Survival games, for better or for worse, have been all the rage for the past couple of years. Usually developers stick you in the wilderness or in the middle of a world-ending apocalypse, but Memories of Mars plops you, as you might expect, on the desolate red planet. It’s a game currently in early access on Steam, and the point of it is to survive, as a clone on Mars, for as long as you can. You do this by building your own habitats, avoiding or killing the various enemies – AI controller or player controlled – and grabbing as much loot as you can to boost your supplies.
The Final Frontier
Memories of Mars has one aspect above all – it’s a stunning game. It’s surprising that such a brown game could be so visually appealing, but they do manage it. There’s a lot of Mars to be seen, and, as well as the craters and camps that other people have set up, there are so many tunnels and caves to explore as well. Going through the tunnels is probably my favourite part of the game – there are so many pitfalls in them, including all the enemies you face, that it’s a great challenge to make it through and grab as much loot as you can.
The enemies in the game are actually pretty cool too. They have some exceptionally well made artificial intelligence, with them adapting to how you play. Instead of just coming at you in the most effective way based on your play style though, they mix it up a bit. As soon as you think you’ve got it nailed, they’ll come at you in a completely different way. By doing this, it keeps you on your toes for the whole game. I never felt at ease, or that I was going to be able to walk around and see off all the robo-enemies that lay in wait for me on the surface of Mars.
Lost in Space
I have no idea what I’m supposed to do in Memories of Mars. Or, rather, I know what I’m supposed to do, I just don’t know how to achieve it. As soon as you pop out of the cloning facility, you’re dumped on Mars, and that’s pretty much the tutorial over and done with. I picked up a fair few items, found out you’ll break your arms if you keep punching rocks, but had no idea what to do from there. Then a couple of spider robots who I couldn’t punch, no matter how close I was, slaughtered me. The difficulty wasn’t necessarily what annoyed me here though, it was the lack of any way to tell what the hell I was supposed to be doing. The opening sequence in the cloning facility does not teach you enough about how to play the game for when you exit it. This just led me to wandering around, clueless, just waiting for death. Not the best way to spend an afternoon, let me tell you.
Maybe it was the time of day that I was playing, but the servers were so sparsely populated with actual human players, I did wonder if I was missing something. Instead of playing with and against other people, I don’t think I saw one, ever. Obviously it’s not really the developer’s fault that people aren’t playing it quite as much as they’d like, but that sort of eventually should definitely be catered for. There either needs to be a complete PvE server, or when the numbers are low on a server, it moves to a more PvE environment, just so you’re not endlessly wandering the wastes of Mars, waiting for something to happen.
The Final Word
Due to the lack of players, and the absence of a useful tutorial, Memories of Mars leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, it’s a gorgeous game, with some pretty nifty features, but it’s just horrendous for new people or people looking for a proper experience, not a half-filled one relying on other people to play.