Shooting for the stars only gets you so far.

Deliver Us Mars Review: Houston, We Have a Problem

Shooting for the stars only gets you so far.

Like any good piece of science fiction, Deliver Us Mars asks a lot of questions, with many of its themes revolving around humanity’s relationship with sustainability. However, it’s ultimately happy not answering any of them. Instead, it simply wonders: “what if astronauts could be sad?”

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Deliver Us Mars is a story-driven third-person adventure game that leans heavily on its narrative, which is broken up by a small handful of puzzles and exploration sections. The puzzles leave much to be desired; most solutions require little to no thinking, and all use the same basic mechanics. Shoot a laser into a receiver node with slight variations, with small puzzle elements added at random. 

The lack of variety and challenge here means none are particularly memorable despite being a sizable portion of the game. It’s a shame, too, since Mars is an interesting setting for such riddles and mysteries, with plenty of potential for unique mechanics. Alas, it’s all laser puzzles that feel more at home in Portal 2, just minus the solid writing found there.

You’ll spend the rest of your time with Deliver Us Mars doing one of three things: walking around empty space stations on Mars picking up random documents, climbing various walls very slowly using the climbing mechanics from Astro’s Playroom, or walking slowly with characters as they talk, the latter of which makes up the vast majority of Deliver Us Mars‘ six-hour playtime. 

Image via Frontier Developments

To be clear: I don’t mind games focused on story. But Deliver Us Mars leans too heavily into its uninteresting narrative elements. 

You follow a team of astronauts tasked with finding a missing colony of scientists who may hold the key to saving the world from climate destruction. As far as premises go, the narrative sounds great on paper. In motion, it’s a slog that never truly evolves beyond those basic ideas. Characters stay mostly static and are far too caught up in their own personal conflicts to assess the problems they face with any real objectivity.

Critiquing a narrative based on disagreements I had with characters isn’t a solid way to go about things, but suspension of disbelief only goes so far. People are irrational, act out of emotion, and are unpredictable, but you’d expect astronauts to be calmer and more calculated than Deliver Us Mars, well, delivers.

Image via Frontier Developments

While the story didn’t resonate with me, it’s hard to say that Deliver Us Mars isn’t ambitious. Developer KeokeN Interactive is a small team trying to deliver a cinematic, narrative-based experience that leans heavily on cutscenes, seemingly aiming for the orbit of games like Uncharted or God of War. 

But those lofty goals are hard to achieve, and there’s a disconnect between the ideal and the attainable. Character models are stiff mannequins with lifeless, unseeing eyes; animations may or may not contort characters into unrecognizable shapes; and most character faces clip through their eyebrows in unsettling, otherworldly dances. With the near-constant visual bugs in the review build, it was difficult to take anything Deliver Us Mars says seriously.

Add to those issues to persistent performance problems on console — such as very inconsistent framerates, multiple instances of clipping through the floor and other objects, and poorly metered save points that can send you back to the beginning of chapters, losing dozens of minutes of progress — and Deliver Us Mars is unfortunately packed full of issues. 

Deliver Us Mars Review — The Bottom Line

Image via Frontier Developments

Pros

  • Visually, Mars is well-realized.
  • Zero gravity sections are a neat, albeit brief, gimmick.

Cons

  • Near constant visual errors and performance issues.
  • Uninteresting story with lackluster characters and forced drama.
  • Almost non-existent core game mechanics.
  • Uninspired platforming and exploration.
  • Bland cutscenes featuring stiff animation.

Deliver Us Mars shoots high but gets stuck in orbit. Aside from the briefly interesting zero-g moments and some engaging sci-fi imagery, there’s just not much about Deliver Us Mars that begs a return trip — or even an initial one. 

Those who played Deliver Us the Moon may find something more to love here, but I had a hard time coming back to the Red Planet between sessions. Knowing I would spend my time with bland characters only to walk around empty space stations before being sucked back into the narrative melodrama ultimately proved as cold as the vacuum of space. 

[Note: Frontier Developments provided the copy of Deliver Us Mars used for this review. Featured image via Frontier Developments.]

4
Deliver Us Mars Review: Houston, We Have a Problem
Shooting for the stars only gets you so far.

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Author
Peter Hunt Szpytek
If you're looking for him, Peter can usually be found dropping hot in Apex Legends with his friends. A fan of games of all types including JRPGs, third-person shooters and survival horror, Peter is a journalism graduate of North Central College and can be found writing for IGN, Digital Trends, and Gameranx, in addition to his work here at GameSkinny. Contact: [email protected]. Twitter: @PeterSpittech