Enter the rain soaked, neon glow of a future city and make your mark.
Satellite Reign, a KickStarted game by 5 Live Studios, is said to be the spiritual successor to Syndicate, a game from some 20 odd years ago. Whilst I must admit to not having played Syndicate, Satellite Reign’s links with the game, both through the style of the game itself and the fact that the veteran developers behind Satellite Reign included developers who actually worked on Syndicate all those years ago, got gamers very excited. Well, Satellite Reign is now in full release, and I had to find out what all of the fuss was about…
Set in a massive Cyberpunk future city where mega-corporations have total control, many players will feel instantly at home. Reminiscent of future visions such as Bladerunner, the maze-like streets are lit up with an abundance of neon signs, and the rain seems to soak the mood of the inhabitants. Viewed from an isometric point, the atmosphere in the city feels as oppressed as it is large.
And it really is a large city to play in. Satellite Reign is an open world game where the player can choose what they do and when they do it. However, not all of the city is available from the start, with some areas being closed off until later in the game, once the player has achieved certain things. Still, there is plenty of space to have fun, and the freedom to approach this fun from whatever direction the player chooses is a theme that runs through the whole game.
There is a story that ties everything together, but it is bare bones at best. This is a game where the player makes their own stories. The basic idea is that the city is controlled by mega-corporations and you, as a small start up, need to take that control for yourself by using a team of up to four agents.
A tutorial will see the player introduced to these four agents, each of which have a different skill set and role in the field. You have the Soldier bringing the muscle and fire power to any mission, the Hacker to take care of any techy issues, the Support whose role it is to support, and the Infiltrator, a master of all things stealth. Each of these agents can be improved upon as the game progresses, with the addition of new skills, augmentations and equipment.
The freedom of Satellite Reign is apparent throughout the game. If you happen to be wandering around and spot an NPC that you think might make a better Hacker agent, then it even becomes possible to make a clone of that body. Whilst the customisation of the individual agents is limited, this freedom really gives the player plenty of scope for making their team individual.
Then there is the massive freedom of how to approach any missions that the player chooses to take on. The game is played in real time, and controlling four agents at once may be difficult in a particularly stealthy mission. But the player has the choice of how many agents to take, and a lot of challenge can be found through finding out how to complete a mission with only one or two agents in your control.
Not that the game is without challenge at any point. Satellite Reign is a difficult game. Players can gain intel on a particular target, helping with their planning of a job. But things rarely go according to plan and players will find themselves thinking on their feet more often than not. All out fire fights are not the best way to approach any missions, although they can be enjoyable. Often surviving a shoot out will rely on escape more than complete obliteration of the enemy.
Still, it is the players choice as to how they approach each mission. Whatever the objective, be it stealing some plans for a new weapon or simply hacking an ATM to generate a revenue of income, there are multiple entrances and exits that the player can choose, and varied paths which each have their own obstacles to overcome. Locked doors, security cameras, guards and even drones have to be either neutralised or avoided to reach the target, be it a vault or an assassination target, and all of this creates a very tense game.
All of this freedom is great, but it does have a downside. The game can often feel overwhelming, especially given the high level of unpredictability and difficulty. Missions can be so tense that a lie down in a dark room may be required on completion. Failing a mission is not even something I want to talk about.
Satellite Reign is a game of freedom. The real-time strategy and freedom to choose which mission to take and when to take it in a huge open-world, really work well together, and the atmosphere of this game world is just spot on. However, the difficulty and tension created in the game does suggest this is not something for the more nervous gamer. I cannot say how much the game resembles the original Syndicate, but not having played Syndicate will in no way detract from the Satellite Reign experience. If you relish a challenge, and can deal with the stress, Satellite Reign is a very rewarding game.