Mars

M A master class in how not to announce a game. Material this CONCEPT underwhelming will surely only hurt Mars’s chances of success.

Indie developer Spiders shows its hand with not an ace in sight

With publishers often announcing new projects over a year before a trailer is even ready, the careful management of hype has become one of the defining issues of the moment. It was once believed that extra time simply raised awareness and increased demand, but the commercial and critical under performance of releases like Too Human have forced the marketers to rein themselves in. By the time certain games are ready for sale, the average gamer is no longer interested.

With this in mind, we can’t figure out whether fledgling indie studio Spiders is brave or foolhardy, shrewd or stupid. Despite having no fixed release date beyond a tentative “2010″, and no publisher attached to carefully plan a media assault, Spiders has released both footage and imagery from its debut project, Mars. Yes, the move could pique the interest of a publisher and secure the future of the project. But with the information also freely available through the company website, it could just as easily paint a negative picture of the game’s potential for the very people who will be asked to buy it.

There’s an element of cynicism to this appraisal, but it’s borne out by the concept. Mars will be set entirely on our neighboring red planet, and has an ultimate aim of fusing the best elements of beat-’em-ups and role-play, without diluting either. You will be given the choice of two characters: Seth, a war-hardened soldier with a troubled past, or Pandora, a ‘technomancer’ whose name immediately evokes a sense of imminent disaster.

Spiders promises that each dota 2 guides character will offer a different gameplay experience, but judging from the footage of Seth we’ve seen, at least half of that will be an uninspiring take on God Of War-style hack-and-slash. Visually it seems just as derivative. We had no idea Mars looked exactly like the inside of a steelworks, yet the promotional materials leave no other conclusion. The fact that the enemies seem to have stumbled in from the Doom 3 and Oblivion non-player character auditions only exacerbates the matter.

With Spiders offering so little to stimulate the imagination, we turned to the studio’s lineage for reassurance. However, unless you feel the little-played role-playing game Silverfall is an overlooked classic – incidentally, we don’t – even this approach fails to spark much interest. None of which suggests that Mars won’t be worth playing eventually, but for an independent developer to release such under-nourished material in a genre dominated by mega-budgets and mega-publishers carries a higher risk of failure than success.

Chefs claim you take the first bite with the eye, and what we’ve seen of Mars so far has the distinct air of reheated leftovers. With six months more work, Spiders could have offered a far more impressive teaser, and with so much time left until release the question is, why now?