Blade Runner: The Game may be a more appropriate title for developer 5 Lives Studios’ latest Kickstarter success. Satellite Reign’s dystopian cyberpunk setting beautifully captures Ridley Scott’s vision of the future. Heavily inspired by the cult classic Syndicate, 5 Lives Studios delivers a modern take on the real-time strategy genre by emphasizing gameplay freedom within a vast, sandbox-style world. Satellite Reign may still be in its Early Access stage, but it’s already showing remarkable promise, and may be one of the few titles worth investing in early on. For anyone who enjoyed the recent Shadowrun releases, Satellite Reign may be the best thing to come along in years.
For those unfamiliar with the genre, Satellite Reign is an isometric, squad based, strategy adventure that revolves around your team’s various class abilities. Aside from heavily borrowing from Syndicate, Satellite Reign plays like an enhanced version of the Commandos series. In fact, Satellite Reign borrows a little here and there from several titles. However, this isn’t a criticism. 5 Lives Studios has taken inspiration from some of the finest sci-fi themed games of the past and made it their own.
"Heavily inspired by the cult classic Syndicate, 5 Lives Studios delivers a modern take on the real-time strategy genre by emphasizing gameplay freedom within a vast, sandbox-style world."
Satellite Reign’s narrative isn’t particularly inventive. The government is manipulated by mega-corporations, and society has been structured to only benefit those in power. The poor reside in slums deep underneath the city, the rich enjoy the luxury of upper tiers, and the middle class remains blinded by the injustice that surrounds them. Where Satellite Reign stands out is in its city simulation. Similarly to GTA V, the city feels alive with citizens going about their daily routines and responding to player actions. If you decide to start a fire fight in the middle of a street, panic ensues in seconds and you can rest assured that every cop in the vicinity will come gunning for you.
Agent classes consist of Soldier, Support, Assassin and Hacker. Soldier and Support are pretty self-explanatory, but Assassin and Hacker classes are the most useful for those who like a more creative approach. Hackers can deploy drones to extend the range of their hacking abilities, or to knock out mech defenses from afar. Assassins are great for stealthy gamers who like to lurk in the shadows and pick off enemies with a silenced sniper rifle. The Assassin’s ability to blend into environments is great for sneaking up on enemies and clearing the path for the more destructive and offensive Soldier class.
"None of the screenshots can accurately convey the stupendous intricacies of every street corner."
Missions can be tackled independently, as long as the ultimate goal is met. You can kidnap doctors to advance your augmentations, or simply hijack ATMs to increase your funding. The developers have done a superb job of making you feel like a free agent. Gameplay freedom is key, and Satellite Reign is best enjoyed when embracing its experimentative nature. With all its current patches, there’s a solid 12+ hours of gameplay already available (if you decide to tackle all missions). The current map is massive, and you’ll spend a lot of time just exploring everything the environments have to offer. As with any Early Access title, bugs occasionally hinder the enjoyment. From routing errors to crashes and hangs, Satellite Reign isn’t fully optimized at this point. To be fair, the team is responding to most complaints in the Steam forums, and the last few patches have considerably improved stability (particularly the saving bug).
Satellite Reign is visually stunning. The city itself is a work of art, and the act of exploring feels like a game of its own. None of the screenshots can accurately convey the stupendous intricacies of every street corner. The graphics are particularly impressive once it starts raining. Light reflected on the various surfaces looks jaw dropping, and seeing a massive explosion for the first time is a sight to behold. Small performance issues aside, Satellite Reign is a stunning work of art, and one of the best looking squad based strategy titles in the genre.
Recommending a title in its Early Access stage isn’t easy, but Satellite Reign is an exception. 5 Lives Studios has done a remarkable job of breathing new life into an under-appreciated genre. They’ve crafted a remarkable world that’s as much fun to explore, as it is to battle on. Any sci-fi fan should give Satellite Reign a try. You won’t be disappointed.
Preview by: Tin Salamunic | Previewed on: PC