Tag Archives: Spintires: Mudrunner

I’m a Lumberjack and I’m Okay

The most fun I’ve ever had with my mud pants on!

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!

Not My Sky

Ummm… Yes?

Since I’m always so fashionably up-to-date with my gaming, I recently dwelled into something as fresh as No Man’s Sky. Smitten by hype, I bought the game on its release day almost a year ago, but back then it only managed to entertain for a couple of hours before getting shoved to the back of the shelf. This past year Hello Games has updated its space epic several times, so I decided to see if version 1.38 at least would make this space charting adventure even remotely meaningful. After about 40 hours played, I sadly have to state that this still isn’t the case.

A new game dropped me off on a planet that was almost 750,000 light years away from the artificial goal that is the very center of the universe. After fixing up my dilapidated spaceship using resources gathered with my trusty handheld mining laser, it was time to bid the dusty planet goodbye, launch to its orbit, and start heading out to new and wondrous galaxies. Surely a grand adventure, if only the game remained fresh and surprising. However, once you’ve seen one planet and one star system, you’ve pretty much seen them all.

Each star system consists of a space station and a random number of planets and their moons. On space stations, the player can chat with aliens belonging to three different species, do galactic trade with items and resources, and take on missions rewarded with credits. They include both skirmishes with space pirates as well as various tasks to be done on planets, ranging from repairing broken equipment and locating missing persons to scanning flora or exterminating fauna. When it feels like you’ve seen and experienced everything the system has to offer, various resources can be combined to construct a warp crystal that enables travel to the next star system where… Well, it all begins anew.

The updates have made it possible to create a home base on certain planets, one that can be expanded with a myriad of corridors, rooms, and research stations for which personnel can be recruited from space stations. Also, if slowly walking around planets becomes a chore, the game now features a drivable Exocraft that can be built by developing the home base accordingly. Several light years will, of course, soon separate an avid star traveler and their home base but every space station has a portal that can be used for a quick return. Those into masochism can also challenge the game in a noticeably harder survival mode or even with permadeath enabled.

Despite these little new features, No Man’s Sky remains just plain boring. Its 18 quintillion randomly generated worlds with their randomly generated plants, animals, and habitats are visually distinct but identical in content. The gameplay is insipid repetition of jumping to a new star system only to gather enough resources for yet another warp crystal. The initial ship is only capable of making pathetic jumps of a hundred light years, and even if sporadic wormholes can be used to cover distances 15 times longer than that, it would still take remarkable devotion to reach the center of the universe. Some fun could be salvaged from improving one’s spaceship, spacesuit, and weapon, or trying to learn the languages of the three alien species one word at a time, but No Man’s Sky is still very little else than a humongous bowl of oatmeal that turns all too familiar after a single spoonful. Its platinum trophy only requires hitting an unimaginative and equally repetitious collection of milestones but as for reaching the center of the universe, it never feels like worth the considerable effort.

Thankfully, there’s never a shortage of alternatives. This has been another week of all sorts of interesting releases finding their way to a new home. The visual novel Chaos;Child promises psychological horror, Spintires: Mudrunner is all about big, clunky vehicles challenging impossible terrains, Undertale is supposedly a rather eccentric but also very well-received indie RPG, and Yomawari: Midnight Shadows goes for scares in chibi style. All in all, another jolly and varied late autumn as far as games go!