The oppressive glass film of my oxygen mask shimmered as I made my way into the mining complex. Each corner was an opportunity to stop and listen, waiting to hear the dreaded footsteps of another marauder nearby. I kept the sights of my precious rifle trained on each railing, every lip of the terrain. It exhausted me but it was well worth the precaution.
As I entered the main floor of the mine I glanced over to see a welcome sight: a crate only a few feet away. It was large enough to appear as though it might hold something of higher value. Maybe a rifle, gear, rations, or something more valuable. I crouched near the box to tear through its contents when I hear it. A gunshot; no, two. I turn and ready my weapon. I bet too much on this raid, there’s no way that I was going to let it end here.
I enter a small balcony and peer off the side and I see him. A shadow passing behind a wall. I bide my time, sweat dripping down my mask. I see the hunter-green uniform reveal itself from cover and I lay it into him. It was sloppy, too many more rounds than I needed, too much noise. I sprint towards the body now sprawled right where it had revealed itself. He had guns, lots of them. I load my sack and stealthily head toward my ship. This was a big score; I wonder how long these supplies will last me.
Marauders is a raid-based hardcore first-person shooter developed by Small Impact Games. Marauders takes place in an alternate history where the great war claimed the Earth and forced its inhabitants to launch into space to fight for scraps. After preparations, you enter a raid by spawning on a spaceship that you can use to either fight in the asteroid field or enter ground combat by flying into the main raid area in the center of each map.
This game is deemed hardcore by its low time to kill and heavy emphasis on sound, inventory, and line of sight management.
The most immediate thing that I noticed about Marauders is its gorgeous graphics and incredible sound design. Every space sky box looks stunning, the guns match the bleak aesthetic of the space station, and every footstep hauntingly echoes through the halls. There is no doubt that a lot of love and care was put into the specific World War in a space environment that was dreamed up by the developers.
Entering the Raids
I had two experiences with this game, so I want to start by talking about the normal experience of this game. When you are loading into this game for the first time, you have enough supplies to get you started as well as plenty of money to bail you out a big handful of times in case you are getting low on supplies. As far as this game goes, the starting money feels generous, but there are Catch 22’s with this that I’ll get to a little further down.
In the Trade menu, you are allowed to purchase supplies for a pretty penny, and the prices can be discounted based on your standing with certain factions. You raise your standings by completing contracts that rotate in which you are tasked with a variety of basic stuff like fetch or kill quests. These are unique in this game in that the information provided with these quests are limited meaning that you won’t get a way point, you’ll just have to hope you know where you’re going or that you spawn on the appropriate map. There are also main quests that are not timed, these allow you to unlock crafting recipes that you can reference to use materials that you find in the wild to make equipment rather than relying on money to propel you through the game.
After you have sufficiently geared up, you simply click “Enter Raid” to start matchmaking and enter the fray. When you load in, you have 25 min to grab everything of value that you can and get out in one piece. If you die, you lose everything that you brought in with you. It’s similar to how Escape From Tarkov works.
When you have a full kit, this game is tense. You are trading blows with other players, mixing stealth with infiltration techniques that make you feel like covert ops and feeling satisfying loot cycles that reward you for basically picking up anything. It’s extremely addictive in that you are always avoiding death trying to weigh risk and reward as you debate going further into the raid versus turning tail and running with the gear you have now.
Playing solo, I had an amazing time taking out groups with precision and deciding what I wanted to take with me as I left.
Running on Nothing
But everyone's luck runs out eventually. There will come a time in Marauders where you are gearing up and you notice that your last death cost you your very last backpack. Well, if you can’t bring back any good loot it’s not worth the risk of taking any nice guns with you. And if you aren’t using good guns there’s no sense in wasting good armor.
This is the Catch-22 with the gear system; if you don’t have a full kit, you will most likely find it not worth the risk to enter a raid only to lose more gear for a small return. You could go to the shop, and most shops will always have a gun and ammo for sale, but seeing protective gear is a 50/50 shot, and finding a sack is fairly rare. You will always feel like you are making the best of a bad situation when gearing up in Marauders.
This sounds like it’s a bad thing but it’s thrilling; it makes every raid feel important, every dive into space feels like this is the time when you can kill someone for their bag and get back into the heartbeat raising combat. However, there is one way that you can have a risk-free game of Marauders.
Starting a raid with zero equipment on you is risky, but this is how I ended up playing a majority of my matches. When you load into the raid with nothing, you can immediately pick up a pack of 9mm ammunition, a Luger pistol, and a vest with 4 pockets. You have two options here, you can continue on in hopes of scavenging without another player forcibly inserting a bullet in you, or you can pry the fire extinguishers from your cabin walls and sell that equipment over and over until you get back on your feet.
Running into the raid area basically unarmed is almost a death sentence. If you are seen by anyone with a gun loaded with bullets, you can kiss your loot goodbye. Still, these were my most intense raids. Hiding, listening, and running was a unique experience that this game gives to it’s least economically inclined players. Even though I had nothing to lose, every death felt just as crushing as the ones where I lost a good gun.
Doing these runs also makes you feel like the poorest scavenger in space. The pockets of on the default vest are small, and I remember I was able to get out with a bottle of water and a biscuit once and I was so excited. I was so thrilled to extract with a bottle of water. It wasn’t even worth anything, either; just the fact that I survived was a miracle in itself.
Mauraders is a Dangerously Fun Game
This game won’t be for everyone; it’s punishing in game play and preparation. It applies a mental toll on its players that not everyone is going to be fond of. However, it is clear through this game's incredible visuals and attention to detail that Marauders is shaping up to be a fresh entry into the hardcore FPS space.
In early access, I can say that the game's space area is wasted on its lack of side content that funnels you into the raids. Given time to allow Small Impact to flesh out the game with new places to go and new freedoms to explore this is going to become a game that is much more palpable to the average player.
If you are at all interested in this type of experience I strongly suggest checking it out as its unique take on the genre is fast and fun. However, for most of everyone else, I can only say that I am excited to see how this game grows in early access.
You can get access to Mauraders on Steam for $29.99.
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