Early Access content is totally the new black.
Nowadays, developers are pretty keen when it comes to including their fans in the development process, and it’s proof with the countless number of early access games currently parading through Steam. There’s been a lot of crazy media surrounding quite a few titles, but one game in particular has managed to stay out of the bad press. Interstellar Marines, a new game from Zero Point Software, is currently in its pre-alpha phase, and it’s resurrecting the old-school FPS with some seriously new-school flare.
Copenhagen-based indie studio Zero Point Software stands by one motto: for the love of the game. This isn’t to be confused with late-90’s Kevin Costner, but taken as an apt promise to gamers everywhere; they’re giving all they’ve got. Don’t believe me? The indie-shooter has been around since 2004. For those of you who can’t measure time well, that’s the year Nintendo announced its ‘Revolution’ console — otherwise known at the Wii. Holy guacamole, batman.
The timeline for Insterstellar Marines is a wild ride from start to finish, and the indie-game has been shat on so many times that it’s not hard to see why its devs are hell bent on making it one of the biggest indie releases to date. It’s been picked up, dropped, set on fire, bound, gagged, thrown into limbo, stabbed repeatedly, washed off and sent back on its merry way. If this game’s history had a name, it would probably be Michael Myers — sans the psychopathic tendencies and mask fetish (but that’s debatable).
The sci-fi first-encounter shooter promises to bring the FPS genre to its knees with its razor-sharp focus on creating one of the most immersive gaming experiences. It’s offering a tactical co-op, intensive roleplaying, and a narrative that can rival even the best science-fiction stories out there.
There’s only one small problem: aside from the shooting, not a lot of these lovely features are actually in the pre-alpha build. Yet.
The grandiose promises offered by Zero Point are on the edge of fruition, but for the time being, this pre-alpha indie is a bit lackluster. But isn’t that what early access is all about? Zero Point Software is offering us a chance to be a part of the already 10 year long journey. “All aboard the space shark train,” they’ll say. “Next stop, actual content!”
Visually, the game is remarkably impressive. Zero Point touts Interstellar Marines as a AAA indie, and it’s overwhelmingly apparent in the production value. When playing in the current build, gamers have a chance at experiencing a variety of different maps, all incredibly expansive and beautifully arranged. It’s more of a tour than actual gameplay, but it’s inviting nonetheless. Some maps offer expansive open fields, with beautifully rendered scenery—from the water to the rocks—while other maps offer closed-space warfare. Hangars and enclosed spaces are dark and brooding, bringing quite an ominous tone to the entire experience. While nothing currently lurks in the closed corridors, the sirens and flashing lights sure as hell make you think so.
The multiplayer aspect of Interstellar Marines is currently the only real option for gameplay. Zero Point software has taken to the usual zone-capture method of gameplay—Deadlock—requiring players to capture and hold specific areas of the map while warding off enemy players. At the moment, aside from the visuals, there’s nothing overly outstanding about the current gameplay. With little to offer on the weapons front aside from an automatic weapon with a red dot and optional tactical laser or flashlight, the multiplayer can often get a little repetitive. But you should note that, again, it’s a pre-alpha build. We’re here now to support the journey, and to fully realize the immensity of the game, we have to give them time to actually build it.
Of course, there are a lot of really awesome positives that come with the 5v5 or 8v8 multiplayer experience. The dynamic lighting makes for an intense game of ‘who the holy hell is around that corner’, and the addition of the tactical mask gives gameplay a true sci-fi feel. The physics of the game feel true and weighted, and you actually have hands — so say goodbye to weird floating guns. They’ve also, thankfully, added crouching. Crouching! It’s saved me probably a million times by now, and it’s a small detail that’s so important in the grand scheme of things.
They’ve also integrated a free cam system, so if you’re into live streaming, general recording, or just about anything that feels right, you have the option of first-person of third-person perspectives. Gameplay wise, everything is incredibly smooth and visually dynamic. Network play is seamless on the servers. The only downside is that not too many people are currently playing. During my time, I only found two servers that were active with more than 6 people.
On the up side, Zero Point is planning to bring some really impressive elements to the final game — whenever that is. Inspired by some of the most influential first-person games ever made—including Half-Life, System Shock 2 , and Rainbow Six 3—Interstellar Marines is aiming high, and they’ve got no plans to look back.
The indie dev team is rolling out updates in a pretty timely manner, so it’s only a matter of time before the sci-fi indie’s potential will be fully realized. Among the updates, Zero Point plans on implementing a surreal and immersive co-op experience. It will be an extremely tactical play, allowing up to 4 players to interact through a dynamic narrative. They also plan on bringing in intelligently crafted AI (MANBEARSHARK?) to give players a challenge that will keep them craving more.
And of course, Zero Point is going to bring us an insane arsenal of high tech weaponry; what would a sci-fi game be without it? It will be an extensively comphrensive collection of weapons and gadgets, suitable for all play styles. They’ll be bringing out new weapons, attachments, reload types, and a slew of other mandatory customizable components.
Interstellar Marines aims to add Oculus Support as well, which means exploring the diverse and extensive landscapes will be quite a marvel. When you pair that with everything else the game hopes to offer, it looks like it could be quite a game changer for the industry — something the indie market is in dire need of.
The narrative surrounding the game will be based in believable science fiction, and will offer some dynamically stunning play (we hope). It will focus on cinematic gameplay that centers on first-contact with a sentient species (sharks sharks sharks) — and all your choices and actions will have important consequences.
If you haven’t caught on yet, I really, really want these sharks to be a big thing here. Like, a really big thing. If Sharknado 2 can be made, this game can certainly rise to the top.
Interstellar Marines is currently available for on Steam Early Access for PC, Mac, and Linux-based systems, starting at $18.99. If you’re interested in checking out more about the game, be sure to visit both the official website and steam page.
- Beautiful visuals accompanied by precise sound design give the game an exceptional visual splendor
- The addition of the map tours offer players a chance to full realize the game's potential
- A solid game plan from Zero Point Software looks to be paying off in a big way, with promised updates rolling out in a timely manner
- In its pre-alpha state, there is currently very little to engage in
- At a price range of $19-$44, it may not feel like an incredibly worth-while buy for less experienced FPS enthusiasts