Expeditions: A Mudrunner Game Reaches for Broad Horizons, For Better or Worse: Review

New players are guided through an expansive world, but it might be a little too restrictive for long-time fans

After SnowRunner launched in 2020, the series continues with this new and wide-reaching off-road game.

Developers at Saber Interactive have a new entry out this week for folks interested in a different kind of driving game. You won’t be blazing around your favorite circuit at Mach 10 in your hypercar of choice, perfectly hitting those apexes and memorizing braking points to get the best possible lap times. Expeditions: A MudRunner Game is a completely different beast — one whose impressively realistic physics simulation will test your technical off-road skills to the limit. And even better, this game improves a lot of SnowRunner’s annoying (or completely missing) mechanics in a way that make it much more approachable to your average, non-hypernerd player.

While you start the last game out in a flooded-out Michigan with a premise to help rebuild the area and expand out to other regions from there, Expeditions‘ pitch rings clear in the title: Get out there and explore — sort of. (I’ll elaborate on that last part below.)

To that end, the game walks you through the new features in the southwestern region of “Little Colorado” (much like the original Forza Horizon, I appreciate the nod to Colorado there, Saber). This time around, the story is that you’re sponsored on various expeditions in the wilds of the southwestern U.S. or the Carpathians in Europe, and you build resources by tackling longer tasks as the game goes on.

Expeditions starts out with a new range of small 4×4 scouting rigs, heavy-duty trucks and a garage, just like the previous games. What you quickly realize running through the initial area, though, is that the game brings the element of base management into the process that evolves it beyond your straightforward “pick up these items and take them to this spot on the map” gameplay. It has advanced in the same way other modern racing games have: Selecting your contracts, loading out up to four trucks for the task, including their inventory and sideboards with spare fuel, parts and other equipment to help you out in the bush, actually placing structures conducive to the missions at hand, then getting out into the muck.

If it sounds like there’s a fair amount of setup, there is. Whether that’s a good thing depends on what sort of gaming you like: You either get more tools in your toolbox to creatively handle each mission, or it’s a tedious step getting between you and the exploring you actually want to do. To my mind, the inventory and store features add breadth to the game, but aren’t written with too much depth. You get a “Codex” button to describe the different features and items and what everything does. Does it make a difference? Not really, since some items were more trouble to set up than they’re worth (again, unless you’re really into managing every minute detail of a trip).

Expeditions does bring some really cool new features

But what about getting out in the dirt, the mud and crawling over enormous boulders? That’s what this game’s largely about, right?

Ostensibly, yes, but you don’t get there until the tutorial runs you through some new features that you didn’t have in SnowRunner. Even though the game lurches to a standstill, popping up a new window to explain how you use the winch, the drone and the echo sounder, all the devices do make exploring more of a satisfying process. What’s more, the winch is way easier to use than it was in the previous game, as is getting to most of the controls. If you play on a keyboard and mouse like I do (don’t judge me), you’re a short keybind away from most of the stuff you’ll need to use.

The Echo Sounder is a particularly nice touch, as it displays the depth of any water crossing so you can tell if you’re going to go in too deep and stall your truck before you’re in the thick of it. Too many times in SnowRunner did I attempt a water ford and only find out I was in over my head when it was too late…and having to recover from a garage, starting back at square one. Ugh.

Another great addition is the ability to air down, as you’d actually do when going off-road. Again, a quick tap of the ‘T’ key (or a controller button press, as this game is fully compatible with various controllers), and you can air down or back up again with ease. Expeditions also adds ground anchors that you can deploy when there’s no sturdy tree handy to get you out of a tough spot, and you even get jack-screws to recover your vehicle if you flip over on its side, if you bring them in your inventory. Some missions will require you do, and that’s so much better than having to recover at your garage. You can still do that if you want to, though I didn’t find myself doing it nearly as often.

The driving is great, but the world doesn’t feel quite as open as it looks

All the tools at your disposal definitely place Expeditions a cut above past games I’ve played when it comes to driving. The huge open-world does lend to hours upon hours of exploration, to the point where you do need to put some thought into what you should bring on your excursion and exactly how far you want to push it.

That feels great…at first. When I went over to the Arizona region, one of the first missions you’ll encounter is “Conquest of the Frontier”. The goal is simple: Go out to a spot a little way away from your basecamp, grab an equipment box and bring it back. Along the way, the game will prompt you to use your drone to scout the area, you may need to use your winch and some area and you’ll have to physically explore. Excellent! That is, until the game determines that “exploration” only counts if you paint a certain, pre-defined area between you and your objective with the truck or your drone, so you just drive around in circles until you fill the objective up to 100%. Then you go and grab the box to return to camp.

And that’s one of the things about Expeditions that breaks immersion. The trucks are cool, the modifications you can do are cool, and the driving itself is fun. But you have to go into the overworld menu to tackle your loadout and deploy your mission, then you embark on your expedition, which typically involves to go a place, play a mini-game like taking photos or using your drone to scan an area, or grabbing something. You can take the opportunity to explore outside the mission goals during your expedition, but you wind up constantly dropping in and out of the game world to take on new tasks, as opposed to SnowRunner where you picked up most of your missions in the game world itself.

So, is Expeditions: A MudRunner Game worth your money and time?

Here’s the thing: Even with some gripes, there’s still plenty of opportunity to enjoy yourself in Expeditions. As far as the management pieces go, there’s some potential when co-op functionality comes into play (it was not active when media received early access codes). That would allow you to divide up some of the work, and actually work together toward the big goal. That sounds hugely satisfying.

As it was, the core of what makes the other MudRunner/Spintires games fun. It still feels like an accomplishment to make it past a craggy obstacle or through a wide, deep river crossing, and there’s still a sense of achievement to complete the admittedly repetitive missions to open up bigger and better opportunities.

It’s not a game that straight-up replaces SnowRunner, but I’d consider this entry far more approachable for a wider range of gamers. And I suspect that may have been one of the goals here. At any rate, it’s not asking a AAA-game-like price for the base game, either. While the “Supreme Edition” will cost you a cool $70 on PC, if you just want to check out the standard edition, you’ll only need to spend $40 on whichever platform you have.

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game is available on PC via Steam, or on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4 or Nintendo Switch through their online stores or major retailers.