Preview: Marauders

2023-04-18 by Callum Andrews

What is this?

I'm the sort of gamer that has throughout my gaming life almost exclusively played single-player games. On occasion, I have made the odd foray into a couple of multiplayer games or played the multiplayer part of a single-player game for a significant amount of time. Some of the most notable of them are Counter-Strike, Age of Conan and Starcraft.

Even though these games are fun after a while I feel that I've had my fill and want to move to something else, or something else in my life takes precedence. Because when I do play these games, I don't just play them casually I sink in if not 100s of hours into these games. At times they had taken over an unhealthy amount of my time deteriorating other aspects of my life. At least this is how it used to be before I had the obligations, that I have today. Marauders could have easily been yet another one of these games to take over my life, had it come out during a period when my life was more carefree than it is now.

Going into it, I wasn't sure what to expect because initially on the surface it looks like yet another shooter. Although it sits in the category of shooters called "extraction-shooter" before playing Marauders I wasn't sure what that meant. So I did some research and two other games that kept popping up was. Escape From Tarkov and Hunt: Showdown. Initially, I thought that an "extraction shooter" was something along the lines of capture-the-flag mode seen in earlier shooters(Not sure if it exists now since I hardly ever play multiplayer). This is however quite wrong. Usually, a game session (or raid) takes place in a certain area whereupon a player or players go in and look for loot and try to escape with their lives intact before the time runs out for that particular raid.

Some motive is needed

The backdrop for Marauders is set in an alternate world where the first world war never ended and continued into the 1980s and 1990s, resulting in the catastrophic destruction of Earth. Forced to leave the planet while the war raged on, humanity is divided into three main warring factions: the United Allies alliance with the U.S. and France, the Central Empire alliance with Germany and Russia, and the United Kingdom alliance consisting of the remnants of Great Britain. However, players belong to a fourth faction - the Pirates - who take on missions from the other three factions to sabotage and thwart each other. As a member of the Pirates, players have no allegiance to any specific faction and can choose whom they want to serve. Completing missions for each faction earns players discounts and access to unique items and loot, with better standings resulting in better rewards.

One of the game's main offerings is the exciting space combat that sets it apart from the other shooters in this category. At the beginning of each raid, players must maneuver their spaceships to various locations within the raid to find the best loot. Alternatively, they can engage other players in thrilling space combat, which is the game's biggest draw compared to other games. Unlike other games where players rely solely on their characters and can be killed easily, Marauders offers a range of possibilities. If the space combat doesn't go well, players can escape by jumping into an escape pod leaving the raid. Players can also board other players' spaceships for direct combat. Another option is to scout other players' raid locations and choose a different one. While the game's bots can be tough, players can still get through it relatively unscathed, provided they play carefully.

The game is after all described as a tactical, survival shooter and the devs have taken these words seriously when implementing the shooting mechanics in the game. Death will come, many times and it will come swiftly if you aren't careful. If you have played any kind of tactical shooter before then you will know what to expect from this. This is the land of one-shot kills. You will need to tread carefully and consider whether the room in front of you is worth stepping into or whether you should turn back and flee with what you've got. It's a very high-risk, high-reward kind of game and the further you explore and venture into a certain area the probability of better loot but also the risk of danger increases.

If you decide to play it as I did, solo that is. Make sure that survival is your main goal. Because die too many times without acquiring new loot and it's game over. You will have some basic starting equipment when starting each raid, but that won't get you far and starting from scratch can be both tiresome and a pain. The game is tailored more towards team play but playing solo is very much viable as well you just need to be smart about it and not run in guns blazing.

Hard fought

Even though gear does make a difference in battle it doesn't make a whole ton of difference. Meaning that high geared players can still get killed by lower geared players. Which is a positive in my book. Not being sure how the matchmaking worked in this game it wasn't unusual that I would be in a raid where higher geared players would put a bullet between my eyes. A lot of the time though I would realize that the reason I got killed would be my fault. Either I didn't move enough or I peeked from the same spot as before but there were occasions where I just wouldn't see from where I got shot.

It took me more than 10 hours of play before I got my first player kill. Which was also probably one of the tensest moments and most fun as I at that point had hijacked another player's ship. We almost spent the entire session playing a game of cat and mouse leaving it to the wire with just three minutes left until the raid ended. At that point, with just a sliver of life left, I was ready to jump ship and take one of the escape pods and leave the raid. However, at the last moment, I could hear my opponent moving and decided to wait him out. Maybe he had decided to do the same and leave however since I was already waiting inside the escape pod area he didn't see me and I started spraying bullets his way ending the encounter in my favour. As it so happened I didn't have the time to do any proper raiding but thankfully he had some great stuff already on him which was enough. Considering that before the raid I was on my last couple of pennies and the loot I had left would have bought me only one more raid. This haul afforded me a couple of more hours in the game and I avoided "gear fear"(which is an actual term used in these kinds of games).

You might wonder, why it took me this long before I got my first kill. It needs to be said that this game is hard and to be frank I didn't play in the smartest way possible at the start. It was probably midway through those first ten hours that I figured out (actually I was reading the forums and checking some guides) how I needed to play. So by taking a step back and readjusting my approach to the game I made some headway. Initially, I managed to mow down a couple of bots and get my hands on some loot, but more frequently than not would just avoid combat altogether. Which helped me stay alive and gather up resources to be able to get my hands on better loot or just be able to collect some cash on completed missions. Because as I mentioned before, the various warring factions will give you missions during each raid to complete which can net you some nice cash rewards. There is also a progression system called "Zero-to-Hero" in which you need to collect various items to hand in, in exchange for better items.

Visually the game looks amazing and I don't think I've ever experienced space looking this beautiful in any game ever. At times I just wanted to fly around in my ship and enjoy the scenery, which ended up being kind of hard as the looming threat of other player ships was constantly present. The interiors, while sporting some great lighting, don't exactly inspire wonder and awe. This isn't particularly surprising since the areas you visit are mostly various space mines, prisons, army bases and just generally various run-down complexes. Nevertheless, considering how great this game looks I was surprised that my computer could keep up the way it did. The initial settings that the game configured were set too high. My framerate kept a steady pace at around 30-60 fps. Considering how important fast framerate is in online fps games I adjusted the setting down to medium upon which the game still looked amazing but more importantly never made my framerate drop under 60.

Judging by the Steam forums and SteamDB charts the game is currently not experiencing the largest player base. Maxing out at around 800-900 players at its peak. This might lead to some having quite a long wait time during matchmaking. I'm not sure how much weight one should put in these metrics but for my part, I never passed the two-minute mark during matchmaking and for the most part, it felt seamless. I did play in the European region so the experience might be different on some of the other servers.

This game deserves to be played by a lot more people than are currently playing it. Especially given its unique nature in the fps multiplayer landscape. The game has a roadmap where there will be more to come in the following months with one of the more exciting features being the inclusion of grenades. Which I hope will even out the playing field somewhat for players going at it solo against groups. I will most definitely revisit this once it hits full launch, or even sooner as I already am having trouble staying away.