Under development by Small Impact Games and published by Team17, Marauders is a tactical FPS multiplayer “looter shooter” set in space. Now in early access, Marauders is accessible via Steam. There is no official date yet for when this title will leave early access. Hopefully it doesn’t stay in early access for years, which seems to be the latest trend in PC gaming.
Small Impact Games?
Small Impact Games – aka ‘SIG’ were unknown to me when I picked up this review, so I did a bit of research… Turns out that SIG have some serious experience in working on AAA titles, though it appears to mainly be third party projects, as I couldn’t find an original title. Could Marauders see SIG burst onto the scene?
Marauders features a pretty unique backstory, which is a welcome addition amongst a crowded market of looter shooters and battle royals. In this game, WW1 never ended. Instead, the human race practically destroyed Earth by overmining and industrialising the entire planet, forcing themselves out into the stars. Out here the only way to survive is to salvage ships drifting through space. Be careful though, as there are plenty of others looking to do the same. Confrontation is inevitable.
At it’s core, the main mechanics are to join raids, loot things and improve gear… but it’s not quite that simple. There are some of other mechanics mixed in to help keep things interesting, such as; piloting ships, using escape pods and completing contracts – to name a few. Don’t worry, all of this is explained on the main screen via a helpful tutorial video from the developers. Though a little lengthy, you’ll want to watch it before jumping in to the game.
Raiding begins immediately, right from launching the game you’re able to jump straight into matchmaking. Careful though, if you don’t watch the how-to videos before joining a game you might struggle with what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s incredibly easy to get lost in space, and there’s no map function or navigation device to help you out. The main problem for me was navigating inside of space stations. I died more times to running out of oxygen than I did to other players. It seems you can only refill oxygen on your own ship, but without a map it’s difficult to remember the way back… especially when you’re being shot at.
Marauders start with $65,000.00, which you’re able to spend immediately via the TRADE tab. Selling loot obtained in raids from other players or loot chests is your main source of income, the alternative being contracts. Maybe grab yourself a stock upgrade for the MP40 and a Flak Vest – you’ll need it. Once you’ve used this TRADE function you’ll get an idea of how the player inventory works. It’s essentially a grid system of 14 x 10, with each item taking up X number of blocks. Assuming inventory can be upgraded later, this could get a little messy further down the line. Trying to rearrange items during a raid to get more space might get you killed, but for now it works OK.
I’m not sure if player to player trading is possible, as it’s early access and we only received one code. Maybe comment down below if you happen to know.
Let’s talk about combat. Being an FPS you have all the usual controls and abilities, such as hopping over small obstacles and strafing.
On my first raid I was able to pick up a hefty 9 kills and loot 32 containers, mainly through good positioning and patience. Similar to PUBG, a major mechanic is listening out for enemy footsteps and predicting enemy movement – more on this later.
Once you’ve got that down, it’s all about the recoil control.. being able to pull down and maintain accuracy during a barrage is essential. If you’ve any previous experience with these things, you should be fine. It’s probably worth mentioning here that deaths are final – no respawns or knockdowns on this game. But don’t worry, you retain some experience points to carry forward when you respawn.
Our health system is fairly straight forward. Each player is given a basic health bar and oxygen level. Should either one reach zero, it’s game over. There’s no individual limb health for arms or legs, and being shot anywhere in the body will affect your overall health. To heal simply drag a bandage or other first aid item from the inventory over your character and drop. I’d worry more about the oxygen though, as this is a precious resource and hard to manage.
Now I didn’t get the chance to progress enough to unlock explosives or try out different weaponry, except for the ones I looted from defeated players. I know explosives must exist because I heard the constant sounds of explosions in the background. Something to look forward to later, I suppose.
As mentioned, players are able to pilot their own ship and control escape pods from ships they’ve raided. The basic idea is to either dock your ship in a station, kill some people, loot some items and head back to your ship… Or use an escape pod to breach an enemy ship and then use one of their escape pods to escape back home, I think – it’s a little complicated. As previously mentioned though, navigation is tricky. Be sure not to get lost in space and take note of any memorable meteors or debris fields.
So how difficult is Marauders? Is it friendly to new FPS players? Well, it’s hard to tell. Environmental damage is kind of your worst enemy.
The problem for me is that there doesn’t seem to be a way of regenerating oxygen without returning to your own ship. Suffocating seems like a silly way to go out, especially after a successful raid. But… the ships and stations all look the same. There’s a distinct lack of texture or design on stations and ships, meaning it’s incredibly difficult to remember where you’ve docked. Whether this is going to be left to player skill or the devs make navigation easier, who knows. Personally I’d like to see some form of GPS or some kind of oxygen refill station.
If you’ve followed my reviews at all, you’ll know I play on a pretty decent PC; Ryzen 7, RTX 3070, 32GB RAM. I found this to be plenty powerful and more than sufficient for running Marauders on maximum settings. SIG recommend; Windows 7, Intel Core i5-2400, 8GB RAM and GeForce GTX 760 – quite reasonable for a game of this size.
Marauders strives for a photorealistic art style, from the first person viewpoint. I’d say it’s most comparable to titles like Eve Online. Overall it looks good, it plays well and none of the graphical issues we see are major. Only minor graphical bugs and imperfections so far, such as the Rustbucket ships main cannon which will fire in a direction it’s not looking. There’s also a few texture misalignments and unfinished articles, but that’s to be expected from an early access game.
Something that seemed odd to me was the default graphical settings. For example framerate limitation is set to 45, but can be set to a maximum of 144. It doesn’t seem to detect and adjust based on your settings. You’ll want to go ahead and improve this right from the get-go, as well as decreasing motion blur which by default is far too strong.
As mentioned earlier in the preview, sound is a big part of gameplay. Just like we’ve come to expect from competitive shooters, players must listen out for enemy footsteps and be aware of their own. Sprinting down a corridor will alert everyone in a 50 yard radius to your presence. If I’m being honest, footsteps are possibly a bit too loud in Marauders, and could be tweaked down a little. The main issue with this mechanic is it punishes movement and rewards ‘camping’ – and no one likes a camper.
Other than footsteps the ambient sounds are really well designed to enhance the experience and gameplay. Being in space, there isn’t a whole lot, but what’s their makes sense. Sounds such as electrical failures, knocking on a ships hull or echoes down a corridor really set the mood. Even opening doors is satisfying. Going through decompression while docking really immerses you in the game. Hearing the rush of air under a rising blast door… and the gunshots beyond it.
For me personally, Marauders is something to play with a small group over an afternoon. Raids are action packed and 15 minutes literally flies by in no time. Unlike COD and PUBG, games aren’t limited by timers and you can raid as long as you like. If you’re having fun on a station, then you can potentially keep resupplying and stay there all day.
With weapons and ships getting bigger and better as you play, the fun you could have is literally endless.
It looks to me like Marauders has the potential to be massive, maybe even to rival Escape from Tarkov & PUBG. It’s still early days though, and there’s a long way to go before it can take on such titles. For now, the player movement is a little bit clunky in places and there’s some work to be done around resource management and navigation. But things look promising!
I’m excited to see Small Impact Games started a development blog – accessible via Steam, with the first post being Wednesday 26th October. With such a large game, being able to keep up to date with both major and minor updates, bug fixes and quality of life improvements is always a good thing. I’m looking forward to this one progressing and hope it leaves early access sometime in the near future.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.