There’s something about SnowRunner that I just can’t put my finger on. A sense of freedom and adventure that only a small few of other games can capture. It’s not your typical RPG, but the experience you’ll have is a wonderfully transportive journey, and that’s exactly what SnowRunner is: one big journey.
And it’s gorgeous too, the locations and terrain you drive through are stunning. There’s 3 main areas to choose, each with a small selection of maps to choose from. You start off in the rocky wilderness of Michigan, then make your way over to Alaska, and finally in the swampy marshlands of Taymyr, and each of them include their own challenges and distinct style.
Every task you accept, every contract you start, and every piece of upgrades you hunt down are all small parts of the larger hole. Each one, no matter what the objective, will become a sort of puzzle, asking you to map out your own route and consider which vehicle to bring this time. The huge assortment of vehicles and vehicle types will always have their own purpose, and provide plenty of opportunities for you to strive for improvement.
The bulk of the game is exactly what I mentioned above, you’re either accepting large contracts that generally take a bit more time and effort and will reward you with an overarching objective to complete, completing tasks like clearing roadblocks, or searching for new vehicles or upgrades in the world. The freedom you have here is immense, as the brief tutorial at the start will tell you everything you need to know, and then thrust you into the open wilds for you to tackle objectives at any time you want.
Stay in Michigan, continue in Alaska, or move on to Taymyr, the choice is yours. Alaska is the clear standout here which is where SnowRunner gets its title. Taymyr may be more difficult at times because of the deep mud and unforgiving terrain, but Alaska provides you with new challenges to face and really puts your skills to the limit.
It’s brutal, I’m not going to sugar coat it here, completing a single objective can take upwards of an hour, even just scaling one mountain to reach the top can take 30 to 40 minutes, only to require you to make the treacherous journey all the way back down but now with a huge and heavy trailer to slow you down some more.
Sometimes the physics can feel a bit off as well, which is not something you want to see in a physics-based game, but these experiences I find are few and far between, and the journey of sending one truck out to rescue another is fun in it’s own right. Sometimes vehicles feel both heavy and light, which is weird to say the least, as cars feel heavy in mud, but will bounce out of control because of one small rock on the road.
It can be frustrating at times, a lot of times actually, but the sense of satisfaction you get from completing those terrifying journeys is almost overwhelming at times. Completing objectives rewards you with cash and experience, allowing you to purchase new parts and unlock new features respectively. With the level of customization at hand, and the sheer amount of content available, means you’ll always have something to strive towards, and makes SnowRunner surprisingly one of the biggest games I’ve come across.
But SnowRunner is at it’s best when you’re well equipped for the job, which you almost certainly won’t be for the first few hours of the game. This can make the beginning a bit of a slog and immensely frustrating at times, but once you get past that, and experience what SnowRunner truly has to offer, you will undertake one of the best journeys in video games.
And I have to at least say it somewhere, but the soundtrack for SnowRunner is great as well; it’s this kind of old school psychedelic guitar riff most of the time, and is the perfect playlist to your woodland adventures. Whilst each location has its own distinct music style, it’s that guitar track from Michigan that will stay with you the longest.
SnowRunner is a beautiful - and oftentimes frustrating - experience, but it’s that journey you undertake, one that you carve out yourself, that makes all the trials and tribulations worth it. The struggles you face will become obstacles to conquer, with each route forming a sort of puzzle to solve. It may take a while to get into, and if you’re having trouble at the start then stick through it, as the long haul is well worth it.