A few years ago, survival games were a dime a dozen. For every success like The Forest or Don’t Starve, there were a handful that fell flat at the Early Access starting line.
Now that the genre has had time to mature and develop, a new wave of survival games is showing up. These come with higher production values, more polish at release, and the promise of more support for story and development over the long term.
Enter Memories of Mars, an open world multiplayer survival game. Up to 64 players can take part in an adventure that takes place entirely on a red planet colony that has been mysteriously abandoned. Memories of Mars is currently in early access with updates happening almost daily. Expect much to change between now and the scheduled full release later in 2018.
As it stands, Memories of Mars is a structurally sound survival game, with more than a few bugs. It’s built around building a team, maintaining a base, and fighting back against the strange creatures that dot the Martian landscape.
It can be as exciting and breathtaking as exploring a new world ever could be, though it can also be as desolate and barren as Mars itself.
Memories of Mars Review
Memories of Mars begins as you wake up, a newly created clone, on a slab in a cloning facility on Mars with no idea of why you’re there, or what’s outside.
You’re left to look around the small facility and grab what you can to help you survive the Martian landscape. There are rows and rows of vats in the first room, each holding another clone just like you that float around and occasionally twitch spasmodically.
Beyond, there are other rooms in the facility strewn with scientific equipment, glowing computer screens and hastily strewn furniture that hints at how quickly the previous occupants left.
In that first facility, I found a helmet that gave me a HUD, a gun (no bullets, unfortunately) and some basic rations that would keep me alive for a short while. Outside the red sand stretched into the distance where the sun was hanging lazily in the sky.
Finding Your Footing
There was a faint whistling of wind scattering sand across the barren ground and the distant beeping of the electronics in the facility behind me. With red dune and mountain ranges stretching out in every direction I decided to head north, just to see what was out there.
I stumbled across a deserted mining camp, probably 15 buildings scattered around a crater, with a huge digger in the centre. Clearly, there wasn’t anyone else around, and the game hadn’t given many clues where everyone was.
I set out collecting all the loot that I could from the buildings and working my way around the camp. Then I met my first enemy. Not a player, this was a mechanised spider creature. At first, I heard it scuttling around as I was in a building turning iron I’d found into bullets.
When I stepped outside my HUD cracked and flashed white. To my left, the little spider drone was spitting some sort of gunk at me. I ducked back inside the door, reloaded my gun and prepared to open fire. The gun sounds were weighty and powerful, the pistol letting off a satisfying -CRACK- every time I fired at the hostile little droid.
Within a few short bursts, the thing was downed. I quickly scavenged what I could from the body and kept moving.
What I quickly found out was that man-made structures like the ones I was exploring seem to be much more likely to spawn the spider drones than the wasteland outside. I found myself cornered in an upstairs laboratory with five of the little scuttlers clanking around outside.
At the start of the game, ammo feels pretty scarce. Unfortunately, the enemies weren’t all that much of a threat, doing very little damage, so it was easier to run than fight in the end.
Choosing a speciality
Memories of Mars features an extensive development and research tree, and it seemed way too big to tackle on my own. It’s no wonder then that Mars is aimed at groups of intrepid explorers where you’d likely have a focus each.
I was drawn to the weapons manufacturing tree, which showcased shotguns, machine guns, sniper rifles and upgrades to each. However, first I needed materials, for which I needed a harvesting gun, and of course, for that, I needed to research – you know how these things go.
As you might expect, all of the trees feed into one another, pushing you to collect bits and pieces from one tree to support yourself in another tree. That might mean getting resource collectors from the gathering tree to build structures from the building tree. Or armour to support your raiding plans on other players.
It’s a broad system with a whole lot of options, the only issue is that the resource you use to learn new things – called FLOPS – are pretty sparse and slow to collect. So it would be better to run as a group and put your FLOPS somewhere useful to support the team, else you may find yourself weighed down by the grind of slogging through the trees alone.
Through my time playing, I did see a number of player squads, each working together on a main base. The building tools seem pretty powerful, with a wide selection of parts ranging from walls to windows, floors, stairs and beams. They snap together modularly, very similarly to base-building in Rust. The system allows you to build a base from the ground up, even if most of the bases I saw were pretty square boxes to protect valuables.
Memories of Mars also takes a page out of the Dark Souls book. Any unspent FLOPS are dropped where you died for you to run back and collect. It’s a fine system in theory, however in practice I found that I’d lost a collection of FLOPS more than once because I’d fallen when mountain climbing on the rocky Martian terrain, and couldn’t get back to the crevasse I’d fallen into.
A tale of two colonies
In the end, Memories of Mars is a game that feels torn between two genres. On the one hand, we have this amazing sprawling martian landscape dotted with abandoned structures and scientific facilities. Everything is densely populated with incredibly detailed scientific structures, complete with screens warning of an incoming “extinction event.”
As well as huge hulking mining machines sitting silently in huge craters that all look hastily abandoned. The whole environment feels like it would be home to a terrifying mystery akin to Prey or Bioshock, something that would challenge and terrify you in equal measure.
It continually had me asking what happened to the base, where are the people, and why are the only inhabitants clones like me or vicious mechanical monsters? Sadly these are questions that just aren’t being answered right now, and it’s unclear how much we’ll see as the game moves forward.
On the other hand, we have this incredibly complex menu system, housing hundreds of upgrades, buildings, developments and research points that underpin the survival element. Because when the game leans heavily into the survival side of things, it gives you a huge list of bars to manage that all keep you moving – looking at the floor constantly for resources.
Welcome to the Party
I feel like as the game develops, the team might need to prioritise their ongoing narrative or the survival elements because it’s hard to get invested in the story of the abandoned colony and explore when you have a screen full of blinking bars that push you forward.
On the technical side – unfortunately, even the alleged “official Australian” servers in the list still boasted a ping over 300 for me, so the game would stutter and hitch every ten seconds or so, and enemies would occasionally jitter around the place and get stuck in doorways or in walls.
Technically, Memories of Mars has quite a bit of work to go. I often found that I couldn’t pick up objects unless I was looking perfectly at them. And I’d occasionally see my reloading animation not play, or I’d take fall damage from stepping down a ledge when I’d just leapt off a cliff right before.
These sort of inconsistencies stick out at the moment, but will hopefully be cleaned up in future.
That’s about all there is to say about the current build of Memories of Mars. It does have an intriguing story about a martian station that has been totally abandoned by humans. It also has a pretty extensive research tree that would be best spread out between a small group of players. The guns feel pretty good, but the game itself is pretty buggy, and playing in Australia has caused me more problems reviewing than most other games would.
If you have some friends and you want a new locale for your survival adventures, maybe give Memories of Mars a try. However, if you’re on your own and looking for something deep and varied to sink your teeth into, maybe check back in a few months.
This one is a bit more promise than substance right now.
Memories of Mars was reviewed on PC using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Memories of Mars
Mars is a great place to explore - 8/10
The mystery of the colony is wasted right now - 4/10
Still Buggy, but definitely playable - 6/10