Ion Maiden Preview: Throwback Thrills

Developer: Voidpoint
Publisher: 3D Realms
Platform: PC, Mac, and Linux via Steam
Release Date: Q3 2018 [Out now on Steam Early Access]
Price: $19.99

Disclaimer: A code was provided by the developer for review purposes.

Many of the franchises that became popular in the early days of gaming have since had modern iterations. Shadow Warrior (2016) thrust Wang into modern gaming, while other titles like Wolfenstein have continued to press on with great success.

The technology that powered these early first-person shooter titles was known as the Build engine, being specifically developed for 3D Realms. While levels built in this environment are technically 2.5D, the on-screen presentation mimics that of a 3D world. It may not seem like much now, but this was some of the earliest tech, providing the opportunity to create 3D environments for early first-person experiences.

The one thing that caught my attention about Ion Maiden was the use of that same Build engine, the jumping-off point for so many titles, not to mention the genre. While Build may be decades old, Ion Maiden draws from this early design system and creates a nostalgia-fueled modern title.

 

Ion Miaden ensures there is no shortage of blood.

 

One thing that I appreciate from older FPS titles is the mere simplicity in which they live. Sure, there’s a story to discover, but from the onset, you are introduced to a variety of weapons, enemies, and must call upon your wits to progress within the game. Shelly “Bombshell” Harrison wastes no time firing off her pistol ‘Loverboy,’ and hurling Bowling Bombs at enemies.

It was surprising to me how much excess weight I’d have to shed from modern shooters. From simple things like aim assist, to having grenades and health steadily regenerating, Ion Maiden strips all of those modern appendages, calling upon nothing more than your skills and wit to discover success.

Ammo in the early stages of the game is fairly sparse. There’s no doubt you will find yourself escaping tough situations by the skin of your teeth and swings from your electric baton. There are small weapon caches to find throughout each map, even having you discover secret areas fairly early on in the game.

Blowling Bombs seek and find enemies if thrown with a little precision. Then, boom!

Ion Maiden wears its tradition on its sleeve. Aside from the guns available (pistol, shotgun, machine-gun, bombs), you will notice the health and armor you must collect to stay alive. These are just as important as ammo and are a constant reminder of how difficult a game can become when you’re avidly attending to your health and armor meters. There are smaller health packs that can be picked up and applied in emergency situations.

As the game goes on, you definitely start to become more comfortable in exploration and preparation prior to entering a new room or area of the map. This also includes anxiously perusing corridors and seemingly hard to reach places for hidden areas and keycards to unlock new areas. Oh the keycards.

At this point, Ion Maiden finds itself still in development, hanging in the perils of Steam’s Early Access program. The first level gives enough playable content to give you a feel for what you can expect from the rest of the game. However, it is definitely not enough to give it a full review at this time.

Loverboy, do your thang.

What I will say is that, at the end of the first boss battle, I was a little sad to see my experience come to an end. It felt like I was just handed the keys to the castle when I was presented with my newly-found minigun friend. All I could think was, “Boo, I was just starting to get my feet wet.”

It’s hard to really say anything negative about Ion Maiden. There is enough content to pique your interest, not enough to really tell what the rest of the game will hold, fun nonetheless. There’s no doubt I could use some more 90s bro-rock in the background to tie the whole package together.

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