Deliver Us Mars is the sequel to 2018's Deliver Us the Moon. Set ten years after the events of the first game, Deliver Us Mars doesn't necessarily require you to have played Deliver Us the Moon to understand what's going on. Right out of the gate, though we are made aware the story of Deliver Us the Moon had an impact on what's going on in the world, and a lot of characters return, we aren't made to feel left out if we didn't experience that game first.
Instead, Deliver Us Mars is one of those pleasant sequels that doesn't require you to have a knowledge of the original work in order to be enjoyed. It's easy to get swept in to the mystery of Outward, the world, and grim but realistic future KeoKeN has imagined for Deliver Us Mars.
In the not-so-distant future of Deliver Us Mars, the world is dying, due to humanity's actions and ignorance. It's by no means an original idea, but the way in which Deliver Us Mars grounds its sci-fi in reality was refreshing on multiple levels. In the gameplay it appeared that a lot of research had been done in identifying all the ways in which Deliver Us Mars could be as closely connected to reality as possible. Specifically, launching a rocket proved to be quite tricky, with various tasks to do before just hitting the big button that shoots you off into space. None of this realism ever made Deliver Us Mars err on the side of boring, though, and it only serves as further immersion into the kind of grounded sci-fi KeokeN is going for.
Similarly to how reality grounds the world, our new protagonist Kathy gives the narrative a strong anchor. Not only is she well-written, but with a vested interest in both Outward and the crew sent to track down the elusive group, Kathy's POV causes the lines between each side to become blurred, and you're never quite sure which is the "right" one to follow. What is interesting in Deliver Us Mars as well is how we unravel both the mysteries of what happened on Mars while also delving into more and more of Kathy's backstory, giving the player two major points of intrigue as they go through.
This leads us on to the narrative of Deliver Us Mars, the grand elephant in the room. As a linear, short game which should only take you around 8 hours to beat, Deliver Us Mars has a lot riding on its narrative. For the most part, it succeeds. Kicking off with a bang, Deliver Us Mars invites you to explore the story of the red planet and complete the shadowy mystery behind Outward. Throughout the first and second acts of the story, these mysteries alone will hook you in, as you jet off into space and uncover more information. Throughout these points, the story is paced well, as it moves quickly without feeling like it's going too fast for you to keep up. There's plenty of slower moments too, that allow us to find out more about our main cast of characters and build our relations with them.
However, during its last stretch Deliver Us Mars loses this quality of its pacing and feels rushed. The last hour or so of the game feels as though it is about three hours' worth of play stacked into one, as we work towards an abrupt ending that only leaves the sense that we didn't quite get the dramatic finish that the rest of the game is building up to. It's certainly not enough to leave an overly sour taste in the mouth after beating Deliver Us Mars, but it is a point of slight disappointment.
Outside of its story, Deliver Us Mars leads you through multiple chapters of puzzle-based adventure gameplay, which boil down to either connecting a beam of power to a point to continue, or using two climbing picks to work your way around the environment. The beam puzzles are fun, with just enough challenge to keep them engaging for the most part without proving to be frustrating. But, over time they end up feeling a bit samey, and it would have been interesting to see another element added to them or another kind of puzzle entirely. Climbing proves to be difficult at first and slightly frustrating, especially using a mouse and keyboard, but once you're used to it, it proves to be a solid gameplay mechanic. I never found myself whooping with joy over another climbing section, but I didn't dread running into them either.
Something that often made the climbing sections even more enjoyable in Deliver Us Mars were the game's environments. There are some gorgeous visuals in Deliver Us Mars, from the dying Earth to the red planet itself, you get to see a lot of different landscapes that are worth just taking a moment to appreciate. However, these grand environments are juxtaposed by the odd character models. Kathy and our main team are mostly clear of this, but the other human character models in the game come across as quite uncanny, and can detract from the immersion as you struggle to connect the strange face in front of you to a human being. Impressive voice performances and dialogue mean this doesn't detract too much from the overall experience, but the character models do feel like they are lodged in gaming's past, whereas the rest of the visuals hold up against a lot of other modern titles.
Deliver Us Mars has a lot to like about it. There's a strong narrative core running throughout most of it, supported by great voice performances, especially from Ellise Chappell who plays Kathy, and there's some solid gameplay and impressive visuals thrown into the mix as well. Despite its good points, there are a few key factors that leave Deliver Us Mars in a state of being very good rather than great. Even with its many strengths, it has just enough to hold it back from reaching a higher score.