Marauders has been in Early Access for a while now and while it looks interesting, there are a few quirks you need to look out for.
Marauders has had a weird start in Steam Early Access with problems that don't actually pertain to the user experience but the odd way it was marketed.
This mishap by Small Impact Games and Team17 led to a diminished player base but it doesn't appear to be all doom and gloom at the start of 2023, three months after release.
Unlucky and inadequate categorisation
Marauders was inexplicably marketed as a "hardcore looter shooter" which caused many players to hop in and figure this was not the type of game they were looking for.
When you call a game a "looter shooter", it is implied you will be mostly facing PvE combat, focused on getting gear from better tiers through either solo gameplay or co-op. In short, it's the closest thing to an MMO with guns playing the central role, much like Destiny or The Division series. If there is less focus on the "massively multiplayer" part of MMO, Borderlands is the best example as it's often seen as the progenitor of the looter shooter genre.
Unfortunately, while the game shares many traits with looter shooters, it is actually an "extraction shooter". Yes, you loot gear and yes, you can go solo or in co-op but you are not progressing through a story, there are no raids and dungeons and you will be more concerned about human enemies than the AI ones.
Extraction shooters are all about dropping into a map, looting as much as possible without dying and then visiting an extraction zone to get away with your gear. There is no focus on story or PvE activities. Examples of extraction shooters are Escape From Tarkov and Hunt: Showdown , with which Marauders has so much more in common.
So yes, if you get Marauders, you are getting an extraction shooter, not a looter shooter and this is the main thing to keep in mind before jumping in.
Gunplay in Marauders is pretty good as the ballistics are fairly well done and you won't meet bullet sponges that require you to empty a clip in their head, although the quality of one's armour makes a significant difference.
The game doesn't reinvent the wheel when compared to Tarkov or Hunt: Showdown - it is basically the same thing in different colours. Instead of striving for realism in a modern setting or going for dark fantasy in the West, we get to play dieselpunk in space.
We are briefly introduced to the premise where the first World War never ended so the game has a convenient excuse for giving us gear and weaponry that ranges from the 1910s to roughly the 1980s.
Just like the dark fantasy is the gimmick for Hunt: Showdown, diesel in space does the same job for Marauders. There are multiple ships you can earn through progression and they are used to invade other players that float around the map. For some reason, they feel more like submarines that are diving through space than actual spaceships, which is possibly a leftover from the whole dieselpunk schtick.
Shooting someone else's ship will likely injure the passengers but you will generally just disable its propulsion that way, leaving you with an opening to drop into a pod and then crash into the ship to kill and loot the players. That about covers the gist of the dogfights, although you are likely to engage in them only at the very beginning or the very end of a round.
It's fairly easy to avoid spaceship combat altogether by hiding behind asteroids and debris, leaving you with the stuff most people came to do anyway - shooting each other up with outdated guns.
Graphics and art style
Graphics in Marauders are nothing to write home about. I've witnessed a lot of textures popping in and sometimes textures that are plain bad, which is mostly noticeable on character models. Then again, you are barely ever going to have the time to appreciate character details while looting a body, lest you allow someone to sneak up and subsequently loot you.
As for the art style, it is very faithful to the dieselpunk aesthetic so expect a lot of darkness, metallic walls and concrete surroundings that are reminiscent of WW2 era and the bunkers built around the time.
Player count and their habits
At the time of writing, Marauders was peaking at about 1,700 players during the prime hours which is not as bad as it may seem at first glance. This is an Early Access title with more content planned for it so it's not unreasonable to expect a player spike when the full release comes around.
Additionally, the game takes only up to 16 people in total per match so it's unlikely you will run into matchmaking queues due to the lack of players.
One major problem the game is encountering as of late is rampant cheating. This is an unfortunate reality of modern gaming where developers either have to force an intrusive anti-cheat on the players or they have to suffer through morons that get stiffies from ruining other people's fun. Marauders is in the latter group of games.
Should you get Marauders in 2023
At the price of $30, Marauders doesn't have a huge entry barrier so you don't have to worry about sunk costs. Two hours is plenty of time to gauge whether you like it or not, leaving you with the additional option of getting a refund.
Gunplay aims for realism and you will get it most of the time, with the immersion only being broken when a bot derps out or you run into a cheater.
The player base seems to be stabilised at around 1,500 concurrent players around the peak hours, giving you ample matchmaking opportunity.
With all that in mind, is it worth getting Marauders in 2023? If you like extraction shooters, then absolutely yes. There are enough players around to get the matches going quickly and the cheater problem isn't really any worse than in main competitors like Tarkov or Hunt: Showdown.
If you came looking for a looter shooter, you may want to keep looking, this is not it.
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