Some people took up gardening in the first months of the pandemic. Others learned to cook, built Lego sets, or got buff. My pandemic fixation was SnowRunner, the sequel to off-road trucking sim MudRunners that's essentially Death Stranding with killer mud deformation tech. It's a challenging, gorgeous, and surprisingly tranquil driving game that we wholeheartedly recommend, but my eyes are now firmly fixed on the next entry announced yesterday at Geoff Keighley's Opening Night Live stream—Expeditions: A MudRunner Game.
Were this just another off-road delivery sim I'd only be a little excited, but Expeditions appears to leave the log-hauling behind to focus on what I considered the best aspect of SnowRunner: scouting. The Expeditions announcement trailer and Steam page suggest smaller vehicles will take center stage in missions revolving around surveying and exploration.
Sounds perfect. SnowRunner featured literally dozens of big-rig monstrosities that plowed through snow and mud like melted butter, but my favorite vehicles were the smaller trucks that had to treat every bog like it could be its last. In SnowRunner, scout vehicles were used to reveal more of the map and make fuel runs for larger trucks. They weren't the most important vehicles to have around, but they were the most fun, and I'm glad Saber Interactive is realizing that too.
The trailer shows us a few examples of Expedition's new emphasis with truck-mounted metal detectors, deployable drones, and sonar for testing the depth of water bodies (a mission type returning from MudRunner). But I expect the meat of Expeditions to be getting from A to B, not so much what you do once you're there. To that end, I'm especially interested in Expedition's new winch tech. The trailer shows a truck ascending a steep cliff with a winch anchored into the rock face, a trick that would've saved me a lot of headaches in SnowRunner. I suspect this is Saber expanding and formalizing a strategy from past games that became a crutch in a tight spot—using nearby trees as anchors to winch your truck out of mud pits Spider-Man style or flip them back topside.
The fact that winches could previously only latch onto trees meant that sparser areas were considerably harder to navigate, and the tree-pendency also meant that every map sorta looked the same. Rock anchoring should really change the game.
The Steam page description also has me wondering if Expeditions will level gate truck upgrades differently. You'll apparently be managing a camp by "building research structures and hiring experts to unlock new skills and possibilities during your expeditions." Sounds more involved than SnowRunner's linear part progression that took place entirely in the garage menu.
It's not listed on the Steam page, but I'm optimistic one key Mud/SnowRunner feature will also make a return: multiplayer. The entirety of those games are playable with up to four people, and an extra set of tires can really come in handy to finish deliveries faster or bail you out of a nasty wreck.
Expeditions is due out sometime in 2024.