Review / Stalin vs. Martians (PC)

Stalin vs. Martians is ridiculous. In this day and age, that word could mean anything. In a videogame you could use it in its positive, almost awe-inspiring connotation saying, “Wow, the amount of content in this videogame is ridiculous!” Then you can use it the other way by saying, “Wow, the amount of frustrating level and unit design in this videogame is ridiculous.” If you were to ask some people, they would use the latter to describe Stalin vs. Martians.

Just about everything in this real-time strategy game is absurd, none of which actually help make Stalin vs. Martians an enjoyable game that would make you come back for more. The amount of strategy needed isn’t high but the amount of patience needed is as the story isn’t funny nor is the gameplay appealing.

The story in Stalin vs. Martians doesn’t need much explanation. While the war with Germany continues to rage on, Stalin and the red army are fighting a secret war with Martians that have invaded Eastern Europe. To add to the significance of such events, you are briefed by Stalin himself, so the videogame has already demonstrated the seriousness of this. The majority Stalin vs. Martians is wrapped around the Soviet theme. The intro of the game is literally the Russian national anthem. The general color scheme of the interface presents a red and orange pattern. The loading screens are simply two photographs taken during World War II of Soviet soldiers, one photo is the normal picture while the next one is the same photo except modified with Martians either hiding or blatantly interacting with the soldiers or environment.

The mechanics of the videogame are straightforward as the only method of deploying troops is through a dropdown menu. Granted you have enough gold, which is the currency used to get units, they will instantly spawn and be ready for use at certain locations. There are no buildings to construct but you do have to collect the necessary gold to continue building your army which is done by destroying the Martian units. There is a problem, the system is incredibly flawed. Just like with gold, other power-ups drop from the Martian units as you destroy them and in order to have any item dropped take effect, your units must be moved directly on the item. Items stay up for a frustratingly short period of time, so short that more often than not your units are so far away that by the time you move a unit towards an item, it will have disappeared leaving your unit out in the open, sometimes within striking distance of long-range, high damage dealing Martian attackers. In other cases, you may have to move a unit so close that in the case you attempt to collect gold from a destroyed unit, your unit moves within attack range of Martians, where you may pick up the gold but at the expense of one of your units, negating the purpose of getting the gold to expand your army size. In another case, you may move a unit to an item but their pathfinding will land on anything but the item, leaving you to struggle between getting the appropriate position and taking the least amount of damage in the time available. Considering that remaining in the game relies on having at least one unit alive, this causes some frustration.

The audio in the game is pretty average, most units are given what are supposed to be humorous lines whether you have just clicked on them or they are getting damaged which would probably be the case if the gameplay didn’t rear its head, reminding you how flawed it was. What will undoubtedly make you want to head straight to the options menu is the music. The music in Stalin vs. Martians does not mesh well at all with the game itself. It’s so abysmal that it actually detracts from the experience. The music that plays during briefings sounds like the type of material made for Java games and the in-game music is just an offensive brand of pop rock that will make you want to question whether or not the intentions of this game include torture.

Quite possible the most embarrassing thing about this game is that it only offers the most basic of option choices. The only two main option settings are Gameplay and Sound. The option to adjust graphical settings are not present. Also given are the choices between two keyboard layouts, the differences of which aren’t explained anywhere in the game.

Stalin vs. Martians is a game that doesn’t warrant a purchase at its initial price point. Even if there was a sale on this game, it would be too hard to justify it to any self-respecting human being. The most entertaining aspect of this game is trying to identify the Martians in the photographs of the loading screen. If the general concept of the story amuses you and you want to give this strategy videogame a mere spin, then understand that this game is not complete. It’s a shallow, real-time strategy game missing the essentials both gameplay and option wise that would otherwise make it a tolerable experience.

+ Personal briefings by Stalin
+ Loading screens displaying Martians in WWII-era photographs
+ Stable performance

– Total lack of options in controls and graphics
– Frustrating and shallow gameplay design
– Abysmal music