Deliver Us the Moon had its fair share of issues, but as those who’ve played it will tell you, it still managed to deliver a compelling sci-fi adventure experience that told a captivating story. Years on from its launch, developer KeokeN Interactive is back with a sequel, one that puts players in the shoes of a new protagonist and takes us to the red wastes of Mars- and though it certainly makes some noticeable improvements over its predecessor in some areas, Deliver Us Mars also has many of the same failings, making for a gripping but uneven experience.
Ten years have passed since the events of Deliver Us the Moon. The blackout on the moon was fixed and the Earth was pulled back from the brink of demise, but unfortunately, all that did was delay the inevitable. The planet is still caught in the grips of a vicious climate and geological crisis, with resources withering away, species of flora and fauna going extinct with a startling rapidity, and humanity itself barely hanging on by a thread. But a glimmer of hope emerges in the form of Mars, which is where the criminal organization known as Mars went and took all of the technology and ARK ships it had stolen when it abandoned humanity, left it to rot, and went off to chart its own path.
"Though it certainly makes some noticeable improvements over its predecessor in some areas, Deliver Us Mars also has many of the same failings, making for a gripping but uneven experience."
Kathy Johanson – the younger daughter of one one of Outward’s members, Isaac (who fans of the first game will remember well) – serves as Deliver Us Mars’ protagonist. As something of a prodigy, an expert in her field, and one of the few remaining astronauts still left on Earth, she is selected to be part of a mission to head to Mars, retrieve the ARKs, and bring them back home, with three fellow astronauts in tow.
Storytelling is the area where Deliver Us Mars makes the biggest improvements over its predecessors. Where Deliver Us the Moon was a fairly passive and understated experience, its sequel takes a much more cinematic approach. Cutscenes are wonderfully directed and make excellent use of the game’s soundtrack, the core cast of characters is brought to life to great effect thanks to solid writing and acting performances, and the interactions between the characters themselves also improve the experience. Every character in the game’s cast feels like a distinct and fleshed-out personality, and getting to see them interact with each other never gets old. Kathy herself is a shining spot as well, and her mix of young enthusiasm, naivety, and competence in the face of adversity make her a protagonist that’s very easy to root for and get invested in.
The story, told through a mix of cinematics, holograms, and collectibles like logs and messages, also feels much more well-rounded than that of its predecessor. The looming threat of humanity’s extinction and Earth’s slow march to certain death are still constant fixtures in the background, of course, but Deliver Us Mars’ story also injects more personal stakes to the proceedings. Though everyone on Earth has branded her father as a traitor, Kathy still believes that he was a good man who must have had reasons for what he did, which means her personal goals are just as important to her as the official objectives of her mission on the red planet. Her drive to discover the reasons for her father’s actions, unraveling the secrets of Outward are, and finding and reuniting with her father lend a great deal of personal weight to the story, and the game does an excellent job of peeling back the layers of mystery to slowly reel you in and keep you hooked.
"Storytelling is the area where Deliver Us Mars makes the biggest improvements over its predecessors."
From a narrative and storytelling perspective, there’s a lot to love about Deliver Us Mars- sadly, it stumbles quite noticeably in some other areas, the gameplay being chief among them. The core loop will be familiar to you if you played Deliver Us the Moon, with the bulk of the experience revolving around slow-paced exploration and solving simple and straightforward puzzles. Movement in the game is just as float and inaccurate as it was in its predecessor, which makes exploring and traversing environments something of a chore, while puzzles never really get complex enough to be more than passingly interesting.
A major new addition on the gameplay front are the new climbing mechanics. Equipped with two pickaxes, Kathy can climb on certain walls and surfaces and slowly make her way across them- and when I say slow, I mean slooooow. Kathy’s animations while she’s using the pickaxe are extremely stiff and clunky, and the pace at which she moves in these sections is glacial, which means the novelty of the new mechanic wears off very quickly. Meanwhile, the climbing sections also often require some precise movements and jumps, and this most definitely is not a game that’s suited to something like that, which, as you might imagine, creates plenty of moments of frustration. Ultimately, it doesn’t take long for it to start feeling like the climbing sections are being overused and overstaying their welcome.
Like its predecessor, Deliver Us Mars is also something of a mess from a visuals and technical perspective- which would be putting it mildly. At a glance, environments can look vaguely pretty, but the game just doesn’t have any legs to stand on in this area. Draw distances are horrible, the frame rate can take significant hits in certain areas, there’s a shocking amount of texture pop in, and often, some textures and assets fail to load for several seconds, making the rough environments look even worse. Glitches pop up during gameplay as well, resulting in annoyances like button prompts failing to appear, events and dialogue not triggering, and more. Meanwhile, character models also suffer from a number of significant issues, from wonky animations to weird, plasticky looking skin and hair that makes everyone look like melted action figures.
"Like its predecessor, Deliver Us Mars is also something of a mess from a visuals and technical perspective."
Deliver Us Mars’ technical failings are particularly disappointing because the game’s narrative ambitions are clear to see. When it comes to the story it wants to tell and how it wants to tell it, the game really does swing for the fences- sadly, it’s let down by its bevy of technical problems. It’s a credit to the story that it still manages to be as engaging as it is in spite of everything that’s weighing it down, but there’s little doubt that improved visuals and a much greater level of polish would have allowed it to flourish even more.
In the end, what we get is an inconsistent experience that has just as many clear strengths as it has glaring weaknesses. If you’re looking for a captivating story that is expertly told and populated by well-written and well-acted characters, Deliver Us Mars will hit just the spot for you. In the process, however, you’ll have to tolerate and look past several flaws. Clunky movement, slow and often uninteresting gameplay, visuals that are best described as rough around the edges, a barrage of technical issues- and that’s just scratching the surface. Would I still recommend the game? I would- but at the same time, I’d warn you to be patient and prepare for plenty of frustration along the way.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Captivating story; Confident, compelling storytelling; Well-written and well-acted characters;
Slow, largely uninteresting gameplay loop; Climbing sections are clunky and laborious; Loads of visual and technical issues.