In its first closed alpha test, Marauders takes the “extract and survive” concept from games like The Cycle and tweaks it into a formula that has the potential to replace your favorite survival shooter. Its moment-to-moment gunplay is straightforward and satisfying, serving as the base for which all of its other more eccentric systems flourish. Some things, like its ship-to-ship combat, could use some calibration, but as a whole, the life of space piracy is promising one.
Your goal in any given round of Marauders is to pull off a successful pirate raid in one of a handful of areas. I came across two in my time with the alpha so far” the abandoned space station and the derelict iridium mine. I appreciated how different each location looked, but without a minimap they both can feel equally labyrinthine. It takes a good amount of reps to learn to get to the various different landmarks within each map, and wandering around lost in claustrophobic caves and tiny catwalks is a quick way to get dead.
A raid happens in three parts. Part one is after you gear up and take to your ship, either solo or with a crew. When you load into a game, you’ll need to fly it across an expanse of space to get to the raid location. You’re not alone in this trek, though. Other ships with other crews are flying around as well. If you’re lucky, it’ll be a simple sprint to the raid location. I wasn’t very lucky most of the time, as I was constantly outrunning enemy fire, and on occasion returning it against other marauder crews. Maybe it's because we all have the same sad dinghy of a spacecraft, with the same mediocre weaponry and maneuverability, but these dogfights often turned into unimpressive stalemates where we’d strafe and shoot until the other ship was inoperable.
When your ship is down for the count and unrepairable, you can eject into an escape pod to either live to fight another day, or board enemy ships by breaching them. Breaches are bold maneuvers that always felt intense and rewarding as a last resort. If it weren't for the fact that the ship you’re ejecting from is basically lost to you afterwards, I’d probably skip the space fights completely and go straight to the breaching.
Once you make it safely to the target location, the raiding can begin. What that actually means is largely up to you. Maybe that means tiptoeing around corridors, filling your limited inventory space with whatever loot you can find. Or maybe it's sprinting through the halls, putting your weapons to work against other players and picking their bodies clean afterwards. If you picked up a faction quest before heading out, it’s finding a specific sort of item or a target location on the map.
I found that being goal-oriented was the best way to make progress in what can be a very unforgiving loop. Should you die, everything on you is lost to the void, making every trip as risky as the attachment you have to the stuff on your person. I’d dedicate whole trips just to sticking whatever I could find in the closest room and getting out as quickly as possible, traveling light so that if I got caught and killed, I didn’t lose that much.
This might not sound that foreign to people who play games like Escape from Tarkov or Hunt: Showdown with any regularity. But when it's time to throw down, I found that gunfights in Marauders struck a happy middle ground between them. There’s no individual limb health to worry about, so no micromanaging after taking a stray bullet. Weapons are old-timey, but reloading and recoil aren’t obnoxiously finicky, so shooting feels solid and consistent. Ammo is scarce, but also pretty lethal, as it doesn’t take more than a few hits to put enemies down.
After filling your pockets, killing your ops, or completing your missions, you have to get back home safely or it's all for naught. Returning to the dock where your ship is parked is one way, but if you can’t find it, you can escape via a breach pod – at the expense of your ship. Then, it's back through space for a tense flight to one of the exit gates on the perimeter of the map. You're finally safe to stash your loot, re-up on supplies with the rotating faction vendor, craft new items, and upgrade your weapons, all to prepare for the next raid.
The Marauders alpha has been a great proof of concept for moving the subgenre of multiplayer survival shooters that Day Z started into new and interesting territory. My limited time with the current build was frantic, tense, and a ton of fun. I'll be keeping a close eye on how this vision of multiplayer space piracy develops in the future.