Review of "Mobile Armored Marine"

…I must admit this is my first actual CoG-style game I played. And it by accident, I accidentally clicked the button, accidentally chosen a call sign, accidentally went through training, accidentally picked the worst armor, etc. I however have much to talk about in this game, so I decided to make a post, in the hopes of contacting the developer.

I liked MAM…I guess. Apparently there were multiple plotlines but somehow I wasn’t really interested in pursuing any of them (other than the mission plotline), and the game seemed so railroady that I don’t think I care enough to explore some more. The story and concept was interesting, and going through character history was nice, but…there’s a lot I find wrong.

I didn’t really like the morality system, as it appears to be you making sacrifices to increase your meter…for the meter’s sake. There’s a Perfect Evil Run and a Perfect Good Run, but the moral choices in this game were so very simplistic (Do you want to save puppy? Do you want to blow up a power station?) that I didn’t really care to see them…and in any event, I prefer these meters to play a role within the game itself. There also wasn’t any real reason to be “evil” except for the lulz. Sure, I ended up being evil (didn’t really care for my own men’s survival, had no feelings towards the Imperium or the Mobile Marines, and was more interested in completing my mission[1]), but that was probably due to me repeatedly blowing up the power station (more on that later). Many of the options tended towards being evil in the cartoony sense (killing random women…murdering my own troopers…ugh.) and I find that sort of “evil” to be rather repugnant.

I liked the idea of dying and then coming back to life with a slight hit to unit morale[2]. I didn’t like having to redo the entire mission because I died. I certainly did not like having to blow up the Power Station THREE TIMES, fight off against lizards that suddenly respawned, and rescue a starving puppy twice (probably the exact same puppy). I also let Elena died once and then saved her twice. All in the same run. …It’s as if the entire world was reset because I died…but it didn’t reset entirely, because my platoon knew I died and lost morale. I think death needs different consequences: instead of forcing me to replay a mission I already played through, place me right back where I last left off, but with unit morale lowered and all actions I did previously still maintained. If I let Elena die once and blew up the power station and then I myself die, then when I come back, Elena’s corpse should still be fresh and the power station is a wrecked mess.

I also think I disliked the “locked door” near the end of the game, not because it was hard to unlock the door but because the game implied that there was more than one solution to unlocking that door (say, finding a keycard), and that this second solution will lead to rewards such as higher glory. Making it clear that this is the ONLY way to unlock the door would remedy this problem, probably by having text that says to the effect of “I’ll come back later and unlock the door using the tools I have; the tools I have will unlock this door but might prevent me from exploring the rest of the complex”.

I wish I could praise this game more. I…can’t. Maybe this game was an average Hosted Game, or it’s the highlight of CoG’s Hosted Games. I don’t know. All I know is that I considered it mediocre, and while I had some fun, it wasn’t as much as I hoped. I have saved my game and will probably follow the life of Mr. Felix some more, but if there is a sequel, I’ll need to lower my expectations so I don’t get disappointed again.

[1]If the bad guys were reasonable people willing to talk to me, weren’t outright cannibals wanting to eat civilians, and didn’t try to kill me, I might have defected to them. I suppose that’s the real limit in these CoG games…there’s always a limit to what you can do because the author didn’t think you want to take a certain option.

[2]As a note: To my understanding, my two deaths was “cheap”, but I might not have understood the mechanics correctly though; I think the two death bypassed my armor however, and for most of the game, whenever you got hit, you lost armor, and I assumed once you lose all your armor you died.

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Technichally speaking, the aliens weren’t cannibals as they ate humans, not their own people. And I actually enjoyed this game, found it to be well-written and interesting. Not the best, but certainly not the worst (:

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When you die, your tether pulls you back through time itself. Hence, everything should reset. That’s how I understood it anyway. I enjoyed the game and would like to see more from the author.

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Okay, form the start, I found the game to be riddled with both bad and good things. Some things were handled great, why other… not so much. I end up concentrating on the negative though (I’m just a horrible person like that).

First off, of course, I’m a bit of a hardliner when it comes to tech, so the description of the the tether makes me grit my teeth a little. It’s obvious that it was written just as a game device with no other thought put into it, and that’s something I’ve always disliked in stories. Setting aside it’s lack of any connection to reality though, it still just feels like a cheap cop-out for balancing risk and reward. It’s not there to facilitate the story, it’s there just so the author doesn’t have to keep things balanced, and can feel justified in any random act in the story. Just make the player play the game repeatedly until they can pick out what they want, and memorize how to dodge the obstacles. For me, that smacked of bad design, but wasn’t a killer problem.

What was, however, was one of the first things that I encountered. Essentially, the game has no concept of proper tactical or strategic operations, and likewise zips back and forth on what is ‘the right choice’. On my first play though, I hit the ground, and so, for me, the first thing is obvious: I turn to head to the power station to meet up with my troopers, cause that’s the intelligent thing to do. Then the game tells me, ‘No, you’re dumb for trying that and should scout out the rest of the place first, rather than properly coordinating an attack on what sounds like the most threatening target and moving forward in an intelligent and methodic manner from there.’ So, ignoring the fact that I’m the walking tank and should be assaulting the power station, rather than throwing soft targets at it (as I can hear gun fire and know that they’re probably being mowed down), and that their greater number and smaller size makes them more capable of recon, particularly because I’m utter crap at stealth, I head East, towards the warehouses to lock down the places that seem most likely to be a center of military might, just in case things go wrong. So, obviously the game says ‘Your stupid and got your troopers killed for wandering away from them.’ From there I just basically face palmed my way through the rest of the game.

There are, however, some bright spots. the pacing of the story is very well done, and every last line is well written. As a story, I can not see a single fault with it (other than a bland, cliched plot). Okay, no, sorry, but seriously the entire thing is a cliche storm. I mean, you can literally kick a dog for heaven’s sake. Why? As @IgorHorst mentioned, there is only one reason: To make yourself more evil.

That brings me to the second major problem: You usually have to choose between the less stupid of two profoundly stupid options. There are very few places where you can actually take the intelligent course of action. For example, I find surrendered alien, probably the most important thing when encountering a hostile alien species, and rather than be able to take it into custody, I have the option of blowing it up, or telling it scram like it’s a small kid. I can even imagine Felix taking the top off his armor and tossing it to the alien like he’s fricken Mean Green Joe. Oh, yea, and your evil if you choose the less stupid option, even if, in game, you already knew the damn thing was going to shoot you in the back.

Additionally, some technical little things keep cropping up to annoy me. First, the spam of blank pages when skipping between scenes, something like that really should be fixed before the game is released. There’s honestly no reason for it, as it’s not some out of the way one time thing if you do some specific list of actions, but instead is consistently there on every scene change. Secondly, their blaster technology uses lasers? Seriously, what the hell. (Pet Peeve of mine. If the right words exist, use them correctly. If your ‘blaster’ shoots lasers, why are you calling it a blaster?)

There were another three or four things I found cringe worthy, but I’m not making an exhaustive list here. (Oh Jeez, just found out that after doing another stupid-evil action (as opposed to the chaotic evil that I think it was going for) that ends up with you executing everyone, you can still call on the Shock Troopers to help you assaulting the plot-door.)

In the end though, I think the reason I find so much fault with it, is because there is so much good. There are uber evil options (steal the gold and run) to Superman level good options (Tuck a puppy in your boot to save it), there just doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. There’s great writing, and great pacing, but numberous small errors detract from the overall feel of the game. It almost feels incompletely done.

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Other people have already complained about the morality system so instead I’ll try to offer advice on how to improve it.I get the impression you tried to make it similar to mass effect by having you finishing the job either way but having a different attitude/approach depending on your way of seeing things.

One early choice I think you did well was during the character creation when you can choose to cheat during training because there are no laws in warfare.This argument/justification says something about the protagonists view on life and his mission. There is a clear difference in intentions and personal philosophy between the character who cheats and the one who doesn’t.The choices out in the field aren’t as well thought out.If you find the child at the airport and try to talk to him/her (cant remember) you get a message some of your soldiers have died.Why is rushing to their aid immediately afterwards the “dark and evil” choice?Am I evil for caring about my squad?We know the child is there and can send someone later.

Since you are working for the empire I suggest replacing the light/dark meter with a philosophy meter in future installments.Exactly what does my protagonist think of the empire and what they do? Does he have a brothers in arms attitude or a every man for himself one? Having a personal philosophy based around compassion and unity versus one around individual strength and success should affect what kind of choices the protagonist is capable of considering.

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@Trickster: Exactly. Replacing Light and Dark with “Paragon and Renegade,” for lack of a better set of terms (thank you BioWare), and eliminating the random puppy punting would make the karma meter more meaningful.

I especially hated the puppy vignette. You are Dark if you refuse to help a poor starving puppy at the possible expense of your team and your mission. I can’t get behind that call.

Another couple of notes on the game:

#1: The name of the aliens (Lacertians) was plagiarized from Space Lizard (creator of The Reconstruction and I Miss The Sunrise). While stealing names isn’t necessarily going to damage the game itself, that’s extremely bad karma if done without permission.

#2: The romances were non-optional. They happened without player input and assumed that if you got a chance at sexing up a member of the opposite sex, you would. That was extremely irritating.

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Personally, I found the game to be fantastic, maybe because I know how difficult it is to make a game (I’ve tried many times…and failed) but mainly because the story line was GOOD.
I do not care if somethings were cliche or options were one of two extremes (Evil and Good), I could still understand where the story was going, and why certain things happened.

Scouting the area IS being tactical, and you WOULD be stupid not to do it. How would you know if a whole damn army wasn’t marching towards the power station. Scouting the area is the first thing any tactician or General would do.
Of course, there was no army marching on the power-station. I found the puppy options annoying too, but I have come to realise that it was no annoying because it was not a good idea to have a puppy there, but because it challenged you morally, what was more important, saving the life of an innocent creature and jeopardizing the mission, or leaving the creature to die and keeping the mission safe from possible danger. I did however avoid the dog after that, as it is a very challenging choice to make.

You have to remember that you weren’t fighting humans in the game, and you weren’t in the 21st century, you were a random walking tank on a random planet on your first mission. There are certain things you wouldn’t be able to do or think of doing. There IS no middle ground, you either be logical and complete the mission, the mission, and nothing but the mission, or you let your emotions lead the way.

One the whole, a great game, there were many story-lines you could go through, and the thrill of finding a new one each time I played it further proves that this game is GOOD.
I look forward to future instalments.

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@Ramidel “Lacertian” is an English word; it means “lizard like.”

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I see.

“You have to remember that you weren’t fighting humans…”
I have to argue that speculative fiction has always been about fighting humans regardless of what form they come in. Authors often, albeit sometimes inadvertently, pick a quality within humans and externalize it into an alien species or time-travelling nazis, or what have you. At its core, aliens have always represented parts of the human heart. It’s meant for us to use the juxtaposition to really see what humanity unique… aside from the superficial ‘they look like lizards.’

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After all, we wouldn’t really know what aliens are like. They’re alien for a reason.


That or they’re just an obstacle which the good guys must overcome. Like most hostile alien races in video games.

In this game, Lacertians do have “moral standing,” as it were. Intentionally shooting a surrendered Lacertian is a Dark decision. So they’re not pure obstacles unless you’re playing the kind of character who has no morals and deals ruthlessly with threats.

Also, does anyone know if starting with 95% Dark is a bug or not?

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I’m not sure what you mean by saying they have a “moral standing”… They’re basically just written as obstacles… But because of the moral standard that your character is held too by the game, it’s still considered “dark” to kill that surrendered one even when your character already knows it’ll shoot him him in the back if he doesn’t.

That’s what I meant by “moral standing.” Personhood. A right to not be casually murdered because it’s convenient. While your superiors might not care, a moral Marine will.

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That just means the game considers killing a helpless living thing evil even if you know it’s about to pull out a gun and shoot you in the back the moment you give it a chance because you’ve seen the future. Whether or not the game considers Lacertians people is completely irrelevant. And also, while we’re at it, deciding to kill a hostile alien because you know it’s going to attack you the moment you show it any mercy is hardly ‘Casual murder because it’s convenient.’

I think equating being shot with an ‘inconvenience’ is stretching things a little. Certainly killing a surrendering combatant is illegal, but then so is pretending to surrender then firing on your captor. The Lacertian is a war criminal, thus voiding its rights under the laws and customs of war. However, killing the Lacertian before you know it’s going to shoot you in the back is pretty much not a great thing to do.

@Canisa I don’t remember the game ever saying anything about laws and customs of war. Pretty much all we’re told is to try not to do too much damage to the infrastructure of the colony while we violently subjugate suspected political dissidents.

@Shoelip The game makes a statement through its morality meter. Shooting unarmed Lacertians causes darkness to grow within you.

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Right. It’s just an arbitrary game mechanic. Not something that could be described as “illegal”.