Interstellar Marines is a game I’ve anticipated, forgot, and then, to my great joy, rediscovered last year on Steam, fresh from being greenlit.
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, and that before you make any decisions you should go see some gameplay videos of the current version. If you don’t like my review, please, give me some feedback in the comments!
To the subject at hand, with my nostalgia and feelings aside, the current stage (Steam Update 10) that IM is at is still pretty barebones. One gun, infinite reserve ammo, plus lots of other ‘missing’ things (The truth is most are incomplete and not active yet).
HOWEVER, even at this pre-alpha stage, Interstellar Marines is a blast. The effort and care put into the game, polishing everything before release, shows so much promise and potential. I personally have never encountered a bug due to the polishing and testing they do (Unlike SOME companies!), and what they’ve got so far can rival other high-quality shooters, experience wise.
You could mistake their work for a veteran developer’s. Triple-A indie indeed!
The primary reasons for the fun I have, even with the lag my computer experiences at times (Lowest I hit was 15-ish Frames per Second) is the immersion and feel that ZPS strives so far and hard to accomplish, along with the fun (But very incomplete and sometimes infuriating) gunplay and dynamic environments.
When the lights on a map go out, there are three main conflicts on my mind. Do I turn my flashlight on, risk being spotted? Try to move in for the kill? Or do I find the darkest corner and prey on the unsuspecting?
You don’t commonly see this in full games made by big developers, such as Battlefield or Call of Duty, and when you do it’s commonly in Campaign Mode as part of a scripted event.
In this early access game, while only Multiplayer at the moment, the tension compliments the early but good gunplay, and the emerging tactical features and changes to the game show a bright future.
Since the first steam version, IM’s come along a great amount, with a fancy crouch-cover system being improved, maps being made, added, and rebalanced, with things such as new and updated maps or whole new HUDs being introduced to enhance immersion. Interstellar Marines just keeps getting better! It’s not perfect yet, but again, early access.
To sum this up, you only have one gun, and matches can degrade to shooting at eachother (Though to be honest, this is what every FPS pretty much is, shoot at the other person). However, the game pulls you in and can make things intense through the map alone, and the Domination gamemode keeps the pace up and forces people to move around, keeping the action alive and kicking.
Unfortunately, at this time it’s a bit challenging to be tactical and immersed like ZPS wants. At the moment there’s no proper teamchat, the hit detection is spotty due to bullet lag, and running can be safer than using the cover system at times. However, I’d love to disregard those until they’re properly implemented, as many things are being worked on behind the scenes every day.
As for how it runs and looks, the former is rather iffy and the latter is damned good. However, one can’t judge this so early considering that they haven’t done that many optimizations yet, and it’s very distant from a full, final release, so that may take a while. But 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.
As for the relatively small online community, with the exception of teamkillers and some new players, those I’ve seen are mature and understand the game, and you can almost always find a match going on somewhere. That, and people who don’t believe in IM tend not to fall into the mature and understanding category for me, unless they’ve proven otherwise.
As for the major story and all that, we’ll just have to wait for the future, and the Carcharodons/landsharks. Glorious landsharks! However, I can sum up what the story relates to in the game at the moment (Update 10).
Lore-wise, the multiplayer of Interstellar Marines takes place in Area 51, or ITO Dreamland, where the players are candidates for the Interstellar Marines Special Forces program.
I find this interesting and I love how the developers try to connect the MP to the story, and I like the effects the guns give off and the ‘TAZER’ notification in the HUD.
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, the fact that it’s better than some new FPS games right now = One of the best modern games for PC on the horizon, perhaps!
Now, 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. If you're lucky you can snag a copy during a livestream at http://www.twitch.tv/zeropointsoftware
or a spare to give to a friend.
NOTE, before you make any decisions, you should go see some gameplay videos of the current version, see what you like.
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 only 8 devs, and they 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. 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.