Deliver Us Mars is a survival adventure game that has you playing as Kathy Johanson, an astronaut in training sent on a mission to recover vital technology from Mars. A standalone sequel to Deliver Us The Moon, it is set ten years after the Fortuna mission. Earth receives a distress call from Mars and must venture into space to recover the ARK ships and their technology, without which the human race is doomed to extinction.
The game is played similar to others of this genre including exploration, survival elements, and puzzles all wrapped around a narrative that involves uncovering some bizarre and unexpected happenings in the colony. You’ll need to tread carefully as you explore the desolate planet of Mars, trying to piece together exactly what triggered the distress call. You must unravel the story to discover the location of the ARK colony ships and their technology and bring them back to Earth.
The hands-on demo I played as part of a Frontier Foundry showcase dropped me into the story not far from the start, following a slightly different part of the game from the Gamescom preview. Kathy is alone and begins to explore the remains of the colony for answers. This section of the game allowed me to experience some of the more unique mechanics and begin to piece together story threads.
Storytelling plays a huge part in Deliver Us Mars and this is evident from the start as Kathy’s ulterior motives for embarking on this mission become clear. It turns out that her father was among the colonists on Mars and she has many questions about what happened to him and to the colony itself. The information is mostly transmitted through holographic recordings scattered throughout the area and soon reveal few answers and even more questions.
These recordings are like pieces of a puzzle and you have to put them together and fill in the gaps to figure out what happened. This way of conveying information seems easier to follow than things like hidden videos on computers due to the way holograms are displayed as easy-to-spot icons. They are shown in key positions and you cannot miss them. That means you’re not wondering if you missed some vital information in an email from three rooms ago that would have helped you now.
As you explore, there are several mechanisms to make the process more practical and realistic. You’ll have to crouch, climb and jump, as well as scale various walls using pickaxes. As you progress, there are a variety of environmental dangers to overcome and sometimes quick reactions will be required. You can try again if you fail, which I did, an embarrassing amount, but you’ll have to overcome every obstacle to continue.
Much of the exploration reminded me of scrambling up rickety floors and scaling mountains in recent Tomb Raider titles. The familiar feeling of panic is evoked as you clamber over the remains of a ship, hoping the floor will hold. You also have the same stomach through the floor at times when it doesn’t, and you have to make a split-second choice. It’s not too predictable either. While the spots where you need to climb are obvious, knowing when the floor will and won’t stop came as a surprise most of the time. Despite these parallels, Deliver Us Mars has another ace up its sleeve that sets it apart: a drone.
Kathy is accompanied by a drone which is vital to the success of the mission. You can take full control of this robotic helper and use it to access vents, press buttons and move objects. To solve the puzzles, you’ll have to use not only your skills, but also those of the drone.
The mission I played showed a promising balance of story, puzzles, and exploration, even if there was no combat. So far it’s unclear if there’s a threat we’ll encounter and what form it might take, but the tension is palpable. The deserted and half-destroyed places are eerie enough to feel danger lurking around every corner, even when there is no evidence to suggest that there are still other life forms.
The atmosphere is built effectively and the music helps build and maintain tension, as well as heighten the feeling of danger when you need to traverse difficult areas. Despite being very early in the game, it grabbed my attention enough that I desperately need to see the resolution of Kathy’s story. The details revealed are sketchy enough that I can’t construct a proper picture, but intriguing enough to make me want to.
In terms of difficulty, it felt well balanced. For someone smarter than me – and with good reflexes – some aspects might seem too easy, but I found it well pitched. I struggled in a couple of areas but managed to overcome the challenges with some practice and time. My only real gripe was that a couple of the puzzles were a little difficult as I struggled to spot color differences in some beams that indicated whether the power was too low, too high or just right. However, this is a very minor thing and I’ve played a beta so there’s still a chance that things will change.
Overall, Deliver Us Mars was a positive experience and made me eager to play more of the game when it releases on February 2, 2023 for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC. via Steam and the Epic Games Store.
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