Exploring the Red Planet in Deliver Us Mars
The Red Planet comes alive (in video games) with its depiction in the adventure game Deliver Us Mars.
Doing a real-life setting in a fictional work justice is difficult. It’s even more difficult when you’ve never been there yourself. We as a species have yet to visit Mars, and we only have photos and drone footage to go off of. Still, the Deliver Us Mars team did everything they could to depict the fourth planet accurately.
When I played the game earlier this year, I was struck by how fully realized its version of Mars is. It’s a brand-new horizon that has been scarcely depicted in games before. It’s understandable in one regard, as it represents a frontier as of yet unexplored. For one of the closest objects to us in space (relatively, anyway), it’s curious how much of the Red Planet we have yet to figure out.
The day when humanity will finally set foot on Mars is creeping ever closer. Whether or not it’ll happen in our lifetime, who can say? For now, we have to content ourselves with fictional versions of the planet like the one in Deliver Us Mars — a version that sets the template for Mars in the future.
You blabbed about Mars, Quaid!
The reason why we go to the Red Planet Deliver Us Mars sadly mirrors our own reality. In the Deliver Us universe, the Earth is near death thanks to a lack of natural resources making life almost uninhabitable. Mars might hold the key to giving Earth a second chance at life in the form of one of the lost ARKs. But in order to get there, protagonist Kathy Johanson must go through turbulent space travel and personal dilemmas.
I’ve talked previously about the Deliver Us series’ commitment to accurately portraying the science of space travel. We’ll discuss how this applies to Mars in a bit, but first, I want to examine how the characters in the game talk about Mars.
There’s no romanticism here. Mars is a place that’s been visited before in this universe. It isn’t the zenith of humanity or a place where everything will be reborn. In Deliver Us Mars, the characters view Mars as just a planet. Rather than treat it as an exotic destination or the next step in humanity’s evolution, the team of astronauts on Mission Opera sees it merely as their destination.
All except for Kathy, whose younger age and memories of her father Isaac paint Mars in a different light. She thinks her father is out on the planet, and never having been there herself, she sees the beauty and wonder of the Red Planet. Kathy sees the awe-inspiring views, but also knows — as do her teammates — that Mars is a dangerous, harrowing planet as well.
Survive the planet in Deliver Us Mars
From the minute you touch down on Mars, you’re already in a perilous situation. Technology in Deliver Us Mars hasn’t advanced so far that traveling on another planet is simple. Oxygen, perilous heights, and scalable walls are major concerns.
You explore derelict stations and structures on Mars, figuring out what went wrong there and where its inhabitants could have gone. Between these buildings are vast expanses of the planet, barely touched by humanity. Empty, save for maybe an abandoned Mars rover or power station. It all contributes to a lonely, abandoned atmosphere that makes you feel truly minuscule compared to the scale of the planet.
Often, in the Deliver Us series, the people you meet are just as dangerous as the planet you visit. Yet that doesn’t mean Mars isn’t a formidable obstacle in its own right. The terrain isn’t built for humanity; if there’s been any terraforming done, it’s less about shaping the landscape to suit our goals but rather adapting to what Mars can throw at us.
Let’s focus on the terrain a little more closely — specifically, as a gameplay mechanic. Many of the areas you explore on Mars are naturally-formed canyons and crevasses. Some of the terrain is scalable, giving you an opportunity to reach new heights with your climbing axes. However, one false move means you’re falling with no way to recover. And, potentially, no floor below you to save you.
The soil is always redder
The first word that comes to most people’s minds when they think of Mars is red. It’s been such a cornerstone of our cultural depiction of Mars that it’s hard to imagine the planet without it — but Deliver Us Mars wants to expand that idea.
In truth, the actual makeup of Mars is pretty diverse. Like Earth, there are mountains and valleys, warm spots and cold spots, and different climates. You might be surprised by how many different environments you’ll venture through during your stay on the Red Planet.
That’s because the developers at KeokeN Interactive were fully committed to rendering Mars as realistically as possible. Coordinating with NASA and ESA, the developers and level designers worked to create a rendition of Mars that was accurate to real-life science. Everything from the astronaut suits to its rendition of zero-gravity movement is done with a dedication to making it seem real.
I think this is what makes this version of Mars such a treat to explore. It feels like you’re exploring a brand new world — and not just in the sense that you’re experiencing a piece of fiction. With Deliver Us Mars, we might have the closest depiction of Mars as it is in real life. It’s a brief visit, but one that’s unforgettable to be sure.
Experience the Red Planet in Deliver Us Mars
While Deliver Us Mars has some problems with its gameplay and technical foundation, the depiction of Mars is absolutely outstanding. It deserves an examination purely on that front. The game does a true service to Mars and space travel by rendering it in an accurate yet still beautiful manner.
Deliver Us Mars is published by KeokeN Interactive and published by Frontier Foundry. It is available now for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.
What do you think of how Deliver Us Mars handled its titular planet? Let us know!