Seeing how the game has so few concurrent players on Steam, it seems that it wasn't such a bright idea to make this game an EGS exclusive after all. I firmly believe had they released in on Steam day and date with workshop and community support the game could've been massively more successful.
The game itself is a direct evolution of Spintires and Mudrunner. It's still the same game under the hood, with minor technical improvements, but instead of focusing solely on old Russian equipment now it features some licensed US vehicles as well. And hauling logs is no longer the only activity.
The biggest difference gameplay wise to the previos games is that now you can buy, sell, and upgrade vehicles. So the goal is no longer just explore the map and transport 3 logs to the log station, but there are various map related missions and contracts you can take on.
It's a little confusing how some trucks are unlocked by simply exploring the map and finding them, while others are readily available for purchase in the shop, if it's not locked behind a level wall that is.
Unfortunately there is a level system. Which I'm not a big fan of in any game, especially when its purpose is to wall you from accessing certain QOL upgrades, or items despite having enough in-game currency to buy them. Like it is the case here.
Most vehicle upgrades outside of tyres are only unlockable by finding them in the world. Which means the most efficient method would be to explore the entire world with a light scout vehicle and unlock all upgrades before doing anything else. But this is just not a realistic scenario for anyone to approach the game. As just driving from upgrade location to upgrade location would become terribly boring fast.
So the method you stuck with is to explore a little bit, find some upgrades and missions and try to do as many of them as possible with the equipment available to you. Of course this leads to a catch-22 because you will struggle a lot more trying to complete missions with inferior equipment. And what might take 10 minutes with a fully upgraded off road truck, can be an hour long struggle if even possible at all with one that lacks differential locks or even an AWD system and appropriate tyres.
But the only way to tell if your eqipment is capable of finishing a job, is by trying. And this leads to the sunken cost fallacy, when you already spent half an hour trying to complete a job, you are not going to abandon it, until it is beyond hopeless. This leads to what is supposed to be a relaxing and chill game becoming one of the most infuriating titles I've played.
The annoying nature of the game is exacerbated by the lack of a manual saves. So you can't save before or after hard to navigate difficult parts of the journey. If you fall off a cliff, the entire hour you spent on getting to that spot is null and void and you have to try again from the start, or mount an excruiating rescue mission to recover the lost cargo or vehicle.
"Oh you, just hate a challenge in games"
I can already hear in my mind the excuse. But no, having to repeat an hour long tedious but not particularly hard section is not a healthy challenge. It's not even a challenge, it's just the designers showing me the middle finger while wasting my time. The hard bit would be just the same if I was allowed to try it again without having to go through everything that lead up to it. This is the equivalent to a permadeath mode in other games. But here it is the only gameplay mode.
Well not only, there is an additional hard mode, where recovery to garage and fuel costs money, and you can only sell stuff at half price, but the biggest difference is that easy loading of cargo is disabled. You have to manually crane in every piece everywhere. There are some missions in normal mode where you have to manually crane stuff, and believe me that is more than enough, especially because the camera works terrible in crane mode, half the time you don't see what you need to see properly.
Downloadable content galore
The game has numerous DLCs and season passes, it's really confusing, which is part of what season pass and how to obtain. The base game itself has 3 regions to explore. Unfortunately they all seemed mediocre to me. My favorite map so far was Wisconsin, which is part of the season 3 update, which is part of the year 1 pass. Confusing right?
That said there is enough content in the game to last a lifetime. There are so many missions and jobs to take on that doing them all should take hundreds of hours by my estimate.
Talking about maps, they are about 90% mud or snow, with only the remaining 10% being hard surface, which raises an interesting conondrum. The game includes a variety of highway trucks that lack any offroad capability, they can't even be upgraded to be suited to off road driving. Yet there are barely any locations in the game you can travel between on proper roads. Which raises the question of why even include these vehicles that are ill suited for any mission in the game? If there was at least one region or even just a map that has a good road network, their existence in game would be instantly justified.
Still related to the maps is one of the negatives of the game, that they are all completely lifeless. You are the only movement in the entire game world, there isn't even wildlife. So it seems more like a post apocalyptic game than anything alse. Adding some AI traffic would greatly improve immersion. And even just a simple thing like adding talking heads as mission givers would be a much needed improvement.
Due to its nature this is the most important part of the game. And it's a mixed bag. Some things it does great while other times it goes completely wild or does things that are quite unrealistic. The deformable terrain and water modelling is great. What is not great however is that everything seems like you are in rubber world. Trucks bounce like basketballs, if you accidentally go into a fallen tree it will act like a slingshot and catapult you back with twice the force. Ridiculous.
And there are the rare freak occurences where driving over completely flat terrian your truck will suddenly flip on its side, or sustain great amounts of damage for no apparent reason.
And vehicles powertrains are completely out of touch with reality. The RPM counter is meaningless, it is arbitrary, there seems to be no gears in the trucks just a rubber band driving the wheels, like a moped. The top speed of all trucks is between 20-40mph. Which becomes even less on mud, it feels like driving in glue. There is no wheelspin to talk of, when you hit a boggy part the truck seems to simply loose power and struggle to move instead of the wheels spinning out, like your engine has lost 90% of its power output.
There are various locations on the maps where a fully loaded truck just goes through without a problem, while a light vehicle instantly sinks through the mud and gets trapped becoming completely unable to move. Like someone accidentally switched a + with a - in the physics engine.
The graphics is improved quite a bit, the atmospheric effects and light rays are quite good, buying extra lights actually matters in this game. The overall look of the game is very homogeneous. And I say that as an absolute positive. Nothing stands out, the feel and atmoshpere of the game is consistent.
Pros and cons
- Lots of content
- Evolution of the previous games
- Consistently good graphics
- When you get into the rhythm, it becomes addictive
- Works great with Keyboard, you don't need an analog controller
- There is some strategy aspect to it as well
- Gets very tedious and repetitive at times
- Level walls making the early game even more tedious
- No manual saves
- Infuriating when you have to restart a mission after sinking a ton of time into it
- Powertrain simulation
- Lifeless maps
Overall impression: 7/10