Starship Troopers: Extermination is the newest game by Offworld Industries that went into early access in May of this year. Offworld Industries has developed a few games in recent years, often exploring the FPS genre with their recent online games. Squad, their previous game, was a military simulator that came out in 2020. Before that Post Scriptum and Beyond the Wire were both large WWII battle games.
Offworld Industries clearly know what they are doing when it comes to these online battle simulators with a multitude of players. This meant the community had a lot of hope for what they could bring to a Starship Troopers online experience. In November of 2022 Starship Troopers: Extermination was announced with the early access opening on 17th May of 2023.
Starship Troopers: Extermination will be a part of the Starship Troopers franchise that was started in 1959 with the novel of the same name by Robert A Heilein. The game is set in the same universe as the 1997 film and takes place 30 years after where the film ends. Much of the aesthetic of the film is seen in the game with the alien creatures, known as Bugs, being the key antagonist in the 16 player PVE game modes.
Without a dedicated campaign the continued continuity of the film is reflected mostly in these enemies. The Arachnids are infested on the planet Valaka that the player is dropped on at the start of each online match. They must explore the planet as they gather resources in order to make a base that can be defended from the Bugs. These Bugs attack the players, growing gradually stronger as the game moves forward, escalating to a final stand once the base has been built. The hands of the Starship Trooper film are found in much of the game, with plenty of easter eggs for fans in the know, although the story is far less detailed within the game.
The game currently has 2 modes available. AAS, an Attack and Secure game mode, that unlocks right away and ARC that only becomes available once the player has reached rank 5. I found, and it appears much of the online community agrees, that the ARC game mode was far more entertaining and challenging with multiple objectives available. This game mode also relies on far more strategizing and communication between the players.
Starship Troopers: Extermination clearly wants its players to work together and the ARC game mode is the epitome of this. There is also a planned Horde Mode that will be coming to the game soon. The game also allows the player to choose a difficulty to match the skill at which they feel they can play. These are scaled very effectively, with the increase being felt between each jump. The hardest mode is very challenging, particularly in the Bugs’ final attack which can feel near impossible in moments.
A key element of the gameplay in Starship Troopers: Extermination is the Build Mode. Players have to gather resources and then construct and repair their base. This is a part of the loadout is built into every class. The Build Mode’s UI is very easy to use; the player can switch between Repair and Build, scrolling along to access the different buildings and supply drops that can be constructed. When I first joined easier matches the repair speed felt a little fast, however, at higher levels the quick repair speeds were completely necessary as the final assault of the Bugs was threatening to overthrow the base.
Offworld Industries clearly has a lot of experience in large scale battle simulators, which they utilise in this 16 player co-op shooter. Starship Troopers: Extermination was originally created as an experience with 12 people on the team, this was upped to 16 later in development as it became clear that more players were needed to keep on top of looking after the base and keeping said base safe from the Bugs that attack in waves.
Although the larger teams do make it easier to protect the base in the final assault, they don’t allow for much individual play. In a team based game this may not seem like a huge downside, however I found it hard to tell when I was the one that had got a kill on one of the Bugs. It can also make the final base very chaotic as a lack of communication can lead to some very strange places to defend.
It can also make it harder to organise the team and communicate with so many bodies on the battlefield. A Ping system was created to to assist with this which is effective to some extent, although with everyone placing them they can cause still more confusion. Starship Troopers: Extermination splits these teams of 16 into squads of 4 although these seem to do little to help with communication.
I found I could work with any of the 16 players regardless of if we were on the same squad or not. The squads would likely be more effective if they were given a leader to direct them, or even separate objectives. It could also be effective to have the squads limit the various classes in the game, creating more variety in play.
Limiting these squads to the classes a player could play would also help balance the game a little. Starship Troopers: Extermination has 3 classes available for the player to choose between, these being Assault, Support and Defender. In the matches I played on lower difficulty I found a fairly even split in the classes I had on my team.
Assault is able to output a large amount of damage and has access to higher ground making it possible to be out of reach of the attacking Bugs. The Support class has a medic drone which means it is far easier to stay alive. I saw the Defender class the least in games, despite them being able to tank a larger amount of damage than the other classes.
In the higher difficulties I didn’t see Defenders at all, only Assault and Support. The ability to keep out of range of the bugs and output a lot of damage makes the Assault class extremely useful in the final attack on the base at the end of the match. The medic bot makes it possible for the Supports to survive if they happen to be alone during the game while gathering resources. These classes do increase the variety in gameplay which Starship Troopers: Extermination was somewhat lacking. These allow for the player to adapt the way they play and have different levels of challenge even within the pre-set difficulty mode.
Along with the variety in the player classes, there are also 5 types of Bugs that attack, with becoming more aggressive and powerful as the match proceeds. The increase in their attack can definitely be felt as the round progresses. This is, however, due to the sheer volume of the creatures, rather than the individual Bugs feeling harder to face. Although some have a greater range and others do more damage it is hard to feel a difference while playing against them beyond the aesthetic differences between the 5 classes of Bug.
Starship Troopers: Extermination also has a few issues with the Arachnids not being reactive to the players. Rather than becoming agro-ed to whoever is outputting the most damage into them, the Bugs would just move from player to player seemingly at random. Although not a huge issue this did remove some immersion from the game and is an issue I would love to see fixed before the final release of the game. Hopefully the AI will be able to single out certain players if they are holding a larger amount of resources, or dealing out a large amount of damage.
The Bugs do, however, look amazing. The design of them is true to the Starship Troopers aesthetic with the creatures being large and definitely fulfilling the arachnophobic nightmare they have the potential to be. As well as this the map is expansive and well detailed. There is only one map which is a little disappointing, but the one that is available is packed with detail. Along with the high resolution maps and Arachnids, the game also has some amazing assets. The guns and building models fit in with the rest of the game as well as showing the incredible work Offworld Industries has the ability to create.
While the game is graphically very impressive, there have been some reported framerate issues, particularly towards the final attack on the base. In some cases these have been so bad the game is crashing for many who play it and get to this point. It is important to remember that the game is still in early access. While many of the assets feel finished, the game is still yet to release in full. Starship Troopers: Extermination also reminds the player of this as the game opens, so Offworld Industries do seem to be aware of the current bugs, with A lowercase B, that need to be fixed.
Alongside the graphics, the sound design allows for a very atmospheric experience while playing. The sound effects that play while loading into the game and descending to the planet while entering into a match are perfect for building tension and getting the players ready for what is to come.
Many of the sound effects in the game are yet to be completed. This can make a little of the gunplay feel slightly lacklustre as the shooting sound effects feel quite generic. I also noticed that a few of the Bugs do not have all of the sound effects they need. I wasn’t even aware I was being attacked in some cases until I saw my health bar going down.
This made the combat very difficult if it managed to move into close range or if a player was surrounded. There is an incredible amount of potential in the sound design despite this. When the Bugs so make noise they are incredible. Every sound feels otherworldly and the influence from the 1997 film is obvious. When the attacking noises are fully integrated I have no doubt the sounds will be spine chilling.
Offworld Industries have clearly put a lot of care into Starship Troopers: Extermination as well as taking a lot of influence from the Starship Troopers franchise as a whole. Many of the bugs still seen in the game will hopefully be fixed before the final release. The resource management and base defence are key elements of the game and are where much of the success so far is found.
Although the gunplay could use some work, there is definitely a great deal of potential that can be worked on as the game continues to develop and improve. If you are a fan of Starship Troopers then this is a fun use of the IP that will be a very enjoyable step into the world. The game is still in early access with a dedicated team still working on making the best game possible for fans.