Sometimes games surprise you. Sometimes you get something that you didn’t quite expect. In the case of Miner Wars 2081, while it classifies itself as a survival-action space shooter, one cannot understate its focus on narrative storytelling. While you’ll spend a lot of your time blasting your way through enemy forces, it’ll be the story that will keep you coming back for more.
Set in the year 2081, 11 years after a catastrophic event that left the solar system a shattered fragment of its former self, you play as Apollo, a young pilot for the Euro-American Confederation. After a sudden attack on a mining outpost by the Russians, you are promptly thrust into the action as you try to uncover the motives behind their sudden strike. Before you know it you’re beyond the asteroid belt, deep into the vast solar system. As your investigations lead you to new and varying locations, you learn more about the nature of the mystery at the root of all the conflict between your band of allies and seemingly everyone else in the solar system. You’ll consult traders, fight pirates, and smuggle your way through the game’s epic story. Each mission brings you a step further in the story, and the pacing feels just right as you blast your way through the game.
What’s most surprising about Miner Wars 2081 is that the story is very well presented. In many ways I had expected the story to be secondary to the action sequences throughout the game, but I was wrong. What kept me coming back for more was the great sci-fi storyline. The story has its fair share of twists and surprises, and always keeps you wondering where it could be going next. Supplementing the story is well written dialogue and quality voice acting, as nearly all of the game’s dialogue sequences are fully voiced. While the characters in Miner Wars are believable and likeable, they do at times feel a tad stereotypical. Moreover, the Hollywood quality orchestrated music is excellent, and it seemingly always captures the mood perfectly in nearly every situation in the game. One of the only major issues I had with the single player campaign was with the checkpoint save system. On more than one occasion, I would get stuck on a checkpoint just before an extremely difficult encounter with very little life left. Each time I would die, the game would automatically load again for me to just get frustratingly blown out of the skies within ten seconds of the encounter starting again, all due to the fact that I had hit that checkpoint with barely any health left. Overall though, the storyline in Miner Wars 2081 is well crafted, and it continuously propels you forward in entertaining fashion.
Fighting your way through the main storyline isn’t the only thing you can do. In fact, I spent significantly more time in the game simply flying around and exploring. Exploring the solar system in Miner Wars is a delight, and that can strongly be attributed to the atmosphere of the game. The vistas beautifully detailed and you’ll spend just as much time looking around at the scenery as you will looking for enemy spacecraft. While exploring in Miner Wars 2081 is in part a great experience thanks to the graphical detail present in the game world, that unfortunately does comes at a cost. At the highest fidelity settings, the game will bring even a relatively high end PC to its knees. The good news however is that the game does scale well graphically, and the experience is still great at lower fidelity settings. The performance demands aren’t unexpected, as the game world is simply massive. There’s always something to see and there are always valuable items to be found. Truth be told, exploring, mining, and building wealth through trade helps you afford the costly upgrades for your ship that allows you to progress through the storyline with a little less resistance. You’ll appreciate the added armor and firepower, as there are numerous encounters in the game that can be very difficult.
While exploring and battling in the vastness of space is extremely enjoyable, the opposite can be said about missions set in base interiors. Compared to the vistas of battling above a crumbling moon, fighting within bases and structures can be claustrophobic. Finding enemies in tight quarters can be disorienting and confusing, as enemies that aren’t accessible will show up on the player’s HUD and it can be unclear as to which enemies are the real threats. Adding to the frustration of fighting in interiors, your partner Marcus will frequently fly into your path, causing your rockets to blow up in your face effectively wiping out your armor and hulls. Blasting your way through asteroid interiors is another story though, because if you are feeling a bit cramped, you can use your rockets to blast your way through the destructible environments.
Miner Wars 2081 is a game of great scope and size, with a storyline that motivates you to keep pressing forward. It is able to strike the balance between story driven gameplay and sandbox exploration, as the game always seems to draw you deeper and deeper into its story while at the same time enticing you to explore its vast world. If you’re looking for great sci-fi story set in the vastness of the solar system, look no further, because Miner Wars 2081 has got exactly what you’ve been looking for.
+ Great atmosphere, graphics, and music
+ Engaging story
+ Great dialogue and voice acting
+ Lots to explore
- Graphically demanding on PC hardware
- Interior encounters can be clustered and disorienting
- Checkpoint save system can leave you vulnerable
Miner Wars 2081 is a great game with a lot to see and even more to do.