Available on: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Developer: Saber Interactive
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Official Site: SnowRunner
Release Date: April 28, 2020
In a time when everyone is staying home, SnowRunner is a much needed and relaxing game. It’s the type of simulation that players can devote hours of their time in and still have so much more to do. It’s slow yet methodical, tedious yet difficult, and anything but dull or boring.
While it’s a simulation driving game through and through it also doubles as a puzzle adventure. The world is vast and there’s always something to do around each corner or over each snowbank. However, there a few glitches that make it just ever so bothersome and the camera, as with previous titles, is a pain to control. Altogether though, traversing the world is an epic journey that reminds me of shows like The Grand Tour or when Top Gear was at its best.
SnowRunner starts out slow and steady like the humble tortoise but eventually it kicks up the pace and like the hare and everything just sort of clicks. That isn’t too say that the quick and nimble rabbit is better than the teenage ninja turtle, or in this case the elder turtle, because the vehicles are old and each have their own unique perks and functions.
Tasks involve bringing cargo from one area of the map to another, finding hidden vehicles, and hauling stuck vehicles to their owners. Along the way there are numerous other challenges that require critical thinking and problem-solving. You could be transporting logs from the local farm to repair an unfinished bridge and discover the road ahead is blocked by a rockslide that your heavy vehicle can’t bypass. However, if you head out in a smaller lightweight scout truck, the zippy car can easily make its way through the difficult terrain so you can see what’s ahead.
You’ll also spend time figuring out new paths to take and learn that sometimes the best trail is one off the beaten path. While a road on the map may appear paved, it more often times may be full of mud or deep snow. Knowing what vehicle to bring is all about scouting out an area beforehand or you may end up leaving one behind or starting over at the garage.
SnowRunner is much more than a driving game. It requires patience, perseverance, and thought. The challenges are tough and time consuming, and each open world map is massive. From the muddy forests of Michigan, the arctic landscape of Alaska, and the foreign soil of Russia, SnowRunner offers continuous hours of gameplay with its intelligent vehicle mechanics and stunning views.
Completing challenges will reward you with cash which can be used to purchase new vehicles or upgrades.
Trucking About in SnowRunner
With more than 40 trucks to choose from, each handles differently and you can feel each bump as you drive along. Scout trucks, such as the Scout 800, are fast and can get around most any terrain without much difficulty but they aren’t able to tow trailers or large vehicles. Heavy trucks like the Fleetstar F2070A lumber about and take their time moving over snow and mud. They include multiple axles that crawl over rocks, trees, and debris but they lack the necessary power to pull themselves out of deep snow or wet mud. And if they aren’t good enough for you, there are highway trucks built for travel and CAT machines that can handle just about any load.
Driving is more about understanding the terrain and the vehicle than it is about speed and power. Although, both have their uses, for instance, if the road shifts from concrete to mud, powering through may get you far but eventually you’ll bottom out. When that happens, it’s time to bust out the vehicle’s trusty winch.
Each truck is equipped with a winch to get them out of sticky situations. By using the landscape around you, the tool can latch onto trees, bushes, poles, or other vehicles to pull the truck free. It’s your best friend in any situation and will be used more times than you can count because getting stuck is something you’ll encounter often. Either that or the vehicle will tumble axle over the engine and you’re up a creek without a paddle. That and your vehicle can only sustain a limited amount of damage before it becomes useless and requires repairs in the shop. Unless you upgrade the truck with a new winch or more powerful engine.
You will also have to monitor fuel consumption, tire and engine damage, and water levels. Running out of fuel can happen quickly and when it does you will either have to refuel at the garage or send another truck to top off your tank. While water levels can ruin your engine and leave your truck stranded on the side of the road. But the best part about this is you can easily choose to recover any truck that you own and start fresh at the garage.
Steering can be done from a third-person view or first-person and depending on which one you choose makes all the difference in driving. The over the shoulder camera position takes some getting used to. The camera flies about like a drone in a violent windstorm, but after a few minutes controlling the truck, it can be tamed. That is until you run into a rock or the camera hovers just above the tree line and spins around madly.
Controlling trucks in this position is also a bit difficult and requires some patience. A simple flick of the control stick is all it takes to turn the steering wheel a bit, while holding it down sends the truck into a frenzied turn. It feels like steering a cruise liner or boat on the ocean and it feels good. If a truck looks like it weighs a lot it will act like it weighs a lot.
Opting for the steering wheel camera provides you with more precise control as you can see the way the steering wheel reacts. It’s a bit dizzying for anyone with motion sickness as well.
There are a few issues when it comes to completing quests and loading trucks. After a few hours I discovered one of the first vehicles I came across vanished and I could no longer find it anywhere. Another issue comes when attempting to turn in challenges. You have to accept and activate the quest from the start zone before you head to the finish. For instance, you can’t just tow a truck back to a location without first accepting the mission. Though sometimes the screen would show I accepted it, I would have to spend hours going back to the original site and start all over again.
I also encountered glitches where my truck would winch itself into another without any damage done to my vehicle. I could drive out again but it really pulled me out of the immersion.
Upgrades and Looks In SnowRunner
If you find yourself getting stuck often or not able to traverse a mountain or snowy region, then you can always cue the music and upgrade your truck at the local garage. Enhancements include more powerful engines, gearboxes, new tires, aesthetic features, winches, and snorkels. Though the menu is a bit finnicky and the text can be difficult to read, it’s simple to find new upgrades so you can get back to adventuring.
Verdict: SnowRunner is comforting, relaxing, difficult, and an absolute joy to play. It offers countless hours of gameplay and several trucks and challenges that you can replay any map over and over again and still feel like a new challenge. It’s many glitches and camera faults don’t take away from the fact that Focus Home Interactive and Saber Interactive know what they’re doing when it comes to designing an immersive simulator.
- Immersive and realistic
- Stunning to look at
- Hours of content
- Camera is a pain