Review | Deliver Us Mars
I really enjoyed playing Deliver Us The Moon back in Twenty-Twenty. The sense of quiet isolation was palpable as I explored supposedly abandoned lunar facilities and tried to piece together previous events that had taken place within the now hauntingly claustrophobic surroundings. After what seems like a long wait, developer KeokeN Interactive has released a Sequel. I have got my Astronaut suit out of storage and am ready to blast off to the red planet far far away, so why not join me in the XboxEra review of Deliver Us Mars.
Keeping this review story-related spoiler free as usual, I will just say that for ‘reasons’ a small band of intrepid explorers must leave the confines of a dying Earth in the footsteps of a previous expedition. After taking a perilous and eventful path across the heavens, the human colony on Mars turns out to be not quite as expected.
Earth Is Blue, Mars Is Red
This title turns out to be an experience of extremes in both good and bad senses. The art design applied to the environment is top-notch. Whether capturing a world now only good for abandoning, a Zephyr shuttle in earth orbit, or an abandoned Martian quarry, the look of this game is of the very high standard that I would come to expect from this developer. Many of the environments served up throughout the journey would not look out of place framed and hung on the walls of an art gallery.
The musical score begins in a style reminiscent of the work of Vangelis on the Blade Runner soundtrack, which I’m sure you will agree is never a bad thing. The most impressive part of the game is the launch sequence which is very similar to the one in the previous game. This is accompanied by a piece of music that is both highly cinematic and perfectly accompanies the footage of a spacecraft breaking free of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Also, the accessibility options on offer are much more varied than they usually are on games of this type. Very impressive stuff I must say, but unfortunately, that is where the good things peter out and things swing towards the other extreme.
Deliver Us A Good Sequel?
One of the strengths of the original game was the sense of isolation and loneliness. This time around this has been sacrificed for a pretty cheesy ‘family’ opening section and far too much human interaction throughout the story. There are sections of lone exploration but these never build the required level of tension, as it feels like only five minutes ago that you were indulging in (fairly badly acted) interactions with a few other unlikeable characters. I found frequent flashbacks to the family home jarring, as they did nothing but pull me out of interesting situations at the wrong time.
The main character is one of those heroines who listens to no one, is self-centred and eventually becomes irritating. If you played The Gunk, you would know exactly the type of character that I am referring to here. Beginning the story as a little girl she then transforms into a young woman with a body of almost Lara Croft proportions before the opening titles have even run. Facial modeling turns out to be a particular weakness here, with all of the characters looking like they belong in an Xbox One game.
I can understand that all of the visual budgets may have gone into creating the impressive planetary environments but surely it would have been a better idea to keep everyone’s helmet visors closed rather than have faces like this. This weak design aesthetic does not stop with the character faces, the first rocket that takes off is a bad sign of things to come as it features some of the worst-looking thrusters that I have ever seen in a video game.
Playing on my Xbox Series X I am sad to say that I experienced constant technical glitches. Textures dropped out regularly such as when I was able to look straight through the back of the main character’s head very early on in chapter one. The face was not fantastic to start with but becoming completely transparent was something else altogether. Ayla the flying robot companion constantly juddered in place rather than gliding majestically or floating in position and once, two NPCs froze while I wandered off ahead of them and I was forced to go all of the way back to bring them to life. If this was not bad enough, I then had to walk painfully slowly to a mundane location (a garden shed) that I had already been underwhelmed by.
The bulk of the gameplay is made up of exploration, platforming sections, and puzzle solving. Exploration is hampered by what feels like very spongy controls. Jumping feels like you are within a low gravity environment (which is not to be expected before leaving earth) and sometimes turns into a sideways sliding motion. The third-person viewpoint can be particularly hampering when trying to carry out cutting tasks in space. I wasted a lot of time working my way around a thruster trying to cut off all of the securing bolts only to find it impossible due to the camera being an over-the-shoulder affair. To rub salt into the wound a cut scene was eventually triggered and it turned out that it was not even necessary to cut those particular bolts!
The climbing mechanic is very much like that of the recent Tomb Raider games except that it does not work nearly as well. Trying to jump, turn in mid-air, and dig into the climbing wall behind me with my climbing axes turned out to be a highly skilled manoeuvre rather than the easy task that it should have been. This made climbing walls an experience that became less and less enjoyable as the game went on and as this janky system was overly relied upon, Wall after wall after wall presented itself to me.
Platforming sections are generally of a pretty good standard but the puzzles were disappointing. Generally based around using a new form of technology to power up various pieces of machinery, there was not enough variety and sometimes it was very hard to see what I was being asked to achieve.
Holograms are a type of puzzle that has to be decrypted using Ayla to unlock cut scenes of previous events. How to do this is not really explained but turns out to be pretty intuitive using the possible movements of the flying robot. These can however become frustrating to solve. Especially when you have to solve some of them twice in a row for the resulting cut scene to actually display. One hologram in particular very late in the game refused to even let me attempt to decrypt it due to yet another in-game glitch.
Abort! Prepare For Re-entry!
Rounding things off I think it is fair to say that Deliver Us Mars is a frustrating experience and somewhat of a let-down compared to Deliver Us The Moon. While the environmental art style, musical score, platforming and accessibility settings are of a high standard, far too many aspects of the game are poor. This becomes even worse when you consider that this is the glitchiest game I have ever played on my Xbox Series X.
While it may be worth a look if it ever makes it to Game pass I cannot recommend buying this. The Moon was delivered successfully, but Mars can go back where it came from.
Deliver Us Mars
Xbox Series X
- The scenic art style can be breath-taking.
- The musical score is reminiscent of Blade Runner in places.
- Good accessibility options.
- The climbing mechanics are poorly delivered and overused.
- Textures drop out at regular intervals.
- The facial art design is somewhat basic.
- There is an over reliance on irritating machinery power-up puzzles.
- Did not run particularly well on my Xbox Series X.