PREVIEW: Ion Maiden

Apr
12

PREVIEW: Ion Maiden

Old FPS fans rejoice! 3D realms is the publisher for this nostalgia-project that promises to bring back the glory days of the first-person shooter with complex levels, humor, easter eggs and a massive amount of secrets

Steam: Early Access
Type: Single-player
Genre: fps, action,
Developer: Voidpoint, LLC
Publisher: 3D Realms
Release date: Feb 28, 2018

Back in the day before shooters started venturing down the path of realism, heroes could carry a massive amount of weapons with them. There wasn’t a limitation of holding two weapons, instead, our protagonist carried the regular pistol, a sub-machine gun, shotgun, and also a rocket launcher with up to 50 rockets plus a couple unique of weapons to every game, usually extremely big ones at that. I was into the current realistic approach when it first appeared in games, no one can possibly carry that kind of gear with them.  It felt fresh but eventually it took the fun away. The level design seemed to slowly decrease from mazes to tubes. The secrets also slowly died out, which used to be a big reason to play the levels all over again and search every corner. Lastly, lest I omit the biggest factor of playing FPS games: fun. The realistic games became substantially less fun.

Blast from the past

One woman army

Unlike the old classics, our protagonist here is a female. The old-fashioned male gamer in me made a quick silent scream and thought to himself: “What is this? Where is my stereotypical muscle man?”. Gone are Duke Nukem‘s big arms, or Doom guy’s grunts, but she gets the job done quite well!

Shelly “bombshell” Harrison bursts out one-liners like Duke or Lo Wang, and eliminates the bad guys as efficiently as the Doom Guy on his best day. This was my first acquaintance with Shelly, but she made her first appearance in a game called Bombshell. I’ve never played that, so I don’t know if her personality is the same or what has changed and what hasn’t.  However, based on this preview campaign, she’s right up there with Duke and Lo Wang now, a bomb disposal expert that just happens to be there when a trans-humanist cult leader Dr.Jadus Heskel attacks Neo DC and decides to take action.

To my understanding, this preview campaign is a rough cut on some of the episodes that are coming. From the police HQ to the sewers and the subway station, all pf these locations are their own separate episodes with multiple levels. This is serves as a glimpse of things to come instead of giving us one full episode. Now they all connected seamlessly to each other and it felt just like one big map. This is only noted by the protagonist remarks when the “level” changed and I arrived at a new area.

Ok, let’s get things back in order.

The same build engine that fueled the classics is here at work, and visually the game captures what it aims to. There are a lot of colors everywhere and many graphic details are embedded into the levels. I personally liked to explore these levels more than most modern shooters that give me bleak corridors, usually in a post-apocalyptic world. The office level, for example, is colorful with different colored chairs, carpets, doors, and paintings on the walls. It’s a nice change of pace to have a shooter with some vibrancy. It doesn’t always have to be bleak and neutral, even if the world is under attack and everything is falling down.

The action is also fast-paced just like it used to be. Some minor bugs were encountered amidst the action. As evidenced in the video when I’m throwing a grenade. It seems to hit an invisible wall and bounce right back. There were a few moments like this on random occasions. I was pretty sure I’d scored a hit on the enemy but it didn’t register it. This was the only bug that I encountered on my few runs during the short preview campaign. My only complaint is really about the difficulty, even on the hardest setting the game doesn’t pose much of a challenge. The enemies themselves are pretty easy to defeat and their damage isn’t anything to be worried about. Three difficulty options are available at the time of this writing. If everything else is done like it was before, we are also going to get more challenging difficulties available.

Don’t try sliding this in real life, kids!

Getting lost in the maps… again

The visual side of the game lives up to its promise so far, but how about the level design? Is it worthy of the the mantle “just like old times!”?

My first run was pretty straightforward, I saw a clear path and I followed that, picking up secrets as they came along. At the end of the map I got a notification saying “there are still 13 secrets left in this level”. I finished the campaign and started all over again. This time concentrating on the secrets. They seemed to be everywhere, some were in tricky spots where multiple jumps are required or jumping around corners. Every item is situated in hard to reach places that wasn’t even a secret location. In addition to secrets, there are a lot of shortcuts hidden in the levels. I found one accidentally while missing an opponent, my bullet hit the ceiling that hid a ladder. Shooting it made the ladder come down, allowing me to access another area and skip a big part of the original level completely.

Based on this preview campaign the levels aren’t as complicated as I had hoped for (I’m looking at you Zilla’s construction-level in Shadow Warrior). But it’s the preview, I’m almost certain that they have built maps that offer frustration and getting lost in them a few times before finally cracking its secrets.

Search and jump everywhere.

Now to the second most important part, THE GUNS! How are they? Unfortunately, the developers keep all the goodies hidden and only gave us the basic pistol, shotgun, SMG, somewhat overpowered homing grenades, and one surprise weapon to try out quickly after beating the boss. There was also the baton, as the protagonist is a police officer, but ammo was plentiful so I never found any use for it. The weapons brought Shadow Warrior to my mind, especially the SMG as it was almost identical to the uzi’s on Shadow Warrior in sound and feel, but unfortunately, I couldn’t equip two of them at the same time. No weapon seemed to stand out from the others, the sounds would need much more bass to them, the revolver and shotgun sounded too light to be believable. Also, the enemy design brought Shadow Warrior to my mind occasionally, this game seems to lean more to that game than to Duke Nukem. This is completely fine to me personally, I always favored Lo Wang over Duke in general. Shadow Warrior has a more interesting world and enemies, and its humor struck me more.

I think a boss battle is imminent…

Verdict

With Ion Maiden, the developers promised to bring a game that honors the past masters. Based on this preview campaign it delivers most of those promises and gives off a positive feeling.   Between Duke Nukem and Shadow Warrior, this game seems to lean towards Shadow Warrior with its weapons and overall style. I’ve always favored more Shadow Warrior personally as a game and as a world compared to Duke. It’s more interesting and diverse in my opinion. The gameplay is really fast, with some secrets being really well hidden and often requiring death-defying jumps to reach them. Levels here are interesting and do not resemble a tube, but not yet as complicated as I’d personally like. They feature shortcuts and hidden rooms that are off the beaten path but don’t confuse the player like some of the most classic maps on various shooters. It’s still a preview campaign though, it’s not supposed to show all of the tricks.

Eventually, this preview campaign can be completed in under 30 minutes, the steam price tag of 19.99$ seems quite a lot for that. But if thinking that the whole game is unlocked eventually on that sum when finished, I’d see it as a fair price. This game isn’t in danger of just being forgotten suddenly, unlike many other early access games since 3D Realms is behind this. Currently, it’s too easy for hardcore shooter fans looking something resembling the old classics, but I’m hopeful they will add the difficulty on par with the old classics as well.

About Ejl

Been playing games from all genres from as far as i can remember. Started from C64, had a little affair with only consoles for few years but returned eventually to pc-gaming. Considers himself a casual gamer with a serious attitude towards mastering games. Likes to explore unknown games without reading too much about them beforehand, just starting a game, and seeing what it offers. Other hobbies include gym and music: I play guitar, bass, keyboards and very little drums.

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