Review: Snowrunner

If you like driving places really, really slowly, then this game is for you. Either at this point, that sentence will have turned you off or piqued your interest. If I have your interest, then Snowrunner is worth checking out.

The story goes that, well, you have to deliver stuff. There’s not really a backstory in fact, just that you drive big heavy-duty trucks and there’s loads of stuff that needs deliveries of things like bricks, wood panels, metal rods, concrete slabs. That’s the goal of Snowrunner. 

The catch? Well, the environmental conditions are bad. Like, really bad. Snow (as you’d expect from the title, although it may be many, many hours before you choose to mess with it), mud, really wet deep mud, gravel, rocks, ice, streams and muddy banks – basically anything other than the proper road. The proper road is here too, but don’t get used to it. The challenge is that with all of these various conditions, you need to make the deliveries. You can do it in any order you want pretty much, whether it’s the main contract missions (consisting of more component parts or one-off in world tasks).

That’s the sandbox, and once this is explained to you, you’re on your own. You have a few fairly modest vehicles to get you going, but they’ll get stuck very quickly in more treacherous conditions, so you’ll need to pick off some small quests to get some cash. Another catch – a lot of roads you will need to go on are blocked by various things, and will need deliveries of their own to resolve. At this point, Snowrunner becomes a puzzle game.

Let me give you an example. Your first truck is a fairly standard one with a built-in trailer. Excuse the technical terms, I am not a truck expert. To do the first mission you need to get some concrete blocks to a farm, however, the road to the factory to get the blocks is so muddy you just get beached continually. To resolve this, you take a smaller truck to scout out some other trucks that are stuck and pull them out using your winch, and they join your fleet. You’ll then use the new truck to get past the mud, get the blocks, unlock the route for your other truck to utilise.

You can have many vehicles in your fleet but you can only drive them one at a time. Similarly, each vehicle has a different type of terrain that it is suited for, and can pull certain types of trailer. Each trailer holds certain types and amounts of various materials (flatbeds can’t hold fuel, for example) so you’ll need to piece together the right stuff for the right job. Oh, and small vehicles can’t pull really heavy loads through deep mud or snow. 

As your mind starts to whir at this, the complexity of Snowrunner sets in. There are upgrades dotted around, and watchtowers to unlock to reveal the map and spot these various goodies. Routes need careful planning and a waypoint system is helpful, and once you’ve got all this down you have the actual technicality of the driving to worry about. And you should, as it’s really hard.

Roads quickly turn into mud paths, with varying levels of depth, incline and camber. Waterlogged parts are made worse by your trucks ripping through it, and it’s very easy to sink. You have some tools at your disposal – AWD (all-wheel drive) and differential lock can be turned on, with lower gears if available to help navigate this and rock yourself out. Sometimes you will just get completely stuck, and a handy winch (to which you can manually select a place to lock onto to pull yourself out, or helpfully just point the camera and hit triangle) to drag yourself out. It won’t always work, depending on how stuck you are, how heavy your vehicle is and if you have a trailer. Oh, the trailers – however stuck you get you can always recover your vehicle back to your garage. But you can’t recover the trailer. I’ve got a load of metal planks stuck down a thin route buried in very deep mud. One day I’ll be able to get them back…

Upgrades can be found across the map and then applied (or purchased) for your vehicles, giving more power, higher suspensions etc. which further your capability for navigating the terrain. And just when you think you have it all figured out, you discover that the maps link together. For instance, the initial Michigan map is massive. There’s loads to do and since it’s a slow game, it’ll take you a while. But there’s a tunnel and this tunnel opens another entire Michigan map. And there are more! Then there are another two entirely different areas with completely different terrain, including the entitled snow. 

It’s a game you can really lose yourself in. The music is kind of country-rock plinky-plonk which sort of fits but I turned that off quite quickly and accompanied my driving with my own music or podcasts. This is the perfect game for that. I’d recommended – a fan radio station which spawned through the Euro Truck Simulator series, and developing a fan base along with a very professional website. 

Sadly, there is a major roadblock and it’s a technical real-world one. The crashes. The game crashes far more than it should. There is saving at checkpoints which seem to be certain places on the map, but given the length of journeys and planning involved, it is possible to lose very large amounts of real-world time due to PlayStation blue screen crashes. I’m playing on a Pro and I know similar Pro users have had the same problem. This is a big shame, and one that surely will (hopefully) be addressed in a patch but for now I’m hesitant to get too much more into Snowrunner as having to redo particularly challenging sections is soul-destroying. 

It feels unfair to score it down because of this, and given the niche appeal of the game which is trying its hardest to be as accessible as possible to the wider demographic, it is worth checking out, but fixing this problem along with a little more clarity on some of the objectives (like metal planks not fitting in a small trailer – obvious when you think about it but boy was I mad) would be helpful. 

Reviewed on PS4

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