I quickly made my way back to the airlock located on the bottom of a massive mining station after barely surviving multiple skirmishes. I had killed more than a few of my enemy marauders, creeping through the shadows while they scavenged, listening to their heavy footfalls all around me, biding my time.
After filling up my makeshift sack with as much ammo, guns, and scrap I could fit, I had to get out of the space-station-turned-killbox to escape with my hard-fought loot. I entered the airlock as guns fired behind, whether at me or someone else I didn't know, or care. I hastily made my retreat, urging my decrepit space vessel (aptly known as "the Rust Bucket") to gain speed and make it to the escape gates floating in open space surrounding the station. As I was approaching the gate, the deafening silence of space was suddenly broken by muffled explosions erupting all around me.
My Rust Bucket had already taken fire on the way in and was on its last legs as a waiting marauder raked the hull with its weapons. Several direct hits later, a message blasted in my ears: "Abandon ship! Damage critical!" I did as I was told, leaving my poor little garbage vessel to die in the deep vacuum of space while I blasted away in my small escape pod, making a beeline for the escape gate. I'd lost my ship, but I'd kept my life.
On my way to the gate, I had a sudden urge for revenge. Despite the loot I was carrying, I was still geared to the teeth from my raid, recycling my damaged starting gear with items I had confiscated from the marauder foes I felled in the station. I quickly turned the escape pod around, blasting straight for the enemy ship that had turned my humble Rust Bucket into swiss cheese. I burrowed my way through the ship's hull using the escape pod breach charge, puncturing its exterior.
Once inside, I quickly overwhelmed the single crewman running the ship, making good use of my 12 gauge shotgun. I swept the ship to make sure they were alone, and in killing them, commandeered their ship. It was also a Rust Bucket, but hey, I had taken a ship like a true marauder. I made it to the escape gate with all of my loot and all of theirs, surviving to fight another day. It was truly one of the most interesting and organic moments I've ever had playing an online game.
Then, on my very next run, I got immediately brained by someone camping the airlocks, losing almost everything I had just fought so hard to get. But hey, that's the name of the game.
Marauders is an intense, hardcore FPS looter-shooter by Small Impact Games. It takes place in an alternate version of our reality, in the far-flung year of 1992. You play as a marauder - a space raider forced into a life of pilferage and plunder by war and oppression. The Great War never ended, meaning many of the weapons and equipment found on the various space stations are heavily inspired by WWII armaments. Three factions are fighting for survival, with a multitude of abandoned space stations and mines scattered throughout the outer rim just begging to be raided.
Marauders wears its main inspiration on its sleeve - the gameplay is remarkably similar to that of Battlestate Games' world-renowned phenomenon Escape from Tarkov. Marauders and Tarkov share a ton of the same DNA - both are hardcore looter-shooters with a huge emphasis on survival. Each run you do sees you choose from a huge inventory of weaponry and equipment you've amassed, and if you are taken down during your run (which is extremely likely due to the quick time-to-kill of these games) you lose everything on your person.
The main goal of both games is to get in, loot as much gear and equipment as possible, and get the hell out without dying. Both have storefronts where unwanted equipment can be sold while purchasing new equipment. Both have crafting systems that allow you to produce better equipment in higher quantities. Both result in a total loss upon death. Both play as a huge game of risk and reward; take out your best gear to help you kill more enemies, but risk losing it all in the process. Both have minimal HUD and rely on you paying attention to your surroundings to succeed.
Marauders differs from Tarkov in two major areas: the space travel, and the setting. Every match is started in a ship, which is yet another commodity that you can acquire and lose. There are multiple tiers of ships, each of which has certain strengths and weaknesses. There's the aforementioned Rust Bucket, which is the starter ship. The Scout Frigate is a faster and tougher version of the Rust Bucket. The Interceptor Frigate is built for speed at the cost of armor. The Heavy Frigate is a mid-sized, heavily armored ship that sacrifices speed for durability. The Vulture Frigate is a well-balanced ship. And finally, the Capital Ship, the largest and most well-armored ship in the game, boasts two weapon slots instead of one.
Each of these ships can be piloted and manned by multi-person crews who can be designated different responsibilities. One must fly the ship, another can work the guns, with another focusing on keeping the ship's engines running by putting out the fires that spread when damage is taken. Everyone must first make it to the station to raid, weaving between a multitude of asteroids, automated turrets, other marauder's ships, and escape pod boarding parties. On top of this, the same airspace must be traversed to get out of the raids, flying back out through the escape gates. All of these ships except the Rust Bucket can be stolen permanently while you man them, as well as left behind if you die in the stations or escape via escape pod rather than ship. Adding this extra obstacle really hammers home the point Marauders wants to make - space is dangerous, and you knew this going in.
The second unique aspect that Marauders brings is the overall setting. Escape from Tarkov is set in the fictional city of Tarkov in the country of Russia. Massive swathes of land separate buildings filled with loot, with a major strategy being whether or not you decide to engage or try to hide to let enemies pass. If they're obviously geared up better than you, it may benefit you to just let them go and cut your losses than it would be to try to punch up and get destroyed. The location allows for easy concealment.
Marauders, on the other hand, takes place in exclusively cramped, tight environments. The halls of a dieselpunk marketplace station or mining rig are much more restrictive and confined than those of the Tarkov countryside. This means that the ability to hide is greatly diminished, leading to far more firefights and haphazard scrambles. I found that almost every interaction I had with PCs and NPCs alike ended in a desperate exchange of bullets, making each encounter seem that much tenser. It's much easier to see a marauder ducked behind a stack of pallets than it is a scav hiding in the Tarkov trees, and I would more often than not crawl my way through each hallway at a snail's pace, my heart beating out of my chest. From the moment you set foot on a station to the moment you make it to an escape ring, you aren't safe, and you feel it.
Marauders is still in development, and as such, there are still a few tweaks that could benefit it. The footsteps are far too loud for their own good. I oftentimes would scramble for cover because I heard the telltale footfalls of an enemy marauder, only to realize after a few palm-sweating minutes that I was hearing people move around two or three stories above me, or multiple hallways away.
The hit detection can sometimes be a little bit wonky, often reading body shots as headshots and vice versa. The NPCs (colloquially known as "raiders" versus the PC "marauders"). AI leaves a lot to be desired, oftentimes staring at the ground until you enter a room. That's about all the complaints I have though, and most of these don't actually take too much away from the core experience. The WWII-inspired retro-future weapons and equipment are really interesting and unique, while the setting creates an incredibly tense atmosphere rarely bogged down with boredom and periods of nothing like usual looter shooters. Plus, double tapping the F1 button allows you to scream "fuck you!" to your opponents. It all works really well.
If you like hardcore looter shooters and inventory management, chances are you'll really enjoy Marauders. Despite not actually being into games of this ilk, I continuously find myself thinking about Marauders and how exciting it is to creep around a space station with the threat of permadeath looming over you. I wouldn't be surprised if we see Mauraders gracing our trending Twitch streams in the near future, and from what I played, it's rightfully earned. It's ultimately a very solid and satisfying experience, and I look forward to hopping into my next Rust Bucket and trying my luck against my fellow marauders in a fight to the death for the shiniest things.
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