Survival games have a bit of a reputation issue. Fans of the genre's unique mechanics are probably tired of the countless sparsely updated first-person hunger simulators where the only true enemy is your level of boredom. Limbic Entertainment and 505 Games are aiming to bring something new with Memories of Mars, an interstellar adventure that combines scenic vistas and deadly sandworms into a promising survival experience.
So, what do you need to know before you get your ass to Mars? It's 100 years in the future, and solar storms have interfered with the colonization efforts. Robots are malfunctioning due to interference from radiation, and the harsh red desert will have to provide your salvation. You'll need to gather minerals to craft ammo, oxygen tanks, and building materials in order to establish a base and venture further into the stellar wilds.
One thing that these games aren't particularly known for is combat, especially in the early going. You're usually starting off with nothing but your bare hands and a strange inclination towards punching trees. Thankfully, Memories of Mars starts players off with an easily acquirable pistol, making shooting and looting more of a focus. Combat feels fast and furious, and it's easy to take aim at the game's skittering spider baddies and take them down with a few solid shots.
For those who want to build rather than destroy, the game gives you a suite of tools to support your team. You'll have to drill away at rocks, since punching them will only bust up your knuckles and drain your health. Once you acquire enough minerals, you have a portable 3D printer that can create ammo, painkillers, and the materials you'll need to build out your base and establish your mark on the red planet. During my demo, several of my teammates stayed behind and fortified the base while the main group went out to attack a group of raiders. Both styles of play seem legitimate and there's no telling what adventures players will make for themselves.
Despite all the intricate systems at work throughout the demo, the most fun I had playing Memories of Mars was in the little social moments that the game makes possible. As of now, friendly player inventories are freely accessible by anyone, meaning that I was able to hijack a fellow journalist's weapons and items behind his back and run away into the cold night without detection. When the confused player found me minutes later, we exchanged a few goofy emotes and then got into a boxing match where I paid for my crimes against good sportsmanship. Online focused experiences thrive when the game systems allow for this silly level of interaction, so Memories of Mars is already on the right track in this regard.
This isn't to say that the game is ready to roll. The version I played had all the markings of an early alpha build, complete with erratic spawn points and an instantaneous day-night cycle that saw the sun blink in and out of existence. Still, despite these early flaws, you can tell that there's a budget behind everything being done. These sorts of technical problems may be a regular sight in this genre, but I have hope that they won't be in this Early Access release. That's something that any fan of the genre can surely get behind.
Memories of Mars was demoed behind closed doors at PAX South 2018.