As the sun rises, welcoming dawn, you know you’ve got a long, dirty day ahead of you. Your task; collect and deliver logs to the lumber mill. However this isn’t any ordinary goods delivery job. This is a Spintires: Mudrunner delivery job where you’ll be faced with difficult terrain and have your patients tested as you slowly crawl through bogs and the thinnest bridges to ensure you, your truck, and your clients merchandise get there in one piece.
Having only heard of the new Mudrunner version of Spintires, I was interested in seeing what all the fuss was about. As someone who enjoys the serene gameplay of sims like Farming Simulator or American Truck Sim I was intrigued how it would adapt to terrain that’s not exactly… ideal. What I was met with was a calming, yet challenging game of exploration unlike no sim I’ve ever experienced. Rather than avoiding awkward turns I saw them as a trial of skill.
Spintires: Mudrunner took the often mundane appearance of the “day job sim” and completely turned it on its head. Sure, you’re still tasked with fetch quests; collect this, deliver this, but it added a sense of risk. You’re required to chart your own journey based on the very vague map. Is that clearing suitable for driving, or is it a bog that’ll find me and my cargo literally stuck in the mud? Is that gap in the treeline in the distance an adequate shortcut? You don’t know until you inevitably come face to face with these challenges, and it’s an incredibly thrilling experience.
Visually, Spintires: Mudrunner does present a pretty monotonous colour palette, there are dark green and brown shades for days, so don’t expect to be wowed by the overall appearance of the game. However, the way the game reacts to your vehicle is something to celebrate. Water splashes and ripples, dirt caught on tires that spin out of control flies off into the distance, and mud parts as your ten ton truck comes barging through. It’s the little things which make the game stand out, and considering you’ll often find yourself moving at a snail’s pace it’s nice that the game offers this level of detail.
That being said, it’s not all fun and games in Spintires: Mudrunner as there are a few things which make the experience slightly awkward. First, in cockpit view, the side mirrors are just cosmetic and are practically useless. This means that in order to see whether you’re taking the corner well enough, you have to come out of cockpit view and navigate around the truck. This does unfortunately break the simulation experience somewhat.
Another tricky area is the chase cam view. Outside of the vehicle, you’re free to move around it at all angles, however this is pretty awkward to do both on keyboard and mouse and controllers. It’s just not a smooth nor pleasurable experience. There are no static camera options either, so you either settle on a particular viewing angle or jump into the cockpit. However as mentioned, you’ll be right back to the other view if you need to make sure you’re clearing a gap well enough.
While these may seem like glaring issues that may completely turn you away from Spintires: Mudrunner, I’d hold right there. While they’re awkward to get used to, you can in fact, get used to them. For the most part the gameplay is largely interrupted as you traverse the game’s open world, and it’s still thoroughly enjoyable despite the finicky camera controls.
In the game you’ll often come across several different vehicles that you can “unlock” by simply driving near them. Some are appropriate for the task at hand, others I’ve found aren’t as much. But the game doesn’t care that you decided to spend 30 minutes driving your truck recklessly around a marsh, and this is what I think makes Mudrunner great. You’re not penalised for taking too long, you’re free to do whatever you want for as long as you want to do it for. You can experiment in the game, and that’s where most of the joy comes from.
With a total of 19 different all-terrain vehicles with an array of equipment which can be used, you have plenty to choose from. While there are vehicles more suited to transporting than loading, it takes some experimenting, especially if – like me – you’re not too sure what truck to use.
In terms of gameplay, Spintires: Mudrunner is relatively simple to pick up, especially after you check out the tutorial. For the most part, the game utilises simple driving controls, that is unless you’d rather try and fiddle about with gears – though most vehicles are semi-automatic. The only other controls involve navigating through little menus choosing equipment, loading cargo, and applying parking brakes, switching to all-wheel-drive, and messing with the differential. Though the most important control, especially in the single player mode, is the winch.
Often you’ll find yourself stuck, so in order to give you a little helping hand, you can hook up the winch to a nearby tree. This gives you a little extra pulling power to get your vehicle out from a sticky situation. It can also be used to help pull other vehicles out, especially useful if you’re surrounded by inadequate saplings. This is also useful for the game’s co-op multiplayer mode, which admittedly I haven’t had a lot of experience with.
Much like the co-op in games like Farming Simulator, players work together on challenges setting up convoys of equipment in order to deliver cargo. It’s definitely a neat little feature, and the ability to quid mid-game and jump right back in where you left off is also a plus.
Overall Spintires: Mudrunner was a surprise on every level. What I expected would be another day job sim became a challenging yet somewhat cathartic game where the world is your oyster.