Expeditions: A MudRunner Game review: Caution, steep climb ahead

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game tries to build upon the challenging physics-based off-road action of previous MudRunner titles by adding open world elements and a sense of discovery.


If you think that driving vehicles on paved roads, cambered circuits, or even dirt tracks is not challenging enough, then you're probably familiar with Saber Interactive's MudRunner titles. The latest product coming from the team behind the SnowRunner game is called Expeditions: A MudRunner Game and lets you tackle an open world filled with missions and secrets to discover. You will do all this from the undoubtably extremely uncomfortable confines of a variety of off-road vehicles, heavily customized for the harsh environments. The challenges ahead are significant, the views are beautiful, and the rage when getting stuck is real. Let us take a closer look at Expeditions and what it has to offer.

Get out into the wild

A truck is parked in a field with rocks and flowers.

Source: Focus Entertainment

In Expeditions, Saber Interactive wants to not only get you back into the challenge of driving vehicles where they are not meant to be driven, but also offers up a much broader open-world experience for the first time. You are tasked with conducting research missions for a variety of contractors, building and expanding bases, and discovering any number of secrets and treasures. At launch, Expeditions will feature three regions including a tutorial region. Featuring the biomes of Arizona and The Carpathians, a mountain range in Europe, the environments are beautifully rendered and detailed, down to every last rock. Every last frustratingly placed obstacle of a rock. Both regions are very different from each other, offering a variety of challenges, from climbing dusty rockslides and sludging through deep mud to the steep slopes and tree-filled mountain sides. 

Expeditions features nearly 200 missions, nearly half of them being main storyline contracts and the rest side missions upon which you can stumble on your travels. You also no longer simply get in a vehicle and head out to retrieve salvage. Instead, you are able to upgrade your various base camps with repair stations, garages, storage depots, and research stations. A variety of specialists can be hired and brought onto expeditions which will supply modifiers to your experience. This ranges from increased discovery with drones to having an easier time climbing hills. Throughout each expedition, you collect resources and earn cash. These are the items needed to upgrade your bases, or, more importantly, buy new equipment and add-ons for your fleet of off-road vehicles. 

You'll discover the hidden treasures and side missions through two main methods. At times, you'll simply scout new airdrops or side mission markers, which, when visited, allow you to branch off on new little adventures or loot the lost cargo for your own benefit. You'll spend a surprising amount of time back-tracking to a base to deposit these items for safe-keeping. Other treasures are more well-hidden and can only be discovered via the use of abilities such as seismic resonators, or devices such as metal detectors and drones. This is where it'll become vitally important to have the right equipment on board, or even better, bring a small fleet of vehicles into your expedition.

Bring the right equipment

A jeep is parked in a rocky area.

Source: Focus Entertainment

One of the keys to success in Expeditions is taking the right equipment into the field. It all begins with the choice of truck, of which there are currently three: light scout, heavy scout, and heavy truck. They vary not only in size and capacity, but also in their capabilities. Some light vehicles are easier to navigate up and down steep slopes, while heavier vehicles provide more opportunity to play with the various tools and devices, allowing them to overcome serious obstacles. For each mission, you make your choice of vehicles and their upgrades as well as cargo. Do you strap some additional fuel canisters to the side of a light scout, or do you load up a heavy truck with anchors and spare parts and try to bully your way up the mountain? The choice is yours.

Each vehicle can be equipped with devices or tools. Tools are simple additions, such as the winch and anchor, which allow you to place anchors near your vehicle when no natural winch points are available. This has gotten me out of a sticky situation more than once. Other tools such as binoculars and a drone are used to scout the surrounding areas, while a device such as a radar antenna will allow you to permanently reveal areas of the map for future forays. Echo sounders, for example, will allow you to map the depth of rivers and other waters, giving you better insight in how likely you are to get permanently stuck. The choice of what devices to bring will depend on the mission, your desire to hunt for treasure, and how much space you have available on your truck.

Aside from choosing what to attach to your truck, you can also customize the vehicle itself. You can upgrade the front bumpers, bolt on additional storage shelves, or replace an entire flatbed with a cargo hold for those missions that require a lot of capacity. There are 20 vehicles available at launch and customizing them is easy and enjoyable. I do wish there were a few more visual customizations, such as the ability to change paint jobs or slap some expedition logos on the side. Perhaps that's coming in a future update as Saber Interactive has several of those planned after launch.

You're going to get stuck

A scenic mountain road as seen from inside a vehicle, showcasing the breathtaking view ahead.

Source: Focus Entertainment

With this being my first experience with a MudRunner or SnowRunner game, it's obvious that it takes a certain mindset to succeed. This is much less a driving simulation as it is an exercise in patience, reasonable understanding of physics, and a desire to beat the environment itself into submission. This type of game was described to me as the Dark Souls of driving simulators, and that is quite correct. The challenges you'll face require methodical precision and frustration or rage will only make things worse. However, sometimes the frustration is not with the core functionality of Expeditions, but rather the implementation. While you can use a mouse and keyboard, a variety of steering wheels and pedals, or a game controller to play, it's clear that controllers are the preferred device. As much as I enjoyed experiencing the force-feedback in my Logitech G29 wheel while rumbling over rocks, having to use the mouse to supplement camera controls was awkward.

The preference for game controllers as an input device is further reiterated by the lack of a useful first-person view. You can jump into the cabin of each truck and the view is quite nice and immersive, but it's impractical to give up the situational awareness afforded by third-person. Support for head-tracking devices would help, and even VR might be incredible, but realistically first-person just isn't practical here.

Some of the truck devices and abilities are more useful than others, with some being downright frustrating to use. Having a drone with extremely limited range is hardly ever a benefit over using binoculars, and some abilities like the metal detector feel unrealistically arcade-y. Even the most useful tool in the game, the anchor, which can be placed within a small radius of your vehicle to provide a connection point for your winch, can be tricky to use to the point of being mildly frustrating. Fortunately, there are plenty of other ways to get yourself out of trouble, including the ability to change to a manual transmission, lock the differential, and change tire pressure to suit the surroundings. I have yet to find a use case for turning off all-wheel-drive, however.

The non-game elements of Expeditions are a middle-of-the-road affair, with menus and a UI that is fairly standard in simulation games. There are some areas, however, that could use more polish, such as the order in which missions are displayed in the menu, which can be confusing. I've also on more than one occasion begun an expedition at a field base that is nowhere near the mission targets, purely because that's what the launch screen defaulted to. Some other oddities, such as birds freezing in mid-air when viewed via binoculars will hopefully be addressed in future updates.

It's lonely out there

A desert scene with a truck and a cactus.

Source: Focus Entertainment

Speaking of future updates, Saber Interactive has a slew of updates planned for Expeditions. Seasonal updates, including new missions, specialists, and gameplay mechanics are scheduled for release in the first year. The addition of a free co-op mode is also on the horizon, which should open up fun new ways to play. It is definitely beneficial to run multiple vehicles during the more advanced expeditions, if for no other reason than to get yourself out of trouble. Being able to do that with a friend would add another level of enjoyment that I wish had been available at the start.

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game is an interesting iteration on Saber Interactive's earlier off-road simulation titles that brings some new features while keeping the core challenge familiar to fans of the series. There is a lot of content available, though much of it inevitably boils down the main concept of having to deal with hard environments. Most of this works reasonably well, but some of the new additions feel a bit light and not as fully fleshed out as I'd like them to be. Overall, it is an enjoyable experience, but only the hardcore fans of the series are likely to make it through the hundreds of hours spent climbing over rocks and sinking into pits of mud.

This review is based on a Steam code provided by the publisher. Expeditions: A Mudrunner Game is available on March 5, 2024, on PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

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Jan has been playing video games for nearly 30 years and been a passionate geek for the better part of his life. When he's not grinding his way through Destiny in search of further lore, he can often be found neck deep in source code of various apps and websites. Feel free to ask him about whether or not Guardians are actually evil or not, and whether or not he'll give you some free SEO tech tips. You can follow him on Twitter @ChalkOne.

  • Pretty environments and visuals
  • Loads of objectives and side missions
  • Truck customization is a lot of fun
  • Nothing else provides this level of challenge behind a wheel
  • Physics can be questionable at times
  • Playing on anything but a controller is awkward
  • Some tools and devices aren't very useful
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