GAME REVIEW: Satellite Reign

The rain seems to fizz as it hits the neon signs above my squad, the garish colours painting the pavements in hues that manage to be both warm and cold at the same time. I move my team of three agents, they have a job to do: to rescue the fourth of their number from a police station nearby. I bribed someone for more information and was told of an easier entrance than the main, heavily defended gate, so I direct them to the back of the building. They dodge the patrolling guards and rotating CCTV cameras. Once in the holding area, their fourth is freed and they escape the way they came. This is the first mission offered by the game and it seemed a bit easy. I then attempted to infiltrate a drone repair facility and got obliterated.

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Satellite Reign is a real-time strategy game from 5 Lives Studios, a game developer consisting of veterans from games such as Syndicate Wars, GTAIV and others. The Syndicate Wars link is most apt at this moment in time as Satellite Reign certainly embodies many of the traits of the older game. It’s set in a cyber-punk world in which corporations control all. Society only benefits the rich, and the poor are kept down in the slums where they are thought to belong. The player takes control of agents from a mysterious organisation with the aim of freeing the masses or taking control for themselves. The choice is apparently up to the player.

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The game is class-based and gives you control of the Soldier, Support, Infiltrator and Hacker types of agent, each with their own abilities that should come in handy depending on the task at hand. Each agent can have their own equipment load-out and body augmentations too, which adds another layer of strategy to each encounter. Their movement and actions are dictated by an energy level; sprint too long and you slow down at the most inopportune moment, usually just as more enemy join the chase. Speaking of enemies, the game features a wanted system. Depending on your agents’ actions, their wanted level steadily increases, each escalation bringing more pressure from the police. Much of your success will depend on moving around incognito so this is a bad thing. Pressing the space bar hides or shows your agents’ weapons. If you are under suspicion, all you can do is hide your weapons and try to evade the CCTV cameras and patrolling police until the heat dies down a little.

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Not to be deterred, I decided to rob a bank, as money is needed to buy cool toys and research even cooler ones. I hacked the ATMs outside before going in as this provides a constant up-tick in money every few seconds. The actual robbery was initially approached as stealthily as possible but all hell broke loose and I had to kill everyone. I had a prolonged fire-fight outside the vault and enjoyed watching my team reign down death and destruction. I enjoyed it even more when some of the masonry protecting a guard was destroyed by my team’s gunfire. It all looked very cool, neon-coloured murder in a rainy city.

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This is how the Early Access version of Satellite Reign plays out for me, attempted stealth all going wrong and everything ending in a fire-fight. I’m not that good at it but it’s a fun game that I keep going back to, which is certainly a good sign. It is however, quite buggy. This is to be expected with a game in such an early phase of development but the glitches are quite frequent so be prepared. One saw my wanted level reduce to normal and I was still set upon by police at every opportunity. Another (admittedly after a game patch that said old save games might not work) saw my agents unable to shoot at anyone, instead running towards them and mobbing them by all trying to stand on the same spot. Along with the bugginess are the other areas, game systems and bits and pieces that just aren’t in the game yet.

Satellite Reign is a nice chunk of fun for people nostalgic for the charms of Syndicate, or who have a soft spot for cyber-punk. Even if development somehow stopped tomorrow, I think those people would enjoy the world and structure for a long time, as seen by the hours played by some of the reviewers on Steam. If this kind of game is a bit more 50:50 for you, I would definitely wait and see how it turns out. The game has impressive ambitions and scope so hopefully as time progresses, it will only become better and better.

GS Rating: 3/5 (in its current state)

GS Reviewer: Casey Douglass

 

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