Marauders is a tactical first-person multiplayer looter shooter developed by Small Impact Games and published by Team17 that officially enters Early Access on October 3, 2022. While the dev studio is indeed made up of a small team out of the UK, their efforts and design work are incredibly good for an early access title. I am super grateful to have server locations close to me in Australia such that I am getting pings in the low to mid-30’s. This makes the gameplay experience that much better for us who usually deal with 200+ pings and are outplayed by slight lag spikes.
The whole setting is fantastic that gives me vibes of playing Alien Isolation mixed with some Metro 2033. Set in an alternative 1990s where The Great War never ended, Earth has been industrialised to its breaking point, and many have fled to the stars. As space mercenaries known as ‘Marauders’, players will gear up and pilot their ships through hostile galactic reaches to salvage anything they can and survive by any means necessary.
You start with a modest amount of gear in your inventory with a few pistols, an MP40 SMG, 10mm ammunition, a shotgun and shells, some bandages, and some food. An important aspect here is that whatever you take into a raid with you, be willing to lose it as when you are killed, you will drop everything you were carrying. Thankfully I started this preview with $65,000 to be able to buy replacement items off the trader after each mission. However, the trader’s inventory is very limited, sometimes only having the bare minimum to get you back into the fight.
Commencing a mission has you starting in deep space in a space craft. You need to run to the cockpit and take control of the ship. If you are playing solo, you can also fire your turret while flying, otherwise if you are playing with up to three other friends, one of them can man the turret. Some locations have defensive towers that you can fly past and dodge incoming fire, however we found it best to take these out which helps plan your exit. You also have a chance of seeing other players in their ships, most of which will start shooting at you and or try to board you.
The first time we got breached, we didn’t even see them approaching, we just got a message that we were breached. We thought we could make it to the station zone in time but we got shot in the back while piloting. Another time we thought we’d go on the offensive, opening fire on the other ship but they disabled us at the same time we disabled them. We hurriedly jumped into our escape pods, only to see the other team have the exact same idea. We ended up just breaching back onto our own ship, repairing it and continuing on to the station.
I love the visuals of the game, both in space and when raiding on a station/mine. From the oldschool computer terminals that open and close airlocks, to the light reflections in your visor causing temporary flash blindness as you turn a corner looking into lights. It’s creepy searching the dark locations in first-person view like Alien Isolation and then the sound design kicks in. Initially hearing your own footsteps, the sound of a gunshot close by stops you in your tracks. Similarly, you may hear footsteps, so you stop and crouch to listen more.
I believe most of the raiders I killed were NPC’s as their movement was quite ‘simple’ for want of a better word. They would see you and start shooting, but often would hold their position in the open. Sometimes they would move to cover, but they were relatively easy kills. It was noticeable when you are fighting a player as I either died straight away from full health, or they would use cover and leaning more effectively than I was. I believe when you’re looking at the final mission tally that marauders are real players and the other names of people you killed are NPCs. I’m assuming so based on the name of the game being Marauders.
I did have a few times where I was killed as soon as I stepped out of the airlock by a camping so-and-so. Other times I would step out of the airlock and engage npcs straight away. The sound of this fight though attracted other players. Sometimes I was victorious but more often than not I would be killed and lose the $5000 i just spent on items. When I had been whittled down to just $900 left, I wondered how I was going to progress. It was then that I realised that a pistol, 9mm ammo and a pocketed vest always spawns in your ship, so that gave me confidence to continue fighting and learning more strategies. Eventually I was able to start a raid with just a pistol, then kill and loot my way to better gear. That’s always the plan anyway!
There are contracts you can take that will gain favour with three major factions in the game – United Allies, Kingdom Alliance and Central Empire. Completing these nets some XP and nice rewards like cash, weapons and upgrade points. You can salvage items you find to give crafting resources, then spend cash and upgrade points to unlock crafting recipes. It took me many runs to firstly learn the landscape of the various locations you can raid, and then to start looting items I could fit into my limited inventory slots. I found I almost always had a pistol and ammo in my ship, and sometimes a basic vest to wear.
So far, my first impressions of Marauders are that it’s a fun, gritty and atmospheric looter shooter. It’s hard not to compare it to Escape from Tarkov but in a scifi setting, which isn’t a bad thing. Having between only 10-20 minutes of oxygen means each game you play is quick and intense which means you can play a few games and feel like you’ve accomplished something. Or in my case, play a couple of games and lose everything I had.
Overall, Marauders hits all the right marks for an early access tactical FPS and I’m getting addicted to it. I just want to play more, and I am looking forward to watching the game develop through the early access period. It is worth noting that there will be full wipes throughout the early access period, but Small Impact Games will give us news of this well in advance, so don’t get too attached to your player or your items.
This review utilised a key provided by Team17 and Marauders will launch on Steam Early Access on October 3, 2022.
Written by: @ChrisJInglis