Electronic Arts tried failed to resuscitate Syndicate by turning it into a shooter years ago. At the same time, the 5 Lives company attempted to resurrect the classic by launching Satellite Reign on Kickstarter, a spiritual sequel to the popular strategy in which we command a unit of agents and battle companies. The fundraising has been a long time coming, but it was well worth the wait.
The game setting isn’t all that different from the original – we wander about a cyberpunk metropolis where it’s always night and the streets are only illuminated by multicolored neon lights. One of the major corporations has just patented a method for immortality – a technology that allows you to move to a new body. As you can expect, the competition is vying for this incredible idea. To that goal, he hires mercenaries who alter the balance of power in successive areas of a huge city, eventually reaching the core of a powerful business. Satellite Reign is a real-time strategy game with objectives set in an open environment. Throughout the game, we will have to break into banks, warehouses, and the offices of large corporations in order to steal vital data, assassinate a significant person, or gain valuable technologies. The flexibility provided to players is a crucial component of the production: it is up to us whether we sneak inside tightly secured complexes, dodging guards and cameras, or enter through the main door, spreading death and ruin.
The player assumes leadership of a four-person troop of soldiers with varying specialties. We have a hacker, an infiltration specialist, a highly durable weapons and explosives expert, and a physician under our command. Aside from the game’s distinct powers, each character may also utilize various components of the environment better than the others. Each facility we break into offers multiple access and escape options, depending on whether we wish to employ force or cunning. Even if we intend to attack a corporation’s headquarters by shooting at everything that moves, it is sometimes worth looking out for a corrupt guard or a security flaw, which will make completing the mission much easier. Of course, certain solutions are typically better for a certain task than others – for example, sites where containers limit guards’ field of view and cameras are tailored for stealth. We can do nearly any work we desire by slipping through the darkness, busting down the main entrance with a song on our lips, or utilizing the enemy’s security systems against him if we show patience and thoroughly evaluate the facts about the assaulted facility. Character development was addressed in an intriguing way: the game awards agents with experience whenever they are in danger, i.e. during missions. This manner, even if we just complete a portion of the objective with one soldier, his teammates will still gain points for helping him escape.
Our players have access to a diverse arsenal of weaponry, cyber implants, and other unique equipment, which we take during missions and replicate with the assistance of scientists recruited during the game. The expense of research is expensive at first, making investing in equipment worthwhile only after we have collected more finances. Fortunately, we immediately get another useful resource: clones. We can create heroes thanks to them even when we don’t have any money. Each character in the game is given a set of statistics. We can check the strength of a specific bystander or corporate soldier using a special scanner, which we also use when hunting for individuals to bribe or kill, and then take control of him and send him for cloning. A new person arrives in the pool of bodies eligible for switching a few seconds later. As a result, we may relocate our agent to a new shell. Combat is an essential component in Satellite Reign. Even if we spend the most of our time evading hostile patrols, we will need to use a weapon at some point. The game has a cover mechanism that dramatically improves troop survivability. This does not suggest that we can just hide behind a wall and endure the entire conflict. Enemies will try to encircle us or destroy our cover if we give them a chance. To win, we must always maintain control of the enemy’s location, avoiding being assaulted from behind at all times. The artificial intelligence, which is in charge of the non-player characters, performs admirably, despite a few hiccups. While most of the time the adversaries act appropriately, doing their hardest to kill us, every now and then a foolish guard will start rushing up the stairs, ignoring his surroundings, or jogging in place, attempting to burst through a closed door with his head. 5 Lives Studio’s creation is without a doubt one of the most visually appealing indie games on the market. The attention to detail in the city streets, stunning lighting effects, and gunshots, along with a strong music, create a memorable ambiance.
Satellite Reign appears to have everything you’d expect from a spiritual successor to Syndicate: a decent gameplay concept, a beautiful atmosphere, and a plethora of equipment that enables you to design a squad that’s exactly suited to your tastes. Small jokes and modern-day references are amusing without detracting from the game’s overall serious tone. However, among the many benefits, it is difficult not to notice that the cars seen on the streets are simply boxes that aimlessly wander around the streets, that information about mission objectives is presented in a way that discourages reading the entire descriptions, and that the city can appear lifeless and uninteresting at times.
Despite these issues, the creators were able to maintain the essence of Syndicate while refining and expanding the gameplay paradigm. It’s a lot of fun running around the streets of a future city with a pistol in your hand.