The 90’s fps scene cannot be defined without instant classics such as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake etc. While games like Quake and Unreal pushed the fps genre towards accelerated 3D technology, a few games would make their presence known and prove that there was still some juice left in 2.5D engines. Games such as Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, Blood, Redneck Rampage and Tekwar was built on such an engine simply called Build Engine developed by Ken Silverman. Now more than 20 years after its inception, another Build engine fps has shown up all of a sudden on Steam Early Access…and by the look of things, she’s here to stay.
Ion Maiden is an oldschool FPS developed by Voidpoint, LLC and published by 3D Realms (Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior). The game was released on Steam early access on 28 February 2018 for Microsoft Windows with a possible release date of Q3 this year. The game is playable as a preview build similar to the shareware model from the 90’s and is available for $17.99 or INR 476. The full game will be made available on Linux and Mac as well as be released in GOG.
Ion Maiden is an oldschool fps through and through. But rather than straight out mimicking or res-skinning the said titles, Ion Maiden tries to bring the best of both worlds; old school and new school into one game. Like all the build engine games, Ion Maiden features large complex level design with fast paced combat and secrets…loads and loads of secrets. Any fan of 90’s shooters will feel right at home.
The preview version has 5 weapons for you to try out. A stun prod/baton, a revolver called ‘Loverboy’, an smg called ‘SMG 9000’, a unique target seeking grenade called ‘bowling ball’ and of course, no fps would be complete without a badass shotgun. In this case, the shotgun is called the Disruptor which kind of looks like the grenade launcher from Shadow Warrior. All of these work just like you expect them to with each having their advantages and disadvantages. They look and feel good. Ion Maiden features modern fps elements such as weapon reloading, but it can get in the way of the fun sometimes. The devs has explained that each weapon will have multiple modes of fire in the full game.
The controls are tight and smooth. The UI has been refined and take up only a small portion of the screen. The enemies are not the most intelligent but they’ll often surprise and overpower you. The preview version features 4 normal enemy types and a unique boss. The normal difficulty of the game feels just correct. There is only a single player mode available now and the devs have nothing regarding multiplayer at this time.
As for level design, the preview version features two large maps with plenty of shortcuts and secret areas. Ion Maiden appears to have the largest levels ever created in a Build Engine game, if you don’t count community created contents. The featured levels are varied both visually and geometrically. There are lots of interactive objects on the world compared to earlier build engine games. Your objectives still involve finding keycards to access the next area of the game. But the areas are not maze-like and have enough landmarks to not get lost in. Overall, if the featured levels are any indication, then Ion Maiden is going to be nothing short of amazing.
Visuals, Performance and Sound
Build Engine is now over 20 years and Ion Maiden looks like a standard Build Engine game. It features a purposefully antiquated color palette and sprite work featured heavily over 3D models. But that’s not a bad thing as the game features the best looking version of Build Engine to date. The sprite work all across the board is excellent and detailed. The levels in the preview takes place in a neon-heavy cyberpunk Washington, DC that is highly reminiscent of William Shatner’s Tekwar built on the same engine. There is no shortage of gibbing when you make people explode. Everything is filled to the brim with little details that pop out and makes the game looks amazing.
The game features several optional settings such as smoothed out sprites, texture filtering and the ability to select various renders. There seems to be a few minor frame skips or micro-freezes here and there but that is to be expected from an early access title.
As far as sound design goes, the music is fairly standard stuff which is clearly inspired from its predecessors. The weapons have enough bass and thump to justify their effects. Overall, pretty solid stuff.
Ion Maiden is a love letter to the oldschool fps of the 90’s. Rather than trying to emulate its aesthetics in modern engines, the game is basically built on an engine from the time period. Everything from the shooting to the visuals feels solid and well made. The preview version features only 2-3 hours of gameplay, but if your’e a fan of games like Doom, Duke Nukem, Shadow Warrior and Blood, Ion Maiden is something you shouldn’t pass up.