Deliver Us Mars looks bleak. It looks daunting. In the most desperate, isolating and life-threatening sense, it looks terrifying. And these are just some of the compliments I could pay KeokeN Interactive and Frontier Foundry's upcoming sci-fi puzzle adventure at first glance.
That early glimpse of the developer's follow-up to Deliver Us the Moon came during last month's Future Games Show Spring Showcase, when a super moody reveal trailer set the tone. Speaking to GamesRadar+ in the wake of that world premiere, KeokeN's Koen Deetman said we should expect a similarly non-violent, story-driven odyssey – this time set on the Red Planet – but one that is a "radical step up in narrative and gameplay" terms over its 2018 forerunner.
As is alluded to towards the end of the above trailer, exploration underpins Deliver Us Mars, with the player having crash-landed on the as-yet uncolonized foreign planet. Environmental hazards punctuate the road to safety, which allow for puzzles that are "woven into the game's setting", and merged with action-adventure set-pieces, each of which demands quick-thinking and even faster reaction times.
"Expanding on the narrative in Deliver Us Mars means that we really went the extra mile in getting actual live performances captured, not only voice but body and face, too," explains Deetman. "It deepens the believability of the characters you'll encounter in the game – and this story is brought to life by a fantastic cast, who we’ll be able to reveal and discuss at a later date."
"In the Deliver Us series, you don't commit any violent acts, so crafting a natural pressure/conflict resolve method wasn't easy for us. With the climbing ability we’ve added to this game, players will experience this type of 'hold on or fall' feel of danger – plus it enhances the feeling of verticality in our game without us needing to use stairs or elevators."
"Compared to the previous game, the puzzles in Deliver Us Mars have evolved from one-offs to a more elevated connected system with mechanics that give you more engaging and challenging scenarios than before. Sometimes, too, these puzzles have more than just one solution."
Building on the real-world questions posed by its predecessor – tied to climate change and preserving planet Earth – Deliver Us Mars is set 10 years into the future. And while the climax of Deliver Us the Moon provided a temporary solution to the world's self-destructive ills, Deliver Us Mars aims to offer hope with its learn-by-doing approach and design. In doing so, Deliver Us Mars will lean more heavily on a third-person perspective than its forerunner, but will also include some first-person moments throughout.
On this, Deetman says: "Both perspectives have their positives and negatives, but the third-person perspective gives the player the ability to see their astronaut in their full glory. Driving an expensive car is nice, but actually seeing it from the outside is where the real magic comes from, right? It's similar when you see our protagonist in her slick high-tech futuristic astronaut suit – it's the Ferrari of our game, so to speak."
"There’s another reason we like this perspective, though: in Deliver Us The Moon, there was a sense that this silent astronaut could've been you as a player – that is, until late in the game when we finally revealed who the astronaut in the suit was. You could imagine a wholly first-person perspective working well for a completely anonymous main character, but the identity of who you’re playing as is important in this series. Players will be very clear from the start of Deliver Us Mars of who their protagonist is, and therefore playing as her from a third-person perspective makes more sense – especially when elements like motion-capture come into play."
New world orders
To its credit, the Deliver Us Mars reveal trailer is as atmospheric as they come – but we're nevertheless left with more questions than answers. What caused our crash landing? Can our malfunctioning ship be repaired? What is that ominous monolith in the distance? And is that red-handled pick-axe from B&Q or Homebase? Deliver Us Mars is as yet without a concrete release window, but Deetman assures us all will be revealed in due course, and that everything the game proposes with regards to life on the barren Mars sprawl has been researched to the fullest possible degree.
"You’ve no doubt noticed that humanity hasn’t colonized Mars yet, so we have to make do with what the various Mars rovers and scientists are showing to the world when we try to stick to an authentic representation of this planet. We use that as a basis for our starting point," Deetman adds. "With Deliver Us The Moon, we had astronauts confirm some of the ways the game depicted its real-life setting. That’s obviously not possible to do with Mars, but we studied the behavior of its atmosphere, how the color of the landscape changes through the night, and how its gravity behaves in comparison to Earth and the Moon. This natural character of the planet was important for us to capture."
"Another question we asked was, how would human beings actually colonize a planet like this? Throughout the development of Deliver Us Mars, we’ve learned a lot about how challenging this would actually be, and it underlined to us just how precious planet Earth really is."
Other, less conceptual challenges faced by KeokeN pertain to new-gen hardware. Having first launched on PC in 2018, Deliver Us the Moon was re-released on desktops the following year, before debuting on PS4 and Xbox One in 2020. Now, two years on, Deliver Us the Moon is preparing for a PS5 and Xbox Series X launch on May 19 – a process that Deetman believes has helped both the developer's first game and its forthcoming sequel. From 4K visuals to feeling genuine vertigo from peering over one of the Red Planet's knife-edge gullies, it sounds like Deliver Us Mars is shaping up nicely in its current state. Deetman can't say much more than that currently, but he does promise the wait will be worth it.
He adds: "We've been really fortunate to have had the next-gen hardware at our disposal for Deliver Us The Moon while also developing Deliver Us Mars. It has absolutely benefitted from the knowledge we've acquired getting our previous game to next gen. I've seen players ask what that 'next-gen feeling' is, but I can assure you Deliver Us Mars will bring players that sensation – this game really looks and sounds the part."
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