The archives of Kickstarter are full of projects that were funded but then canceled. Some of these saw issues with underestimating their needed funding. Others saw real life get in the way, breaking apart a development team before reaching the finish line. The projects that get the most attention are the ones that never feel real in the first place. Upcoming Steam release Confederate Express is one such game.
Originally funded in 2013 for just shy of $40,000, Confederate Express‘s campaign promises a full RPG experience. There are multiple playable characters, a perk system, customizable weapons, and more. After the successful funding, the page laid dormant for years. Months later, developer Maksym Pashanin attempted to fund a second game, with Kickstarter quickly suspending that campaign due to backer complaints. It was also around this time that the developer was reportedly squatting in an Airbnb condo, and had a history of similar exploits. Many backers assumed that their money was long gone.
This takes us to the present, with Confederate Express suddenly reemerging on Steam. The store page is reflective of the game’s controversial past. The “Reviews” section take quotes from articles about the game’s unfulfilled Kickstarter. There are several references to Maksym as an “infamous” developer. In addition, potential players will need to agree to an awkward third-party EULA that restricts everything from displaying the game on big screens in movie theaters to writing books about the game’s universe to posting pure gameplay videos online. There’s also a call for suggestions on what else to add to the document via an included Gmail address.
Speaking with Maksym Pashanin over email, he confirms that the game’s scope shrunk significantly from the campaign’s initial pitch. In an update posted to Kickstarter in September, Maksym talks about expecting to gain outside funding after the campaign. His original vision would most likely cost ten times what he earned, so a lot of features were put aside when the project became a more independent affair. Because of the change in the final product, he plans to offer full refunds to all his backers in Q4 of 2018.
TechRaptor received a copy of the game through the Curator Connect program. I played through the first five stages just to confirm that it was playable. The final product lacks any traces of the promised RPG mechanics and instead resembles a mobile action game. Levels are completable with two mouse clicks, one for moving your character and one to start your character’s attacks. He’ll chain together pistol shots one after the other until the screen is cleared of zombies, and then you move on.
Needless to say, the game is sparse, but it is at least playable. That’s a lot more than some crowdfunding disasters have managed. Time will tell if this version of Confederate Express is an honest attempt at redemption or just one last money grab.