Posted: February 27, 2014
Early Access Review
*HIGHLY SUGGESTED TO TAKE A LOOK AT GAMEPLAY VIDEOS; IT'S A LOGICAL CHOICE*
Interstellar Marines is a game I’ve anticipated, forgot, and then, to my great joy, rediscovered 2013 on Steam, fresh from being greenlit. My mind filled with visions of shark-creatures, tactical combat, and more sharks...
Unfortunately, that game I saw a few years before is still in early access stages.
However, that’s not bad. On the contrary, it’s a good thing, considering all the troubles Zero Point Software has faced even trying to get it to this point. The stuff they’ve been through so far is already an inspiring tale by itself.
Note that the following is subject to change and modification as updates roll out and as I improve what I have to say. If you don’t like my review, please, give me some feedback in the comments!
As of writing, the current update (Update 16) features quite a few things, but is missing many more. The game is still rather barebones due to all the indev and inactive features, the guns still possessing infinite ammo and marines still missing some vital things.
HOWEVER, even at this pre-alpha stage, Interstellar Marines is a blast.
Tense Player versus Player matches, while not the focus of the game, drip with a fragile surface tension that can be broken violently with gunfire as you try to take points or navigate the map, the immersion being damn great.
The low health, movement style, and unforgiving weaponry contribute to this tense and (semi) tactical gameplay, and will hopefully continue to get better and better as updates are rolled out, and features are added, increasing the number of strategies and tactical moves a team can use to wipe out the opposition, be they Human Players...
Or Combat Training Robots, built to push you to your limit in tense PvE missions, all designed with co-op in mind. Update 13 brought everyone access to fight CTRs proper in the 'Neurogen Incident', the first 'Campaign' mission of IM that has a tense (if glitchy) atmosphere, achieved by setting players in a replica space station and giving them multiple objectives to achieve their way.
Since then, more and more AI missions have been added, with Terrorist-Hunt style elimination missions, or Update 16's new 'Assault on Starcrown Aerospace'.
In terms of the effort and care put into the game, there is a distinct lack of major bugs and issues most of the time, and even then Zero Point Software always listens to the community. The quality of the game is high, especially for early access and Unity Engine, and with a shared vision they've gone far, and seem to be going further. You could mistake their work for a veteran developer’s. Triple-A indie indeed!
Unfortunately, at times it’s a bit challenging to be tactical and immersed like ZPS wants. At the moment there’s no proper teamchat, and a limited number of gamemodes and players (Get on more, damn you).
As for how it runs and looks, this game isn't for low end PCs. Before I upgraded I often had 15 FPS on average. Despite this, the views are spectacular, and the graphics actually play an important part in gameplay, due to the dynamic lighting system, the fog and the storm effects. A map can be pushed into pitch-black due to the said lighting, a player can shoot out lights, you can be spotted using the light, etcetera. Loads of options opened by graphics.
As for the online community, with the exception of teamkillers and some new players, those I’ve seen are mature and understand the game, and despite a somewhat lower population of players, there's still dedicated people playing. Very rarely have I seen someone call anyone a 'hacking noob' or anyone go on generic 'CoD-child rage'.
As for the major story and all that, we’ll just have to wait for the future, and the Carcharodons/landsharks. Glorious landsharks!
As for ZPS, you guys are dedicated, and the stuff you’re doing to connect with the community is great. Can’t wait for the future!
tl;dr, Even though it’s barebones, it's something to follow, and it plays hard.
Now, as for buying it, I'd personally recommend it to support the devs (I know they need it, for the love of the game!) and purchase it, but if you're not that into early access or 'barebones' gameplay, then you may want to wait a bit.
The price will go up, though, over time.
Before you make any decisions, you should go see some gameplay of the current version.
CONCERNING THE LACK OF LANDSHARKS AND CAMPAIGN:
This is a bloody early access, and it takes time to recreate those things in Unity. Be patient, there's less than 20 devs, and they first want a solid multiplayer first for you, the player or potential believer! And then, only then, can they begin to focus on the landsharky goodness.
Where is the ‘First Immersion’ demo?!
It was a small publisher demo created to get them publishers back in 2007-8, demonstrating features on Unreal Engine 3. Unfortunately they can’t release it or work on it due to licensing red tape. However, Xeno-13 will be remade eventually!
My feelings on the progress of the game after so long:
They've gone through some stuff, and they hit steam with only two developers. Now, today, they're becoming able to hire more due to steam's early access, which will allow them to slowly speed up development and finally get the game out the gate.
After seeing what some of the Devs had to say, I’ve also learned that the ‘lack of progress’ some people argue is actually lots of unseen progress, and lots of bugfixing going on. You don’t see the badass ninja from that one VLog anywhere in the game because they actually fixed that BEFORE updating the game!
I see how some complain that the game did not deliver, lied in it's advertising and all that. I say that when you look at the big picture, with all of ZPS' troubles, experiences, and traits, that the advertising was in no way false at the time it was made.
Original trailer, made to impress and to get a publisher, but from what I remember they didn’t say it was really ingame.
Space Station and Sharks gameplay, a demo built on the Unreal 3 engine to impress and get a publisher, before 2008 screwed them over.
Why does the current game look and play so differently than the demo? They can't use the Unreal 3 engine, the license costs a million bucks. That and the assets are a bit dated, and more legal tape.
There's more, but I believe this illustrates my point.