleasant surprise to have the game make things slightly easier for me. Expeditions: A MudRunner Game manages to both be a continuation of the off-road simulation series that builds upon prior games, and a complete introduction that’s a fantastic third entry from Saber Interactive.

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Expeditions: A MudRunner Game takes a different approach to the series than before. Like with MudRunner and SnowRunner , you’re not just a contractor performing various services for profit. Instead, the game’s focus is about embarking on various scientific journeys. Most of the time this involves putting up some cash upfront to finance a portion of them, but the payout will vastly outweigh its costs, so long as you’re successful. The developers estimate that completing the game will take over 100 hours. And this lines up with prior games where SnowRunner could easily take 90-100 hours to complete. Expeditions: A MudRunner Game successfully blends science and off-road, putting the “Doctor” in Dr. Indiana Jones, and the “Large” in Large Marge.

The main missions exist in the menu of each location you want to take work in, which involve taking on contracts for governments and private companies. You’ll be tasked with exploring uncharted lands, finding lost or destroyed equipment, and taking geological surveys. Side missions occur within an area, usually designated by a dotted outline you interact with. A short summary will befall you, and it’ll be up to you whether you take it on. These would include rescuing a nearly destroyed vehicle in a rollover trying to do a climb, or a submerged vehicle. Most of them are rescues, but there are outliers that are best left to be a surprise. All-in-all, the game will let you focus on the predictable while being sidetracked by the unpredictable, with ease.

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While the missions themselves are rather straightforward, and since each mission has its own difficulty, continuing through the vast campaign will see things getting harder. You’ll go from simple survey requests across short distances to traversing multiple maps to reach your objective. The game is rather linear, where you’ll often come up against gated progress. Meaning, some missions will require some other mission to be completed before you have access to it. It also takes several missions to unlock the free roam for its respective map. It’s a bit annoying this way, but something I got used to.

If you’ve played one of these before, you’ll understand the game’s vehicle classes. They’re a bit simplified here, with: heavy truck, off road, light scout, and heavy scout vehicles to choose from. Each type has their purpose and specialty, and choosing incorrectly can either make things more difficult than they need to be, or next to impossible. Once you’re on the map, you have to read the terrain and be flexible and agile to traverse it. There’s an knowledge you gather, so knowing when and how to engage four-wheel drive, or utilizing the new feature of adjusting tire pressure so you can navigate a rocky area becomes second nature.

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To hoist yourself up a steep grade or pull you from some deep mud, is your trusty winch. But Expeditions: A MudRunner Game has some new tools at your disposal. There’s now a drone you can deploy to find secrets, help plan a route, or otherwise have a free camera to explore any area you desire. Probably my least used, but still new tool, are the binoculars. Similar to the drone, the binoculars let you seek to uncover secret areas or identify question marks in the area. The drone has limited range, so the binoculars close that gap.

Like prior games, you don’t ever exit your vehicle. To accommodate the new kind of missions, you’ll need some new equipment to accomplish the task. They aren’t all-purpose items, and generally correspond to the task at-hand. But you’ll equip a metal detector to find resources, and echo sounder to survey for plate activity, and even a tool that measures water depth. The latter has a more practical application, because this helps you determine a path (if any) to navigate a river to get from one side to another. Expeditions: A MudRunner Game gives you many tools and equipment, but to use them effectively is up to you.

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Benjamin Franklin said “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. In that, it’s best that you bring extra equipment with you before embarking on an expedition. You’ll want to extensively look at the map, and plan your route accordingly. This could mean making a stop at a support structure you build on-the-spot or had done previously so that you can refuel for the rest of the job. A cliched saying, but in Expeditions: A MudRunner Game , you’ve got to spend money to make money. There will be specialists for hire, they will help you through a given mission. Some missions require one, and will guide you to selecting the right one. It’s another up-front cost aside from the mission itself, but offers a benefit that can’t be ignored.

One thing I found interesting, is that the controls are totally different this time around. So unlike MudRunner and SnowRunner , any muscle memory you had will have to be thrown out the window. This is a bit jarring, but I’m having a hard time determining if I like the new controls better, or not. I definitely got used to them, but bouncing between this and SnowRunner introduced the most challenging aspect of it all.

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The base game features three locations: Arizona and Carpathians as the main two areas. There’s a tutorial zone called Little Colorado (basically Arizona) that teaches you the basics. With a season pass already in place, it’s clear that new locations will come in future DLCs. But with the amount of content currently available, this is a lot of game, and both locations are diverse both in gameplay and visuals. While you’ll spend a lot of time here, only having two locations feels okay.

Sadly there’s no co-op mode to play on day one. The developers have promised that this will be added for free post-launch. Whatever the reason, this is a big miss not to have it ready at launch. This means that I can’t tool around and complete missions with a friend online. For some, this will be a deal breaker until implemented.

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I was able to crank all setting to their maximum (Ultra setting) with MSAA 2x and FidelityFX providing Sharpening to get great results. My frames per second ranged from 130 to 180fps, averaging around 166fps. The game is absolutely gorgeous, and extremely detailed. There were some instances where textures would take a while to load-in, or not at all. But these occurrences were rare. With a full day and night cycle, this game is stunning to look at. The physics side of things don’t hold up as well as you’d hope. While it’s great to see the dirt, mud, and splashing of water, mud and water operate at a slower framerate and just seems off upon a close inspection. Being a game that doesn’t have speedy vehicles, you’ll be at a near standstill for this to always be noticeable. But otherwise this is a very performant and beautiful game to observe.

To note, there’s no FSR or DLSS, so supersampling isn’t available with this. I also didn’t see any NVIDIA Frame Generation or Reflex options, either.

My PC Specs:

– Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
– Intel Core i9 13900K @ 5.8GHz
– ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 4080 16GB GDDR6X
– WD_BLACK SN850X M.2 (4 TB)
– LG UltraGear 34GP950B-G (21:9 Ultrawide @ 3440×1440)

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Expeditions: A MudRunner Game isn’t a game that has mass appeal, it’s niche in design and executes on that well. The off-roading and simulation systems are second-to-none, and the lack of co-op at launch will disappoint many. The positioning of this entry being more science-focused keeps things fresh for the series that could have gotten stale or too familiar otherwise. Expeditions: A MudRunner Game is sure to challenge you, but rewards patience, and offers an adventure like no other.

A Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes