SnowRunner (Switch) Review
Sometimes it’s not enough to just play a driving game. Sometimes it should be a truck, maybe a four-wheel drive, or why not a big rig? Spintires and MudRunner brought the world muddy offroad trucking simulation. Not content with just being a Mud Runner. It’s now time to take on snow in SnowRunner. Having managed to get my car bogged once, it was an embarrassing and expensive exercise. I avoid parking on wet grass as I am bombarded with flashbacks. Will SnowRunner help me overcome my fears? Will I overcome the muck and the mire?
If you’ve played Mud Runner, then you’ll already be familiar with this game. You will still be braving through mud, although now snow and icy conditions add another obstacle to navigate while delivering your precious cargo. After thinking I had some idea of handling the mushy mud roads, I made the rookie mistake of deciding to cut a very small corner by cutting across a snow patch. BAM! I got myself bogged in a minor patch of snow. Instead of saving myself some time, it was a minute trying to move only a few metres. You build up an abundance of caution as you’re constantly aware the road ahead can quickly bog you down. This is mixed with moments of impatience. When you think you can handle that insignificant-looking puddle or the aforementioned cutting a corner, you could undo many minutes of work if you get too stuck.
Then there’s the fact you’re driving big cumbersome vehicles, vehicles that also have big cumbersome tankers or trailers amongst other equipment hitched to the back of your truck. Every contract is an adventure – making sure you have the right truck/s available, suitable upgrades, and having enough knowledge of the map to know which roads are suitable for your vehicle and cargo. All the while ensuring you have enough petrol to make the trip. Trucks are real gas guzzlers, and when you need all-wheel mode on, you burn through fuel even faster.
A game I think about while playing SnowRunners is the Euro Truck Simulator series – driving large trucks across European countries to deliver various cargo. Only in SnowRunner, you won’t be seeing any nice asphalt roads to help your truck on its way; proper roads are a luxury. The Euro Truck series has a relaxing vibe to it when you’re just focusing on staying on the road and taking in the trip. SnowRunner can have a similar feel, mindlessly working from point A to point B, just enjoying the adventure as you slowly make your way through a deep patch of mud.
For the initial part of the tutorial, you don’t even begin in the snow, just plain old dirt and mud. Having not played MudRunner, I found out just how treacherous that brown sludge can be. Nevertheless, the tutorial gives you just enough information to set up your illustrious career as a truck driver in very rough and frustrating terrain. Be aware, though, when jumping into this series, it can feel a little overwhelming once you’re past the initial section. But, having gone through that feeling myself, I can confidently say you do learn it, and you can always find help online with getting a nudge in the right direction.
Once you’re out there in your truck, you can pick up contracts to deliver cargo across the map. There are time-based deliveries or stumbling across obstacles to overcome. There are also observation posts around the map to explore. They reveal more of the map and tasks you can complete. You don’t always have to be running jobs through contracts; you’re also encouraged to explore, reveal more of the map and find upgrades to help make your job a bit easier. It also happens to be a much cheaper way to obtain new vehicles for your garage if you feel your cash flow isn’t befitting your truck handling skills.
A few issues made the game hard to get traction, the first being the tutorial. For me, it all clicked into place on the second attempt. Why a second attempt at the tutorial, you might ask? The first time I got up to one of the objectives, and nothing happened. I was right on the spot, I had done everything I was meant to, but there was nothing. So I restarted the game and blitzed through, and this time it worked. It turns out I had it right the first time. Moving onto the next area, while the world was opening up, I was suddenly stopped from doing anything on that map. I had to change areas completely. Players familiar with the original game might know what’s going on, but I found it a challenge as a newcomer.
Once you’ve gotten to the first garage and moved onto the next map, the game reveals there’s a lot more, and you’re going to have to read through the codex to work it all out. This brings us to the next issue; the font is way too small. It is tough to read on the handheld screen and still isn’t the best when blown up on the TV. It’s further compounded by there being so much text. You’re given all kinds of information and numbers in the smallest font. This could be solved by providing an option to increase the font size. It might not be possible, who knows, but it’s too small now.
Now let’s look at “How does it run on the Switch?” Performance-wise it runs fine enough, although the visuals definitely take a hit. The great outdoors seems a little more rugged than on the other platforms; texture detail isn’t the best if you want the most detailed looking scenery. Speaking of scenery, it can pop in out of nowhere; it’s mostly harmless, but it’s noticeable. I found myself focusing way more on keeping an eye on the roads and how deep I was bogging my truck down to worry about graphical fidelity besides the tiny font.
With the Switch’s lack of analogue triggers, there’s no accurate control over the amount of acceleration. Another control scheme lets you better control how hard you’re hitting the accelerator through the left stick. It takes some getting used to, but it felt like I had better control when slow and steady is vital. I had no real issues with playing it on the Switch (font aside), and being able to have it on the go means you can squeeze in a few minutes of tackling contracts.
While there’s plenty to do, if you find yourself wanting more, there are also season passes. Currently, four are available, with more in store. You’ll find new maps and vehicles added, amongst other additions. Switch players get the benefits of the free additions straight away, although you’ll need to fork out some serious cash to get everything the game has to offer. Given that the original game came out a year ago, it’s a shame the season passes until this point isn’t included as some definitive edition. As unfortunate as it is, the base game still has enough to keep you trucking. If you’re tired of wandering through the woods alone, you can always have a Co-Op game and invite or join friends or even share the vast area with a stranger. You can have four players at once, and everything can be completed cooperatively if you want to make a convoy. I didn’t spend much time in this mode, given I don’t have a SnowRunner group, but it worked when I joined a stranger hosted game. It’s something I could see the appeal of with a group.
SnowRunner will appeal to fans of truck simulators and running cargo. It is a series that has found a niche as an all-terrain simulator and serves it well. Hauling cargo through the snow-covered wilderness requires patience and will cause frustration, but it’s all part of the experience and makes a successful run all the sweeter. Unfortunately, some issues are keeping it from being great. Still, SnowRunner is a solid experience on the Switch, especially when the last year has kept many of us from being outside, tearing up the landscape in massive vehicles.
+ Off-road driving around the maps is relaxing and frustrating at the same time
+ Plenty to do
+ Runs well on the Switch
- UI Font is way too small
- No past season content bundled in for a year old game