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October 2023

Starship Troopers: Extermination

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Developer: Offworld Industries
Release Date: 2024

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


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PC Preview - 'Starship Troopers: Extermination'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on June 1, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Starship Troopers: Extermination is a co-op first person shooter that drops up to 12 players right into the fight against the Bug menace.

Look, 2023 hasn't been a fantastic year for pleasant surprises with new games. The games of the Starship Troopers franchise have had nearly as checkered of a past as the ones for Aliens, so to say I had tempered expectations of Starship Troopers: Extermination would be an understatement. Most games in the franchise have been mediocre at best, and all have been utterly forgettable. Even though it is just released and in Early Access, Extermination is already the best Starship Troopers game the franchise has yet seen, and it's the most fun I've had playing something so far this year.

I really shouldn't have been shocked, as developer Offworld Industries was also behind Squad. While Squad is a sprawling FPS PvP game with modern militaries fighting each other in realistic portrayals of combat and logistics, the key component of the game is that the squads and team that work together the best are the ones most likely to win. In Extermination, there are no players on the other team; all players are badasses as part of the Federation's Deepspace Vanguard, and their enemies are the hundreds and hundreds of AI-controlled bugs. The teamwork and cooperation remain crucially important; when grenadiers are lobbing artillery-like plasma to break walls so legions of bugs can break through, the player squads must organize how they'll react to the threats to keep the team moving toward victory.

Your team is composed of 16 players, all of which join one of the five squads on the team. A squad can have a maximum of four players in it, so you can have four fully populated squads or (what happens more often) five squads of varying counts. There is no "squad leader" position, but any squad member can use the tactical map to click on one of the currently available objectives to suggest it as the squad's focus. Anyone can use a "ping" system to call out where to move or identify important targets, and those pings show up for all players.

You can play as one of three classes, and each has its own roles and nuance to its loadouts. The agile Hunter class has jetpacks to reach new heights and is otherwise a bread-and-butter soldier. The Bastion class has a special ability where it can put down an armored defensive barrier, and while within it, its weapons have practically zero recoil (it's great fun when you unlock the SAW machine gun early on). Finally, the Operator class has access to a sniper rifle, faster build/repair times, and the ability to carry a resource canister in a special backpack instead of (or in addition to) carrying one in their hands.

As you play Extermination, through either victories or defeats, you'll gain experience for both your profile and for the class. Class experience unlocks new weapons, perks, and gear. Profile experience is largely meaningless right now, except for at the current max of level five, you unlock the ARC game mode in addition to the initial AAS mode. The AAS mode can be considered a quicker format of the game, where players land on a map, complete a few objectives to lead them to a base location, and then have a couple of minutes to slap together some defenses with effectively unlimited resources until the bugs show up. Then it's a matter of protecting the ARC structure while it scans nearby bug nests, culminating in a dropship landing nearby to pick up everyone.

If you die in normal gameplay, you have about 20 seconds to get revived by any nearby player; if you bleed out, you can revive at the base. After the extraction dropship lands, there are no respawns; players bleeding out can still be brought up, but anyone killed stays dead. There's still no shortage of the bugs in their unending swarm, so fighting to the dropship for a successful extraction can be difficult and is always a rush.

The ARC game mode is a longer-form version of AAS, where players start off by establishing a base. If AAS games can take 20 minutes, ARC games last closer to 45 minutes. Once the mobile HQ lands, other objectives are randomly placed on the map, starting with a pair of ore deposits and a gas deposit. Generally, it is best for one squad to hang back and protect the base and build it up, while the other squads venture out to build refineries on the deposits and begin to collect resource canisters. The real hordes only come once a few gas canisters have been brought back to base, so teams will often work together to collect ore first, so the base is as much of a fortress as possible.

The base-building mechanic is something that anyone can do, and in case things are put in bad positions, they can be deconstructed without penalty. Walls, low barriers, bunkers, ammo boxes, electric fences, sentry turrets, gates, and watch towers can all be placed on the grid system that appears whenever you equip the repair tool and put it into build mode. Every object has a max count and an ore cost, and players must put together the best defenses possible. It's fun to take a choke point, slap some walls with ramps and a gate on it, plop down a sentry gun and a watchtower, and suddenly, that area becomes a deathtrap for the bugs.

The problem is that for every bug killed, the infestation level goes up. Since the bugs are always spawning from underground, it effectively puts a soft time limit on things. You want to collect as much ore as possible or complete side objectives to get rocket launchers that players can use, but delaying too long can make things tougher in the long run. It goes back to communication and teamwork, and so far, players have done a great job of figuring out how to thread that needle.

I was in a match where I was in the Ifrit squad and became its unofficial leader. Demon squad was back at base, and one of their members organically became an overall commander of the team. He'd use the game's team-wide voice chat to ask Nightmare squad to get ore from Refinery A, and I'd offer up that since it's 700m away, Ifrit squad would assist. It was a beautiful example of everyone on every squad pitching in to help build up the team and its chances of victory. It also sounded cool as hell. For that shining match, we were a bunch of professional bug killers.

It wasn't just that match, though. Sure, I've had a couple of clunkers where no one is talking and the cooperation falls apart, but they are the outliers. Most games have people talking, working together, unloading every quote from the movie they can think of, and using good communication to further the team. I can't think of another game where players are so readily able to do this except, well, Squad, and I'm starting to think that isn't a coincidence.

It's good because the bugs certainly work as a team, and they have the numbers. You'll mow through dozens of them in every game, including the normal Warrior bugs, smaller bugs that are fodder, the massive Tiger bugs that are downright terrifying, the afore-mentioned Grenadiers, and a ranged bug that shoots projectiles from afar. On the easy difficulty, players can easily solo warriors without issue. On the normal difficulty, bugs become more formidable, and solo players can struggle a bit. On hard difficulty, being alone is a death sentence, and a single hit from a warrior can just about drop you.

There's clearly a lot that isn't yet in Extermination. All classes have some unavailable "In Development" parts of their gear. The main menu has a couple options disabled. Hopper and Tank bugs aren't in the game (yet?). There's only one map, though sometimes it's daytime and sometimes it is set at night.

What is already in Starship Troopers: Extermination is stupidly compelling, and it's merely days into its Early Access release. The underlying gameplay is a ton of fun, and it was developed by people who clearly understand Starship Troopers and have a good idea of what a game based on it should be like. If they continue to add content to the game and build it out, this won't just be the best Starship Troopers game to date; it might get an early bid as one of my favorite games of the year.

Previewed on: AMD Ryzen 7 3700X, 32 GB RAM, NVidia RTX 4070 Ti

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