I’m pretty good at navigating my way around this planet we call Earth. When I go for a walk or head to a new location for work purposes, I’ll regularly gaze up at the highest building, using it to navigate my way around. In the gaming world these skills transfer over, foregoing the need for map use. In Memories of Mars though, I have never been so lost in all my life. Like a nomad or a man suffering from extreme concussion, this is a game that has seen me spending many a waking hour wandering the red planet, mostly wondering where I left my stuff from the day before. But you need not worry, because there is a lot more to Memories of Mars than just getting lost. A lot, lot more.
If you’re looking for a place where things never go swimmingly, Mars is it. See, no matter what film you are watching or what game you’re playing, you will never see a colonised Mars where the sun is shining, kids are playing and everything is right with the world. Instead, you’ll be treated to a breakdown in the world order, intergalactic wars or portals of hell which happily open for business. Memories of Mars is like that – set 100 years into the future where Mars was once a well visited place. But something terrible happened and now everyone has left.
You play as a recently woken clone, starting the game underground in a mining facility that has seen better days. The game’s tutorial takes you through the basics needed in order for you to understand what is required, before allowing you to escape to the outside world where the real game begins. It is here where Memories of Mars begins to work as an open-world survival affair, very much in the vein of something like ARK: Survival Evolved – a game which is all about survival, building and protecting yourself from the alien AI which is trying to kill you and the numerous other players on your server.
It has to be said, Memories of Mars is a huge game and if you are after something to get stuck into then this is one that could well keep you playing for hundreds of hours, as you pick and choose your servers and connect to the massive world in place.
It won’t take you long to learn the initial basics of movement, crouching and running in first person as you try to get a grip on the game. You will also need to keep an eye on three main bars, detailing your health, nutrition and oxygen – the vitals of any space-filled adventure. For the most part this means you will need to work with oxygen canisters, filling them up via pipelines that are spread across the surface of Mars. But whilst this is simple, to get access to other items like health packs or food you will then have to utilise your most important item – the 3D portable printer.
3D printing is key to your survival in Memories of Mars and by placing your portable printer on the ground you will be able to craft a huge number of items from it. At least if you have the required resources, that is. And this is where things get a bit trickier. See, when you arrive on the planet you are guided well in how to grab resources from the world around you; a simple task to begin with. Such an action can be as basic as literally grabbing stuff from the ground to get some iron ore. You can then use your printer to make iron bars, that can be turned into a gun, for example. From there, working with a different crafting formula will see bullets magically appear, or you could use another which will let you create a drill, enabling you to mine even more resources. Rinse and repeat forever more and you’ll find a whole host of different equipment and items in your possession. It’s a system of crafting that you will no doubt be pretty familiar with, especially if you’ve previously played games like No Man’s Sky or the aforementioned ARK.
Once you start to get to grips with things, Memories of Mars begins to open up considerably, and as you progress you will discover that you can start building structures. In order to do this you will need new components: standard stuffs that are needed for a wall, a door or a platform. But you will also need FLOPS. FLOPS is a currency that can be collected; found in conquered enemies or laying around in piles of debris. With the combination of FLOPS and the resources collected, you can build almost anything you like – at least if you’re creatively minded. And once you have this new habitat up and running, it can be filled with useful machinery like a printer in the base so you won’t have to worry about carrying one around, and a cloning machine which will allow you to be restored when loading up the game instead of being placed randomly in a Martian desert.
Combat-wise and you will be meeting all manner of nasty alien robot types. These run from the small, incredibly nimble spider-like foes (Spiders from Mars!) which can be tricky to kill as they fire all sorts of stuff at you like poison or lasers, up to some mantis-like robots which are like larger spiders: harder, tougher opponents. There are even serpent creatures that bury themselves in the ground to give you a nasty surprise and drones which come down from the sky, shooting you from above.
The biggest problem though – and this pretty much applies to any survival game – is death. You see, when you die in Memories of Mars you are placed back in the world. Should this be early in your playthrough, and without a cloning machine, you will need to head on out and find your old dead body, and collect the stuff you have lost. But with little in the form of markers, most of the time you’ll be left searching the red planet for what seems like an age, before giving up and starting all over again. I would love for the game to have more guidance and markers, particularly in the first few hours, because it’s in those times where the newbie survival gamer will give up, and that would be a huge shame as there is much to love when you really get into Memories of Mars.
It has to be said though, Memories of Mars looks very good – especially for a game that is set on a barren red rocky planet. The world created provides some nice design elements and it is a pleasure walking around the landscape, discovering what’s what and what is hidden behind every rock. The enemies can however begin to look a bit generic after a while, but then you’ll want to stay away from them anyways.
If you’re one of the many who like to become immersed in any form of survival/building experience then you are going to have a great time with Memories of Mars on Xbox One. There are literally hundreds of hours worth of things to get involved in. It does however feel slightly like it is in the early stage of development, and there is certainly room for enhancements and improvements, with the addition of little bits of content which will help the game grow over time. For those who like to build stories of their own, want to work with interesting and unique structures, and are ready to use their mind to create new creative ideas, Memories of Mars certainly works. But on the flipside, it really could do with a few more markers and a ton more help for potential newbies struggling through the early stages.