Deliver Us Mars review: An exciting journey with a few hurdles along the way
Deliver Us Mars is a sci-fi adventure game brought to you by the talented developers at KeokeN Interactive. It is a follow-up to the 2018 hit, Deliver Us the Moon. The new game is set in a dystopian future, where Earth has been depleted of all its resources and humans look 'outwards.' The game's theme immediately caught my attention and sparked my interest.
This review delves into the various elements that make up the game Deliver Us Mars. I will provide a comprehensive critique covering all the crucial elements contributing to the game's overall experience, from graphics to gameplay mechanics.
Whether you're a sci-fi fan or enjoy an immersive and engaging gaming experience, this review will provide valuable insights to help you decide if Deliver us Mars is worth your time.
Deliver Us Mars - First impressions
As a newcomer to the franchise, I approached the game with a blank slate and no preconceptions. At the onset, the narrative was somewhat opaque, and the characters were unfamiliar. However, these individuals would be recognizable for players who have already completed the prequel.
Rather than trying to piece together their identities and backstory, I chose to push forward and immerse myself in the experience. The game eventually shed light on the events of the first installment and provided ample detail to understand the characters and their motivations.
The beginning of Deliver Us Mars starts at a slow pace with limited action. However, as the player moves forward, the story develops and gains momentum. The tension and excitement increase with each chapter, mounting difficulty with each completion.
It soon became apparent that the title's emphasis was not on gameplay mechanics but on delivering a compelling story. As someone passionate about narrative-driven games, I was eager to see how the plot would unfold and unfold it, satisfying my hunger for an immersive and engaging experience.
A mesmerizing tale amidst underwhelming gameplay mechanics
The game's centerpiece is its captivating story. I will do my best to avoid spoilers, but some details may be unavoidable.
The story begins with the dire situation on Earth, facing extinction due to depleted resources. In this dire hour, a mysterious signal is received from Outward - a group of individuals who left Earth believing it was doomed and went on to colonize Mars to build a new civilization. Outward has created three Arks designed by Earth's best minds to make this new civilization a reality.
A special team, Team Zephyr, is assembled to journey to Mars and retrieve the Arks, which hold the key to reviving Earth. The team, consisting of Kathy (the protagonist), her sister Claire, Sarah Baker, and Ryan Delyanin, must face challenges and obstacles to complete their mission. The central plot revolves around Team Zephyr's journey to Mars and their mission to retrieve the Arks.
The story is a masterpiece in its own right, capturing the imagination and drawing players into a world filled with mystery and intrigue. Like the player, other characters also embark on the journey with a feeling of uncertainty, adding to the immersive experience.
The narrative expertly weaves in philosophical themes such as greed and politics, creating a rich and complex story that is thought-provoking and emotionally charged. The human element is the glue that holds everything together, making the story a captivating and unforgettable journey.
The characters in Deliver Us Mars are the true driving force behind the story, and their development makes it compelling. The writers have done an excellent job of creating well-rounded, relatable characters that players will come to care about. Each character has a distinct personality, and their interactions with one another add depth and nuance to the story.
The dialogues are outstanding, conveying the emotions and tensions of the situation in a way that is both believable and impactful. Players become fully invested in the story by forming a bond with the characters, and the journey to Mars becomes all the more personal and meaningful.
Most of the story's progression is revealed through cutscenes. As Deliver Us Mars takes around eight hours to complete, this approach detracts from the time spent in actual gameplay.
Deliver Us Mars falls short in terms of gameplay. Since it prioritizes storytelling, players will spend significant time viewing cutscenes and following the plot. Despite the limited gameplay, what is offered is not entirely unsatisfactory. It primarily consists of puzzle-solving, platforming, operating the Mars rover, cutting objects, and executing commands.
While the game may give the illusion of being open-world in certain areas, it is ultimately a linear experience. While this linearity can provide a clear sense of direction, it can also feel limiting and annoying sometimes, particularly in areas where a more open-ended approach might be more satisfying.
Deliver Us Mars features puzzles connecting miniature MPT energy sources, which necessitates players to apply their problem-solving abilities. Although the puzzles are not particularly difficult, there is an exception in Chapter 8, where players must find a specific item to complete the setup.
This particular puzzle proved to be quite challenging, requiring a significant amount of time to solve. Kudos to the developers for hiding it in an unexpected location.
It also involves puzzles that require you to use your drone to align blocks and unlock holograms that provide information about the Mars colony. Some of these puzzles are optional, while others are mandatory to progress in the game.
Platforming mainly involves using pickaxes to ascend surfaces or simply jumping and crawling under obstacles. However, the pickaxe system is my most significant grievance in Deliver Us Mars.
The controls for climbing and navigating surfaces are straightforward, but the game fails to instruct players to jump from one surface to another. On PC, players must press the 'Shift + Space + Direction Key' to make the jump, which the game doesn't tell you in any tutorial.
Additionally, players must follow a set path when climbing surfaces, unable to deviate or find their way. The game does not allow for it despite the possibility of skipping sections by making a specific jump, which can be pretty frustrating.
The cutting feature in the game is straightforward. Objects that can be cut are highlighted, and you use your laser beam to dissect them. While it may seem enjoyable at first, it loses its shine over time. Thankfully, there are only a limited number of instances where the cutting feature is used in the game.
To summarize, the majority of gameplay in the game revolves around platforming using the designated path and solving MPT energy source puzzles. These activities will occupy most of the player's time throughout the game.
Analyzing the components that create immersion
The graphics of the game, even on Epic settings, don't quite reach the level of being groundbreaking. Don't get me wrong, the world and environment are visually stunning, but there are still areas where the game falls short.
It's important to note that the game offers first-person and third-person camera perspectives, switching between the two depending on the situation, such as when swimming or exploring a zero-gravity spacecraft.
Most of the game is played in third-person mode, where the true beauty of the game shines. However, in first-person moments, the environment feels genuinely immersive.
The character models in the game, except for the protagonist Kathy, are poorly designed. The arms and fingers appear elongated, the eyebrows appear unnatural, and the facial expressions lack the necessary depth and realism, resulting in a cartoonish appearance.
Furthermore, the NPC models you encounter lack proper facial animation and stand rigidly without reacting. This lack of proper animation can be mainly observed in Chapter 9. This takes away from the game's immersive experience and makes it feel like it is from the early 2000s.
In addition to these issues, I experienced some unusual glitches where strands of hair randomly jumped. Sometimes, characters' hair color changes in certain situations due to lighting errors.
Additionally, I encountered a situation where I could hear Sarah Baker speaking. However, her character was standing still, and there was no accompanying facial animation to indicate that she was speaking. These glitches further detract from the overall immersion and the player's experience.
Despite these issues, the world in Deliver Us Mars is well-designed. Mars is depicted as a vast landscape of red dust and rocks with infrequent ice storms, which creates a sense of realism. The interiors of the spaceships feel believable and make the player feel like they are inside a functional spaceship that has been abandoned in a hurry.
The only time the world feels lackluster is in the early chapters when the areas on Earth are barren. While it is understandable that the game is trying to convey that Earth is on the brink of its end, a few more objects could have been added to make the environment feel more inhabited.
Audio is one area of Deliver Us Mars where I have no complaints. As previously mentioned, the dialogues are excellent and well-delivered. It is without a doubt that the main characters are all well-voiced, with Ellise Chappell (Kathy Johanson), Neil Newbon (Isaac Johanson), and Danny Ashok (Ryan Delyanin) standing out in particular. Each character brings a unique personality to the game, and the voice acting perfectly captures these personalities.
Even though the character models for the characters (except Kathy) may not be highly detailed, the voice work is so good that it makes up for it, giving the characters a sense of depth and dimension beyond just being 3D art.
The developers of Deliver Us Mars have also done a great job with the audio directionality, adding to the overall immersion of the game. The background music, which changes depending on the situation, adds to the sense of being on a constant mission, even in calm situations.
For example, after completing a puzzle, the music that plays gives a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. While in dangerous situations, the music builds up to create a sense of anxiety and tension. These elements combine seamlessly to create a truly captivating audio experience.
Technical problems and performance
I played the game on a mid-range PC equipped with an RTX 3060 Ti, a Ryzen 5 5600x, and 16 GB of RAM. I ran the game at maximum settings at 1080p with DLSS set to 'Quality,' and I typically maintained an average FPS of 100.
Although I did experience some occasional stuttering and FPS drops in certain areas, even though those areas didn't seem particularly demanding in terms of resources, nevertheless, the performance was primarily stable, and I had no significant issues with it.
Regarding bugs in Deliver Us Mars, apart from the hair glitches and the facial animation issue, I experienced several other bugs that forced me to restart the game. Certain resistors reduce the overall power generation in the game (you need them for puzzles). One of these resistors disappeared while I was solving a puzzle, requiring me to restart the game to find it again.
Similarly, in another instance, I became trapped in a room due to a bug where my character could not pick up a resistor to align the MPT system. In this chapter, the player is tasked with aligning the system to gain access to a room and power up an elevator.
After successfully entering the room and turning on the power for the elevator, the game experienced a glitch, and the location of the resistor changed, leaving me unable to move it and trapped in the room.
The last bug I encountered was regarding the hologram puzzles. Despite my efforts, I could not connect my drone to solve the puzzle. My drone would immediately disconnect from the hologram whenever I attempted to start the decryption process.
Additionally, despite a few bugs, I only experienced one crash during my entire playthrough of Deliver Us Mars, which is impressive considering the state of PC ports these days.
In conclusion, Deliver Us Mars is a well-crafted game that takes players on a journey above and beyond. The game features brilliant voice acting and a fantastic musical score that immerses players in the game's world. The graphics and performance of the title are good, but a few bugs and glitches detract from the overall experience.
The visual experience of Deliver Us Mars could be enhanced by emphasizing the non-playable characters and character models, as they are essential in creating a believable and immersive world in the game. Mars is dull, and only the characters bring life to the barren lands. Hence, the attention to detail in characters would significantly contribute to the players' overall experience.
The game is also quite linear, which may be a disappointment for some players, and lacks severely when it comes to gameplay. However, the game's puzzle elements add an extra layer of challenge and make the game more interesting.
The standout feature of Deliver Us Mars is undoubtedly its story. The plot was engaging right from the start, even for someone who hasn't played the prequel. The pace is well-balanced, and the ending leaves a satisfying conclusion. Additionally, there are hints towards the possibility of a sequel based on Earth, further adding to the excitement.
Despite a few bugs, the overall experience of playing Deliver Us Mars is enjoyable and provides an interesting insight into the world of space exploration and, most importantly, human nature.
Deliver Us Mars
Reviewed on: Windows PC (Review Copy provided by Frontier Developments plc)
Platform(s): Xbox Series X and Series S, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows
Developer(s): KeokeN Interactive
Publisher(s): Frontier Developments plc
Release Date: February 2, 2023