Expeditions: A MudRunner Game

Posted:  Feb 29, 2024
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Review

Expeditions was provided by Focus Entertainment for review. Thank you!

This game was tested with a Steam Deck LCD. OLED testing is coming soon.

I was so excited when I got the news that I'd be reviewing Expeditions: A MudRunner Game. Having been a pretty big fan of SnowRunner (the previous game in the series), especially in the co-op mode, I couldn't wait to see what this next installment had to offer! Expeditions is a little bit of a departure from what you might be used to with the MudRunner series, but don't worry, the core gameplay is still there and as enjoyable as ever.

ExpeditionsStock6
Expeditions lets you use a variety of vehicles to navigate difficult terrain and complete missions.

Expeditions is a little bit of a departure from this standard. Instead of putting you aimlessly on a map, it is more "mission-based.". Before spawning into the game world, you will select a mission, select the truck and equipment you wish to take with you and spawn into the world. You also own all the trucks from the get-go, with some options to upgrade them. These missions can take around 10-15 minutes, as opposed to the potentially hours-long open-world quests from the older games, which fans have a mixed response about.

The game is split into 3 regions, which themselves are then split into 4, making 12 maps present in the base game, each of which has around 6-8 missions. This doesn't remove all the exploration aspects; you'll still be able to drive around the map inside a mission and discover points of interest. A free-roam mode is also available once you've finished some missions on that specific map.

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There are still some points of interest in Expeditions, but the focus is on missions, not exploration.

It's worth noting that if you do want a more "realistic" experience, you can disable waypoint and objective marker visibility, meaning you're reliant on the in-game map and manual pathfinding to get to locations, much more akin to SnowRunner and MudRunner.

But then there's the flip side of the coin. MudRunner and Spintires, before it established itself as a "simulation" series, focused on brutal and arduous journeys that took their toll on the vehicles and drivers alike. Some fans felt that SnowRunner took it easy on players, and those fans will likely find that Expeditions takes it a step further. In my experience, there isn't much 'challenge' to be had; getting stuck in the mud is rare here, you have more equipment to help you out of situations, and journeys are much shorter due to the smaller map sizes.

There is now far more equipment you can equip your vehicle. Likely because you already own all the vehicles in the game from the start, Expeditions instead adds more customization, allowing you to modify your vehicles to serve different purposes. For instance, there are Jack Screws, which can right a flipped vehicle. And Anchors, which can provide winch points for stuck vehicles. You can also carry repair kits, spare wheels, and extra fuel in your vehicle with you.

Every vehicle now has inventory and device slots, defining how much and what they can carry, and upgrades can expand this amount by providing more cargo space or adding additional mounts. This feels like a core gameplay element that is pushed in Expeditions. The developers want you to feel like you are designing a "loadout" for each mission, deciding what equipment you'll need for the job, what vehicle can carry that equipment, and dealing with the terrain you'll be facing. And for the most part, that works just fine.

Speaking of devices, you now have a few handy tools on your vehicles, including the ever-faithful winch. You now also have a sensor that can detect water depth so you don't drive into a "puddle" that suddenly becomes a lake, as well as a drone which you can fly around within 75 meters or so of your vehicle and effectively "free cam" the area, allowing you to plot a route through a particularly rough area, or just find where you need to go.

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This truck is equipped with additional inventory slots on the back of the truck bed.

Is Expeditions truly a "MudRunner" game? It shares many things in common, such as how vehicles drive, and how they react to the terrain, but this very much feels like MudRunner "Lite". I'll be honest: most of my time playing was accepting a mission, doing the mission by simply following waypoints, and having no idea why I was doing the mission in the first place. There are a few lines of text before each mission detailing some basic story, but it's essentially all throw-away stuff and doesn't make you feel like there's much meaning or purpose to what you are doing in the game.

I enjoy driving my truck around, but I think it will struggle to keep me entertained as long as SnowRunner did, especially as I can't see the Cooperative mode being nearly as good on smaller maps with enforced missions. And as a side note, Cooperative play isn't in the game at launch; it's being added to a free post-launch update a few months later.

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game - Steam Deck Performance

Expeditions gets off to a good start on the Steam Deck. The game defaults to the Steam Deck's native 1280x800 resolution with full controller support for menus and gameplay. The UI is also scaled well, and although there's no option to change the UI scale, I didn't particularly feel the need to either.

The game also offers a wide range of graphical settings. There's no support for any upscaling tech like DLSS or FSR here, and in a slow-paced game like this, you would think it would work well with it. Early on in the game, it appears as though we can pretty much run ultra settings, and in some maps, such as Arizona, where the map is largely desert and rocks, you can. However, if you move to the Carpathian map, the performance will quickly fall apart on Ultra settings, and therefore, I can't recommend any presets using them.

There is no way of running the game at 60 FPS, even with the lowest settings. It seems like the CPU struggles to reach more than the mid-50s, but fortunately, the advantage 60 FPS gives over 40 FPS in such a slow-paced game is minimal, so I probably wouldn't recommend playing these games at 60 FPS on a handheld anyway.

The graphical settings are effectively split into 2 sections, and both presets use the same settings for the first half, so here are the settings I used for reference. I disabled Anti-Aliasing, FXAA, Motion Blur, and Film Grain. Disabling Motion Blur and Film Grain is a personal preference. I don't believe they affect the frame rate, but I dislike their effects and have them disabled.

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Recommended Settings - 40 FPS

In your SteamOS settings, set a 40 FPS/Hz limit and your TDP limit to 12W.

Here, we're using mostly Medium settings. However, we can get away with turning Effects and Texture quality to Ultra, as they barely impact performance, and we also have a fair amount of RAM/VRAM that's unused. We're sacrificing volume fog and light shafts, as they can affect performance at certain times of day and in weather conditions.

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Using these settings, we get a fairly consistent 40 FPS. The worst dip I ever saw was in a Carpathian expedition where you enter a swampy area, upon entering the water in the middle of a forest, I saw a dip to 37-38 FPS, however, it was very specific to the area, and it was the only time I saw these dips. You might also experience dips when flying the drone around the map, as it's quite a departure from how the game is usually played. I haven't based my presets around performance when using the drone, just when driving normally.

Battery drain is around 16-18W for most of the time when driving. However, it can reach 20W in very intensive areas, specifically where I saw the frame drop to the high 30s. You can expect around 2 hours of battery from a full charge at these settings. Temperatures are reasonably modest, holding around 70-75C in my experience.

Battery Life Settings - 30 FPS

In your SteamOS settings, set a 30 FPS / 60 Hz limit and your TDP limit to 7W.

We're running settings similar to the 40 FPS preset above, mostly medium. The exception is that we are lowering Shadow Quality from Medium to Low. It's by far the most intensive setting in the game, and we save a good 5 FPS by lowering it. We still maintain some shadows, though, as even "Low" doesn't disable them entirely. Many other settings have minimal impact on performance, and we might as well keep them set to higher settings.

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The framerate with these settings is a pretty steady 30 FPS. Like the 40 FPS preset, you're likely to see a completely stable 30 FPS in the Arizona environment due to the lack of foliage and often water there. You may see occasional dropped frames in the Carpathians, but in my experience, you can expect 30 FPS almost the entire time.

The battery drain in these settings is around 12-13W, meaning we should expect just under 3 hours of battery life here. Temperatures are a little lower here, meaning your Deck shouldn't get too hot to the touch.

Quick Thoughts on Battery Life

While battery life is always nice to have, given the mission-based layout of Expeditions compared to its predecessors, I feel like battery life is much less important in this game, as missions rarely take more than 30 minutes to complete. You can also quit out of a mission at any point. When you reload your saved game, you will return exactly where you left your vehicle in the mission, meaning you don't need to worry about finishing a mission before your battery expires.

Accessibility:

Now for accessibility... well... there isn't any. But I'm not sure there needs to be. There are rebindable controls, and that's about all I could find.

There isn't any requirement in Expeditions to be able to hear anything; all objectives are displayed on-screen, and any "lore" or mission updates are conveyed via a written radio message displayed at the side of your screen. All info is conveyed via symbols, so those with colorblindness shouldn't struggle here.

Conclusion:

Is Expeditions a good game? Yes, I would be hard-pressed to say the game is "bad" in any particular way. The driving physics is as good as ever, the vehicles are varied and suitable for different terrains and mission types, and the visuals hold up, with the Steam Deck running the game well, both in terms of performance and in terms of controls.

Whether or not long-time fans of the MudRunner series will enjoy the game is a different matter. Gone is the open world, replaced by smaller, mission-based adventures. You won't be handling cranes, lifting logs, or other materials onto the back of trucks; they're all handled via menus now. It gives "Spin-Off" vibes rather than a mainline series entry.

If you were in it to navigate difficult terrain and watch your vehicle react to different stressful situations, Expeditions still has that for you. Still, if you wanted to haul cargo and spend 10 minutes trying to get yourself up that muddy hill, that isn't the aim here.

I am also slightly worried about when co-op hits Expeditions. In SnowRunner, players could easily separate and do their own thing. With several missions present on each map, each player could focus on their mission and help each other out when required. There is only ever 1 mission at a time, and right now, they're all designed for 1 player. Having 4 players would be a waste. I can only hope that when the co-op update does hit, a set of separate missions is available specifically designed for multiplayer.

Our review is based on the PC version of this game.

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SDHQ's Build Score Breakdown

Expeditions: A MudRunner Game is a departure from the series, relying on short mission-based adventures, but it runs great on the Steam Deck!

Content

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Story: 
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Sound: 
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Fun Factor: 
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Build Score

Performance: 
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VISUALS: 
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Stability: 
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Controls: 
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Battery: 
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Noah Kupetsky
A lover of gaming since 4, Noah has grown up with a love and passion for the industry. From there, he started to travel a lot and develop a joy for handheld and PC gaming. When the Steam Deck released, it just all clicked.
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Other Builds
Battery Life Settings
SteamOS

Limit

30

Refresh Rate

60

HRS

NO

TDP Limit

7

Scaling Filter

Linear

GPU Clock

Disabled

Proton Version

No Forced Compatibility

Game Settings

Resolution: 1280x800

V-SYNC: Off

FPS Limit: Off

Antialiasing: Off

FXAA: Off

Motion Blur: Off

Sharpening: FidelityFX

Film Grain: Off

Terrain Draw Distance: Medium

Grass Density: Medium

Object Quality: Medium

Effects Quality: Ultra

Shadow Quality: Low

Texture Quality: Ultra

Texture Filtering: 16x

Ambient Occlusion: Low

Water Quality: High

Volume Fog: Off

Light Shafts: Off

Mirrors: On

Projected Battery Usage and Temperature

12W - 13W

65c - 70c

~3 Hours

related Settings

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