Well, technically I’m not okay as I’ve entered my sixth week of an aching back (or rather, hip). No can do but endure and be physical virtually. These past few days I’ve turned into a rugged expert of Russian backlands, making my living driving heavy equipment and hauling logs from seemingly impossible places to local lumber mills. I am, of course, talking about Spintires: Mudrunner, which has already provided several hours of amusing, slow, and challenging driving. It focuses on crude but extremely durable Russian jeeps, trucks, tractors, and special vehicles that crawl around six relatively large maps in circumstances that could best be described as catastrophic.
As the name of the game implies, most of the roads there are have already been driven to near extinction. They’re incredibly wet and muddy, and carefree drivers will soon find themselves stuck for good, should they not have already managed to roll over their vehicles or have them die in the middle of flooding rivers. Odds of survival in these harsh conditions can be improved by engaging all-wheel drive or enabling differential lock, but these make the remarkably thirsty vehicles guzzle even more gas. If the tires still fail to find adequate grip, there’s no choice but to seek a good place to attach the in-car winch and pull oneself out. If even that fails, it’s time to hop into another truck, go towing, and pray earnestly that it doesn’t lead to two stuck vehicles.
Spintires: Mudrunner is both aggravatingly and lovably ruthless. The player usually starts from their home garage with nothing but a crummy jeep and one truck, expected to get some work done without even a proper map of the surroundings. By driving to nearby watch towers, the map opens up to show all the little, twisty roads and trails available. Even then, a sensible player will next proceed to activate all the extra garages and vehicles strewn around the map. Not only are garages invaluable for fueling and repairing possible damage, they are the only places where vehicles can be altered to serve a different purpose. For hauling the smallest of logs, a truck only needs a basic carriage whereas longer logs require logging trailers. If a vehicle breaks down or runs out of juice in the middle of the woods, a suitable tank or container can be installed to deliver gas or parts. Even unlocking new garages requires their own delivery of tools and a semitrailer. These careful preparations alone can take up considerable time and effort.
Once all the vehicles and garages on the map have been activated, it’s much safer to get to actual work. Merely driving to any of the handful of log stations can be a challenge. Once there, casual mode only requires a press of a button to load the truck but the vastly more entertaining hardcore mode requires the player to do it manually, provided a tractor capable of loading is around or the truck has also been equipped with a crane. The insanely heavy load then has to be driven to either of two afar lumber mills, both requiring at least two deliveries to be satisfied. Unloading, thankfully, happens automatically; a huge relief as the trips can get very stressful and take closer to an hour to complete.
Things never get dull as there’s constantly so much to take into consideration. Is there a chance of running out of gas? Are vehicles capable of loading where they should be? If a trail was durable last time around, is it still safe for one more go? Which vehicles should serve which purpose at which point? Where is safe to turn around if need be? Which vehicle can help another in trouble and in which way? This kind of thinking is strangely enjoyable, especially when things rarely go quite as initially planned. Nothing is more exhilarating than making a truck that got seemingly hopelessly stuck twitch forward even a meter or two, and nothing more aggravating than coming to a conclusion that it’s probably best to just restart the entire map from the very beginning. After more than 16 hours I’ve only completed three of the six work sites in hardcore mode, so look forward to more prattle about this wonderful oddball in the future!