Back in 2017, Saber Interactive got me and quite a few people addicted to the wonderful world of virtual off-roading with the release of MudRunner. It quickly became a genre-defining hit, renowned for its authentic sim-like physics that provided a frustrating yet fun challenge that had players roughing-and-toughing it through the backwoods of Russia and the USA. Now, we have SnowRunner, which after one year arrives on Nintendo Switch for review. Someway, somehow, Saber Interactive has managed to pull off a really well-built port. Though, as expected, there are a few caveats.
Make way for SnowRunner
In SnowRunner, your overall goal is to build an arsenal of powerful transport vehicles that will be tasked with taking on the cruel terrain of various maps such as Michigan, Alaska, and the Siberian backwoods of Russia. Each map contains a variety of missions, with there being roughly three types. The most simple are “Tasks” and often involve clearing out road hazards such as fallen objects and rockslide debris by acquiring materials and then delivering them to the danger site. Performing Tasks tends to open up pathways that will make navigating the map a little easier. Another type of Task includes “Contests,” which are timed events that usually involve getting from point A to point B in a specified amount of time.
On a larger scale, there are “Contracts.” These are assigned by different employers and will often involve the transport and delivery of cargo from one part of a map to another. Building on top of that are the “Regional Contracts” that function similarly but turn the heat up by having you transport large goods across even greater distances, such as from one region of an area to another using the interconnecting tunnels.
SnowRunner missions can be completed in any order you see fit, although some of the larger Contracts will be locked until you hit certain requirements. As you progress, you’ll gradually earn more cash and also XP, which is used to increase your Driver Rank. Leveling up is important as it allows you to gain access to better trucks and upgrades (though some trucks and upgrades must be located in specific maps).
Addicted to trucking
There are five different types of trucks, but four all play the same role: Highway, Heavy, Heavy Duty, and Off-Road. All of the trucks in these classes are large and used to transport cargo but have slight differences. Really, the biggest difference is that Highway trucks are the weakest performers due to poor off-roading capabilities and Heavy trucks are used for the largest of loads. Everything else falls in-between.
The final truck type are the Scouts, which are small utility vehicles that are beasts both on and off the road. They’re used for scouring around the map quickly, wedging through tight spaces and climbing the steepest, narrowest paths. While they’re not good for hauling loads, they’re essential for the reconnaissance that you’ll have to complete every time you enter a new area.
Getting more capable machines is necessary to making steady progress through SnowRunner on Switch. At the very beginning, your trucks will be basic and underpowered, and outfitting them with upgrades is a slow and steady process, just like the gameplay itself. Just as was the case with MudRunner, SnowRunner features a lot of going nowhere fast. But that’s what makes this experience so addictive. There’s just something satisfying about wiggling your way out of a dicey situation, even if it did take you several minutes.
Honestly, my sense of time passing tends to warp away every time I sit down to play. SnowRunner does a great job at getting you immersed into its open maps, even more so than in its predecessor due to the maps being more dynamic here. With so many objectives to complete, parts to collect, and areas to scout, SnowRunner is packed with layers of content to enjoy, and the fact that it’s now on Switch means that you can take the experience anywhere.
SnowRunner makes an admirable transition to Nintendo Switch
We’ve finally arrived at the big deal about this port: the Switch difference. I must say, when SnowRunner was surprised-revealed a few weeks ago, I was shocked to see it running on the Switch, just as was the case with MudRunner. Having now viewed it in person, side by side with the PC version no less, I’m happy to report that Saber has produced a thoroughly competent port.
Let’s get the limitations out of the way: Yes, the resolution is a bit fuzzy, and the texture quality has taken a noticeable hit. Special effects like light shafts and fog are missing, shadows look blotchy, reflections are scaled back, and the frame rate is locked to 30 FPS. But for a Switch title, this all works really well. The visual degradation isn’t as extreme as we’ve seen in some other games, and the overall product still looks really impressive.
Of course, I prefer the better graphics of the PC version, but the most important thing remains true here on Switch: SnowRunner is still really fun. Even playing in portable mode, it holds up surprisingly well, and that key feature will allow players to chip away at longer missions in short spurts rather than having to sit down and try to complete it in one session. I just wish this supported cross-save functionality between Switch and PC, which it unfortunately does not.
The one true technical drawback of the Switch port of SnowRunner is, surprisingly, the audio. Testing it using the same pair of headphones, I can tell that the quality has taken a hit. But the real issue is that some important sound effects, like the engines of the trucks, fail to loop smoothly. This results in an annoying “pop” noise every few seconds. Some sound effects also don’t play when they ought to, leaving pockets of awkward silence. If anything, I hope this is all just a bug and not an actual sacrifice that needed to be made.
Despite its limitations, SnowRunner on Switch can rightfully be declared as a “late but great” kind of port. This is a rare occasion where Switch owners will feel their patience has been respected. Considering the complexity of SnowRunner‘s simulation, foliage-dense open maps, and high-quality exterior and interior models, the fact that this is all somehow running on a 7-inch tablet with 2015 hardware is simply amazing to me. This is a feature-for-feature port, so there’s nothing that Switch owners are missing out on compared to on the other platforms. Rather, there’s only the key addition of portable play. So, is it worth it? By all means!
A review code for SnowRunner on Nintendo Switch was provided by the publisher.