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Satellite Reign (PC) artwork

Satellite Reign (PC) review


"Coerce. Employ. Steal. Deploy. Track. Stalk. Assault. Destroy."


Coerce. Employ. Steal. Deploy.
Track. Stalk. Assault. Destroy.

A bit of history.

Way back when I was in primary school computer games were something of a wonder. They enabled me to live adventures that I was otherwise unable to realize in real life. Each new game had something fresh in it. There are numerous games that made a permanent mark on me at that time of my life. One of them was called SYNDICATE by Bullfrog Production LTD. Released in 1993 it really stood out with it’s SVGA (640x480) isometric graphics, vast open maps and freedom to achieve your objectives as you saw fit. Coupled with a huge arsenal of useful weapons and sheer carnage you could unleash on the screen with your four cybernetically augmented agents, made it one of the most memorable games of the 90’s. In 1996 a sequel called SYNDICATE WARS was released, using a modified engine from another great game, Magic Carpet, it added fully 3D level maps and changed some of the game’s mechanics. It also ramped up the difficulty of the missions with the final ones being neigh impossible to beat. The game did not catch on as well as the original and for another 16 years there was no new game released under this title. In 2012 Starbreeze Studios made a remake for EA in a form of an FPS. I personally liked this game, especially for showing the world from a different perspective (graphics and story telling). Most people didn’t. Than for a time Paradox Entertainment considered making their own game based on the Syndicate’s idea, titled The Cartel, but those pans did not come to fruition (at least not yet anyway). And than, on the 29 June 2013 a kickstarter project called Satellite Reign was launched.

So what is Satellite Reign?

It is the year 2188 and Steven Dangler the head of Dracogenics had developed a way of transcending death. His technology of copying human’s memory and consciousness to cloned bodies has made him rich and powerful. But power never lasts. You were chosen to lead a group of four cybernetic agents to topple Dangler’s rule buy any means possible. Gameplay wise it’s a remake of Syndicate Wars rather than the original Syndicate game (at the lead designer of Satellite Reign and Syndicate Wars is the same person – Mike Diskett) with the addition of stealth play elements known for example from Commandos Behind Enemy Lines. And its all show from in isometric perspective with adjustable zoom levels but no camera rotation.

Satellite Reign (PC) image


The agents.

The first major difference, compared to the originals is that your agents are not identical. Each one is a different class of a field operative, with distinct skills which can be further improved by spending skill points earned during the game, like in an RPG game.

First off there is the Soldier which acts like a walking tank. He can carry the most weapons and equipment of all the agents, has the most hit points and his special abilities are all purely combat oriented. Second is the Support. This agent is the teams medic and also has many useful support abilities such as the World Scan (for highlighting connections between cameras, gates, power sources, hackable terminals etc.) or the Team Stims which slows down time. Next off is the Hacker. This one is responsible for hacking CCTV cameras, doors, gates and also taking control over civilians or soldiers of enemy corporations (which can be used to make better agents with boosted stats). On top of that he/she can also call in armed drones to aid the team if full fledged combat occures. Last but not least is the Assassin – a real ninja type bad ass. This one can use his monofilament sword to kill even the most powerful enemies with one swift blow without alerting other enemy combatants, bypass security checkpoints in thermoptic camo or zoom above their heads using zip lines scattered around the city.

The setting.

The game is set in a big seamless city space which looks like taken straight from the Blade Runner film, including the constant rain. Divided into four main districts, each with its own unique architecture and feel , it makes for an interesting setting for a cyberpunk game. Its full of pedestrians, hovercars, neons, different adverts, both static and animated, little markets, food outlets, night clubs etc., all combining it a coherent setting for our unlawful endeavours. As in the previous games your are absolutely free to roam a given district, and later the whole city, as you see fit. Of course, there are place when the presence of your agents will not be tolerated and this areas are all connected with the mission you are given by your handler. Those hot spots is where the real fun begins and its entirely up to you how proceed in those areas: guns blazing, killing of every corporate creep that is stupid enough to cross your path or sneaking in full stealth, hiding from the enemies, killing them of silently one by one, grabbing what you came for and getting out as if nothing happened.

Satellite Reign (PC) image


On top of that the order in which you do the missions in each district is entirely up to you. On the downside, the missions are not that varied and some of them (especially the ones that give you distinct wide bonuses such as slowing down CCTV cameras’ detection time) are identical in nature in every district. What salvages the situation though is the layout of those areas in each district which is unique and designed to support every type of play.

Guns and R&D.

The arsenal at your disposal is varied. Throughout the game you will have access to over a dozen of different weapons from a simple pistol to a devastating plasma cannon. Combine it with over twenty pieces of gear like force fields, med kits and grenades and a similar amount of body augmentations (separate for head, torso, arms and legs) give a very wide degree of customisation for your agents, so they can meet your tastes and needs. New weapons, gear and augmentations are acquired during various missions. Some of them will be available as blueprints ready for immediate manufacture, some are prototypes which have to be researched first in order to produce more. Funds and scientists used to do this are almost literary lying on the streets of the city waiting to be picked up by the player. To get funds flowing you hack ATMs scattered here and there and to get you lab stuff you use the World Scan ability to locate them among regular citizens (just drag the mouse over each of them to get to know who is who).

This system works well and the only thing I found lacking about it is the fact that there is no graphical representation of the augmentation process (which was present in both previous games).

Satellite Reign (PC) image


Combat and stealth.

Both combat and stealth approaches play equally nice and cover plays important role in both cases. In the first one, it provides cover from incoming enemy fire, in the second it hides your agents form enemy sight. Watch out though as smaller pieces of cover can be destroyed by either concentrated small arms fire or with explosives. Enemies themselves come in different shapes and sizes. From lowly grunts sporting a rifle and a bullet proof vest through power armour clad enforcers wielding miniguns to giant four legged walkers firing really powerful ordinance. They react actively to your actions, take cover, call in reinforcements, check around corners if something is suspicious to them. Most of their action are colour coded with their flashlights – white of normal status, yellow for alert and red for hostile. Fire fights are really enjoyable in this game, although the can be quite frantic at times as it is not uncommon to fight 10+ enemies at once, and some of them can be tough to take down and pack a punch. If your agents happen to fall in combat they can be revived by other agents but if you do it in short intervals, the unconsciousness counter will decay more rapidly each time. If a fatality occurs your agents can be brought back to life at special beacon you activate in the city, which also act as fast travel waypoints. You have to remember though that each time your agent dies, he/she looses some of the stats bonuses they have. So try not to lose them to often.

The graphics.

Satellite Reign uses Unity Engine and it can produce some very nice visuals. As mentioned before the city space is a mix of colourful neons, commercials, holograms, clean stylised areas, industrial spaces and dirty little streets. It alls looks and feels right. Every useable piece of terrain, be it cover, hackable objects, vents, zip lines, doors, gates, ATMs, CCTV cameras and terminal are clearly defined by their looks and will not me mistaken for other objects. The same goes for the enemies. All different corporations and organizations within the city have their own style of armour which really sets them apart. Also different types of enemies of enemies within one corporation have their won distinct looks and once known, can’t be mistaken. Combine this with the water reflections, rain and lighting effects and you get a game that looks good and is also functional. Some people criticised the looks of the player agents, saying that their uniforms look to bright and way to noticeable among normal citizens. It can be the matter of personal tastes but this way the player can find it easier to look them up on the screen (besides the other HUD indicators). The one thing the I found lacking is the lack to free camera rotation. It was present in Syndicate Wars, it made positioning our agents and spotting your enemies a lot more easy.

Satellite Reign (PC) image


The sounds.

Nothing really outstanding or wrong in this department. All vent in the game have their distinct sounds, be it gunfire, alarms, cameras noticing your agents, screams, explosions deaths etc. The music score is also on an appropriate level, having seven different track that play in response to the intensity of the action on the screen, from slow, almost ambient, to fast aggressive paced tunes, all made in synthwave style.

Conclusion.

All in all the can recommend Satellite Reign to every veteran of the old Syndicate games and all the fans of tactical combat games. The game is nice looking, has a nice cyberpunk setting, plays well, leaves much room for player improvisation which ads to the replay value as in every area there are several ways you can use to complete your objectives. So if you liked the originals, like a bit of tactical combat, like cyberpunk setting this is definitely a game for you.

4/5

SHOGUNnYAMATO's avatar
Community review by SHOGUNnYAMATO (November 30, 2015)

I'm a gamer since I was 6 and got my Atari 65 XE/XL. Then I went through NES to a PC and stayed with this platform ever since. My favourite games are shooters and strategy games (mainly RTS). Though occasionally I'll play other genres.

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