A lone space marine in metal armour fighting off hordes of homicidal mutants in an abandoned facility on Mars? No, it’s not DOOM, even if it seems that way. Solstice Chronicles M.I.A is a new isometric shooter based within the Red Solstice universe, with twin-stick sensibilities that aims to put a new tactical spin on the genre.

screen1

It’s a future imperfect where the Earth has been overrun by an apocalyptic virus that turns its inhabitants into crazed mutants, as the broken remnants of humanity have colonised Mars in the hope of survival. Years later, Mars is under corporate control and caught up in a civil war with an insurgency – but a cataclysmic storm threatens to change everything. The battle then becomes one for a cure and along with it, the hopes of reclaiming Earth. In Solstice Chronicles, you’ll play an elite marine left behind infected enemy lines and you’ll have to shoot your way through to safety. Joining you is a quirky drone named Saffron, who does more than just add comic relief.

screen2

Much of the game’s strategy hinges on your drone companion, whose aid you’ll have to call in when things get too tough. The kicker here is that you can’t utilise the drone with reckless abandon; it’s a setup that’s based on risk vs reward. You could have Saffron scout the area and bring in ammo, guns and upgrades from the area, but you’ll have to stay within the confines of a drop zone. On top of that, it’ll alert nearby enemies and unleash hordes of bloodthirsty mutants with the singular purpose of making you un-alive.

Read  Numantia review – A historical turn based hex grid game with a bug or two too many

screen12

See, there’s a constant indicated threat level that varies from low to extreme. It’s a bit like Left 4 Dead’s AI director, where the game will ramp up the frequency, intensity and magnitude of the enemies that come for you. Having your drone search for items for you is welcome and necessary when you’re low on ammunition, but is the cost – your likely death – worth it? Given how starved you’ll be for ammo most of the time, probably. Your drone can do more than just fetch things for you though. It can also emit an expanding force field that gives you moments of respite from the onslaught but increases the threat level so your break is short-lived. It can even deploy a smart bomb that’s great for wiping out a screen’s worth of bad guys, but could – if your timing is a mess – end up killing you as well. Every action like this has consequence, and it leads to some genuinely tense, frightening moments – especially during the big boss fights.

screen10

There’s a little more to its tactics in that it’s class based as well. Before you start you choose which suit of space armour you want, each doling out specific perks you can unlock through a skill tree. You’ve got the gun and melee proficient assault, a demolition class and an unlockable Terminator class for high-level play, where using abilities slowly degrades your suit. There’ll also be a tank-like Hellfire class, but it’s not available just yet. You can also play the game cooperatively, bringing in a local friend for the ride.

Read  Cat Quest review – An impurrfect RPG with heart and cattitude

screen8

It’s definitely fun to play, but where it falls a little short is in its controls. Twin-stick shooters have come a long way, with Resogun developer Housemarque at the forefront of the genre. This feels a little backwards – and a lot of that has to do with it not really being a twin stick shooter though it bills itself as one. You can’t, for example, run in one direction and fire in another as other similar games allow. You have to fire in the direction you’re facing. I get why, and it’s a conscious decision by its developer to put an emphasis on aiming over spraying bullets, but it feels stilted. In fact, when plugging in a controller, the right thumbstick does absolutely nothing, making the game feel like more of a single-sticked arcade relic. [Update] I’ve been informed by the developers that this isn’t, in fact, a conscious decision and that my game has been bugged. I’ve updated, but am still unable to move in one direction and fire in another.

screen9

It also runs out of fun well before it runs out of levels, as its swarms of similar enemies during later encounters start become indistinguishable from previous ones. While the interplay between the gruff space marine and the drone can be whimsical and entertaining, the narrative itself isn’t enough of a draw to keep soldiering on. It’s a pity, because with a little more polish and more fluid controls, Solstice Chronicles M.I.A could have been an entertaining romp through the red planet.

Last Updated: July 27, 2017

Solstice Chronicles M.I.A
Summary
Solstice Chronicles M.I.A is a competent shooter, with its dynamic threat level leading to tense, frightening moments. The constant dread forces an engaging and tactical risk vs reward style of play - but the often awkward controls and derivative story let it down.
6.5
Solstice Chronicles M.I.A was reviewed on PC
68 / 100

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

  • justlikemo

    Dont tease me like this early in the morning! Im so addicted to top down shooters at the moment,just got helldivers, playing alien swarm, alien breed as well, you killing me here man!

    • If you can pick this up on the cheap, do so – when you play within its systems, there’s some fun to be had. As i said, it just seems to drag on in a repetitive way for a bit too long.

      • justlikemo

        its simple, i like simple, thanks Geoff
        Will look out for it, I see steam has it at 10% off

  • Original Heretic

    Aw, when I saw the title and the game type, I was hoping for another Alienation-type quality game. But with that score…no thanks, I have better games to play.
    I get to little time to play, not gonna waste it on something that’s going to start boring me.

Check Also

ASUS Strix Vega 56 review–A silent but impotent answer to Pascal

The AMD Vega 56 is a good card that's just a year too late to the market, with the ASUS St…