An Early Access Review of Starship Troopers: Extermination
Starship Troopers: Extermination, a new multiplayer game by developer Offworld Industries, was released in early access on May 17, 2023. The game aims to deliver an action-packed and immersive experience set in the Starship Troopers universe. By blending FPS gameplay with tower defense mechanics, the game provides a unique twist on the genre. In this review, we go over the basics of the game and what we think so far.
A game based on a film based on a book
Starship Troopers: Extermination was inspired by Starship Troopers, a 1997 science fiction action film based on the 1959 Starship Troopers book by Robert A. Heinlein. The 1997 film is set in the 23rd century, with Earth at war with an alien race of giant insects known as the Arachnids. The film follows the story of teenager Johnny Rico and his friends as they serve in the military under the Earth world government and journey across space to fight the Arachnids.
In the decades since its initial release, Starship Troopers has continued to become more popular among critics and audiences and is now considered a cult classic and prescient satire of fascism and authoritarian governance. The film launched a multimedia franchise that includes four sequels: Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation (2004), Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008), Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012), and Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars (2017). Video games, comics, and merchandise have also been produced under the franchise, including the RTS game Starship Troopers: Terran Command released in early 2023.
What is Starship Troopers: Extermination about?
This licensed FPS sees players battling against waves of Arachnids as part of the elite Deep Space Vanguard military operations team. The deep-space mining colony on Planet Valaka, designation PE-59, has been decimated by the Arachnids—and the Vanguard has been sent in to take it back. Players do their part within a platoon of up to 16 players. As soon as dropship hits dirt, your trusty Morita Assault Rifle, build tool, and fellow Vanguard Troopers are all that will keep you alive while exploring the hostile surface of Valaka. Players need to blend combat with resource retrieval and light construction work. Forward advances and base establishment take a lot of teamwork, but most players in the early access servers have been managing to pull together as a team, even if they are unable to speak the same language.
Progress in the early access phase
As a work in progress, Starship Troopers: Extermination has taken a light approach, with three trooper classes and just two mission variants in the early access build. A tutorial is available that teaches new players the basics, including how to build and repair base structures, how to harvest resources, and how to run resource pods back to base.
The game succeeds in capturing what makes the franchise exciting, and it allows players with diverse playstyles to combine their skills through the multiplayer functionality; however, it falls short in several areas that may cause the game to stumble in its longevity and replayability. On the other hand, as an early access title, the game has plenty of room to grow, and placeholders are already showing up in a number of areas. For example, loadouts, game modes, and difficulty options are expected to undergo changes in the final version. Offworld Industries are planning ahead and teasing glimpses of future development in their publicly available early access development roadmap. The title also has an incredibly busy Discord server, where players can seek support, meet up for games, and put forward their own suggestions for additions or changes.
Graphics and playstyle
The visuals are fantastic and the design of the bases, buildings, and vehicles (that cannot actually be used) all look authentic and true to the movies. If you look up to the sky, you see clouds, stars, and planets. The game runs smoothly, although you may experience dropped frames during the initial moments when a horde of hundreds of arachnids breaks through your defenses. Gameplay is frenetic, with players generally running around madly, shooting anything insect-like, reviving teammates, attempting to repair walls, and just basically surviving. Extermination is fast-paced and action-packed, and the bug-slaughtering action is probably its biggest strength. Battles are intense and satisfying. From the moment you are dropped planetside, you have to coordinate with your teammates to face off against the relentless hordes of bugs. As you do so, the game rewards you with a sense of accomplishment and growth by unlocking new weapons, equipment, and perks.
Only two mission variants are available in early access. The first is Attack and Secure (AAS), which gives your squad a set of objectives that generally involve taking and holding various assets, such as ore refineries, at different locations on the map. These tend to be light, quick battles. The second mission type, Advanced Reconnaissance Capsule (ARC), keeps the primary asset to be protected in one place but requires you to gather resources from around the map to keep it powered. This requires coordination with other players and frequent engagement with both the combat and building mechanics.
Players can choose from three trooper classes:
- Hunter: The Hunter Assault Infantry is a highly agile and swift soldier class equipped with cutting-edge jump jet systems, advanced optics, and an augmented reality display. Armed with the iconic Morita MK1 carbine, they become the vanguard of any assault, launching lightning-quick offensives against arachnid hordes.
- Operator: The Operative Support Infantry is a versatile force equipped with essential tools and capabilities to assist and sustain their fellow troopers in the heat of battle. They carry canisters of gas or ore, a Medical UAV, and first aid stims and have two formidable weapon options.
- Bastion: The Bastion Heavy Infantry is a soldier class with impenetrable armor, enhanced defenses, and formidable weaponry. They can enter into what is called Siege Mode, whereby they basically become an immovable fortress on the battlefield.
Operator appears to be the most popular class so far in early access build, possibly because operator is the most versatile class and therefore gives players the most varied work to do in any one game. Nevertheless, with the cooperative building system and specific class abilities, all classes have a way to contribute, whether building or repairing structures, throwing down armor boxes, or healing teammates. The area voice chat and ping controls allow for players to effectively collaborate on objectives and plan their strategies.
Gameplay so far
One gameplay drawback is the fact that anyone can build anything in the base. Although this feature allows structures to be built faster, what actually happens is that you might be halfway through building an outer wall, for example, and then another player will build a turret with a ladder halfway through your wall that creates gaps for the Arachnids to get in. Or even worse, a player will just straight up delete the wall you just spent resources building and place down a turret or something that they think is better than what you had built. Fortunately this issue is receiving a lot of recognition and we can expect solutions in the final release.
Players face off against five types of Arachnids in early access, with more arachnids expected to appear later in the development cycle. Each Arachnid type is distinct, and the most effective tactics for defeating each of them differ.
- Drone. As juvenile versions of Warriors, smaller and with weaker shells, Drones are the weakest of the Arachnid forces; however, they do have strength in numbers. Drones never venture far from Brood hives or bug tunnels and only attack when threatened. Scouting ahead and clearing out the majority of drones at long to medium range is the best strategy.
- Warrior. These are the soldiers of the Arachnid species. They reproduce much more rapidly than do any of the other types of bugs, which is why they are generally present in almost any battle with Arachnids. Warriors have powerful pincer-like mandibles that are capable of crushing rock and metal and of severing limbs as a means of attack; therefore, defeating them from a distance is recommended.
- Gunner. Gunners are incredibly deadly, spitting toxic substances at your team over long distances. They are not as heavily armored as the other types of bugs, but due to the effectiveness of their attack, priority should be given to defeating them over Drones and Warriors.
- Plasma Grenadier. These bugs serve as the artillery for the Arachnid forces. They fire huge, volatile globs of plasma from the rear of their abdomens at airborne targets or fixed constructs. They have no melee attack capabilities, so getting up close to them is the safest way to kill them.
- Tiger Elite. These are the strongest of the Arachnid forces. Tiger Bugs are easy to detect due to their tiger-like stripes. They are much more aggressive than Warriors and have chitinous armor plates that are completely immune to weapons that do not have piercing capabilities.
In early access, the game only has one map, so gameplay may feel monotonous after several rounds. The upgrades system provides a satisfying sense of growth; however, the repetitive nature of the objectives and the single map can dampen the overall excitement and demotivate players from progressing further. As the game moves out of early access and developments continue, these issues will no longer be of concern.
Overall, Starship Troopers: Extermination has the potential to be an exceptional fusion of tower defense and FPS genres. Although the game has some clunky controls and is a little repetitive, it still manages to provide an immersive experience that fans of the franchise will undoubtedly enjoy. With additional improvements to address its shortcomings and introduce more diverse content, Starship Troopers: Extermination has the potential to deliver an even more exceptional and engaging experience for Starship Troopers enthusiasts and fans of the genre.
Currently, Starship Troopers: Extermination has only been announced for release on PC. Whether a Starship Troopers Extermination Xbox or PlayStation version will be released will not be clear until closer to the final launch, which will be after one year of early access. For now, Xbox gamers should check out the Xbox Game Pass and see why Acer is an official sponsor.
Ashley is a technology writer who is interested in computers and software development. He is also a fintech researcher and is fascinated with emerging trends in DeFi, blockchain, and bitcoin. He has been writing, editing, and creating content for the ESL industry in Asia for eight years, with a special focus on interactive, digital learning.