This is a game that is dear to me and I think more people should know about it. I wanted to show this for a long time, but also wanted to make extra sure that I would present it right. I went through some lengths to make this happen and I'm pretty excited to share it with you.
That's some riveting stuff I'm telling here, eh?
Well, actually I have to tell you a bunch of things and a slightly weird story on top of that. I just wanted to get us acquainted.
I thought it'd be best to break this up into a list so you can skip some things, if you want. to be lazy
Marauder: Man of Prey, is a squad based and tactical 3D game with RPG elements. It was released in late 2009, in Russia, and was developed by Apeiron with Buka as publisher. You may know these names as the former made Brigade 7,62 and the later also published Pathologic.
The game is mostly linear and focuses on the story which is based on the "Marauder" series by the elusive author, Berkem Al Atomi. It's safe to assume that this is not his real name. It is divided into rough chapters, and the story unfolds quite steady as you play. Some parts are separated by only a week, in the sense of story time, while a year will pass between others. There are neat, hand drawn, cutscenes that summarize those events and in-game cutscenes will drive the parts that you are playing. Also there is a lot of voice acting. Okay, some speakers did the lines for multiple people, but everyone with a portrait also has VA and a bunch of lines will be missed by less nosy players.
The "Marauder" series is set in an alternate universe and evolves around a dystopian version of Russia. The government crumbled due to corruption and civil unrest, and the country is in a state of anarchy and chaos. As a response, the NATO countries send a Peacekeeper force to secure major population centers and to prevent a surge of terrorism. That's the official version at least. In reality the NATO forces only cared about industrial areas and access to resources, while forgetting about everything else. And suddenly, the Peacekeepers turned into oppressors.
The rest of the country is in a state of anarchy, or "Might makes right". Rural areas and the countryside are completely lawless, and the average citizen has been left to survive on his own and has to get by with whatever means necessary. Civilization effectively broke down in those areas. No electricity, running water or shops that sell you food. Former cops and soldiers turned into gangs and without a weapon you are subject to their will. Survival is a constant fight for normal people and their lives are dirt cheap.
But there are also so called "Marauders". People who actively scavenge their surroundings to survive and can defend themselves. For the most part, they don't steal and murder but they aren't nice guys either. Focused on their own survival, they have little compassion for the plight of people who aren't close to them. And some of them are just as ruthless as the bandits.
We will follow the story of Akhmetzyanov, a common man in his forties, dwelling with his wife in a South Ural town commonly referred to as "Tridtsatka" ("Thirty", or "Big Thirty" as slang). In the past he was an engineer in the Red Army and later a normal worker. But today he is a Marauder. He will have to go through years of hunger and cold, banditry and cannibalism, petty tyranny and brutal infighting, in order to.. well, stay alive. While he has a strong sense for wrong and right, the survival of his family is his main concern. He is no crusader or saviour. In fact, he is kind of an asshole.
According to the developers, the game is set in a single city which was based on "Chelyabinsk-40", also known as "Ozersk". It used to be a closed city due to a chemical factory producing strategic nuclear resources and it's surrounding areas/facilities. I based all of this on the game, an interview and what meager info I could find. While the books seem to be decently popular in Russia, there is no translation or real information to speak of. Also pretty much nothing is known about the author as he only seems to communicate through the internet.
As this is from the makers of 7,62, the game works around a very solid, and realistic, representation of tactical combat. A mix of turn-based and real-time, called the SPM engine(Smart Pause Modus). Actions are measured in time and are based on 1/100th of a second. You can pause the game at any time and think about your next actions, or make quick adjustments and also set some triggers to auto-pause. While this gives you great tactical freedom it can also easily doom you. For instance, an enemy could get the drop on you while you switch your guns, reload, or fuck around in your inventory.
To date, I have to be shown a more fitting method to portray tactical combat, in a fluid and tense way, without turning into an RTS click-fest. Granted, you need a certain amount of horse power to support all the parallel calculations but I'm surprised that this system has not been adopted more widely. Combat is pretty challenging and while you can adjust the difficulty in some ways, you will die if you are not careful. In general, one good hit can kill or at least incapacitate you, and enemies will eventually "zero-in" on static targets.
This game has location damage, wounds, armor coverage, stamina/weight management, ballistics, working cover, some destructible environments...The good stuff, you know?
Apeiron always had a hard-on for realistic combat in their games, bordering on a mil-sim in some aspects. They streamlined a few things for this game, and greatly improved performance and stability. Fans of 7,62 will perk up here, and you can count on me knowing your pain first hand. In a lot of ways, this is the environment/engine they wanted to have for that game. They also drastically reduced the arsenal and gear selection but that is understandable, if you take the setting into account.
Well, you might expect more from this than you will get. Basically, you work with a character that has several attributes and skills measured in numbers. Several stats can improve while you play, gathering subpoints during actions till you gain a full point. Aside from that you get Xp which will count towards your level. With each level you gain a point which you can use to pick a perk or talent. Those will either improve your points by a neat amount, grant you extra bonuses or will do hidden things behind the math. Your level will also have some minor effects on certain aspects of the game. I'll show all this in greater detail with an info post.
While being standard RPG stuff, this adds a bit of replayability to an otherwise linear game. You can set up different "builds" and they all more or less work. Some things are clearly more useful than others but you still have a bit of leeway. The developers also advertised "moral choices" and side quests like in the olden days of RPGs. That's not true as there are no choices that really matter, but you can find some content off the beaten path and there is an alternate ending.
So, this game was mildly successful in Russia but the folks behind it didn't saw a large enough demand to bring it over to the West. Or rather they probably couldn't find a publisher. People who knew about this game were mostly coming from the small 7,62 community, including me. We had pretty high hopes for another release from Apeiron but interest faded as it became more obvious that this wouldn't be brought over. It also fell into the period where the active community died, and Apeiron going bankrupt sealed the deal. Dedicated fans managed to at least translate the UI, but that will only get you so far in a story driven game.
Fast forward almost two years.
I was visiting a small forum where some of the old 7,62 people still showed up and noticed a thread about a new translation for Marauder. While not much content was done, the project seemed hopeful and I stuck around. Sadly it died along the way, but while discussing the issue another poster dropped the bomb on me. Along the lines of "Why do you try to translate this? There is an English version."
After some searching it turned out that he was right. A professional translation(by a polish studio), subs for the cutscenes and even a "Games for Windows Live" logo on the cover. The only issue was that you could not buy it...
Yep, the English version was made and then leaked to the net. I can't say why this happened but through the grapevine I heard that it may was the result of personal and business arguments between the involved parties. I didn't want to be a pirate, so I set out to contact all the companies involved. Sadly the few responses I got only directed me from one company to the other. It seems like they just gave up on the release after it was leaked. I may have taken a look at the rip at this point, but still kept it in the back of my head to buy this, if possible.
Then a second stroke of luck happened. I shared my efforts in the translation thread and another poster informed me that he recently got the English version on a disc from a polish gaming magazine. More rumors pointed to this being an "accidental" release of the game. He gave me details on the version and it was indeed the same. So I contacted every polish person I know to see if they had family in the old country, and if they were willing to get this for me.
The major strong point of this game is the story and the atmosphere. I really like the Russian way of writing which often has a strong sense of depression and bleakness to it, which differs from western works. Roadside Picnic or Metro 2033/34 come to mind, to name the more popular ones. One might argue that you could bring the Noir genre into this but I don't think it's the same. It's more like a cultural thing that shaped a certain style/tone.
Obviously I can't capture the whole feeling without a full VLp, but that would be kinda boring to watch as tactical games don't really work well in that format. Also recording makes the game run kind of bad during larger fights, and my machine is not the strongest to begin with. I will however give you a lot of little videos.
As I've told you in the beginning, this game has, hand drawn, story-cutscenes and it also has a lot of in-game scenes. I won't make a video for every small scene, but you'll get to see the majority.
Look for this little guy, he is a video!
I suggest that you watch them in fullscreen. YT randomly crops the letterbox in normal view for some of the videos. And the subs are on the lower part of the box. Can't say why as I've encoded all of the vids with the same settings.
The videos will not be in native resolution, just a tiny bit worse. The thing is that encoding and uploading at native costs a lot of time, that I could spend better. This is easier with big vids that you can upload while you're not at home, but with several clips per update this becomes a thing.
Also let me say a word on the camera. The devs gave it a fixed upper/lower angle to hide the fact that they cut some corners on the map design. I freed it from it's shackles, to get better shots of the game. The maps/textures look really good and are designed quite detailed. So when you perceive something as odd, keep in mind that you can only see it due to the free camera. Roofs will disappear when inside a building and you can see the blue skybox, for instance. I'll keep such things in mind when making the screens but sometimes I won't be able to hide it.
I'll try to show off as much of the game as I deem relevant. There's a lot of nice scenery, and combat will always be awesome. So that will result in updates being a bit larger in general. I'll do my best to find fitting points to split longer chapters though. Just know that I can't really set on a fixed length for all the updates. There'll be a couple of shorties but you might want to grab a tasty treat while you read. If that isn't your cup of tea, then I'm sorry! But you'll miss out on a cool game.
You'll get at least one update a week, but I may manage to do two. Really depends on my schedule at that time.
Up front, NO talk about the rip! Don't ask me, and don't discuss it in here. Don't be a busta.
Also NO spoilers! As this is an international community, there is a chance that someone knows this. Please let the other people experience the events on their own.
Hello, person that understands Russian!
I would like it very much if you could hang around and maybe offer some insight on the translation and other things along the line. Russian is inherently difficult to translate and while the work here is mostly solid, it does have some quirks and obvious errors. It would be even better if you actually are from Russia as there are some things that are not comprehensible to foreigners. Like nicknames or slang, or just the background of certain places/things. You could even offer some insight on the themes of the story or on the Marauder books. That would be really great! I feel that this game has some room for discussion, but I fear that I can't really serve all the angles that might come up.
And now for the story - of Akhmetzyanov and his family..
-Skills and talents breakdown.
-An in-depth study of Wifey.
- There's a finished Lp of Brigade 7,62 and the BSM mod, here.