18th Jan2015

‘Satellite Reign’ Early Access Preview

by Paul Metcalf


Maybe it’s my nerdy side that enjoys getting early access to games (and other software), even when they are buggy or incomplete.  Feeling a part of the development process and reporting on any errors I find is something I used to do as part of being a developer so when I play a game that states it’s “pre-alpha” I know exactly what to expect, and that why I see the potential that Satellite Reign has even at this early stage.

Described as a real-time class-based strategy game from the creator of Syndicate Wars, players of Syndicate and Syndicate Wars already know what to expect and probably why there is interest in this Early Access version of the game.  Set in a cyberpunk city the player has control over four characters each with their own set of skills (soldier, hacker, support, stealth) and given missions that are available to play when the player chooses.  The open world structure of the game is created with an aim of giving the player the freedom to do what they want, even if that means entering battles they may not be ready for.

When loading the game it fully states that it is a pre-alpha build that is being updated regularly, and being available through Early Access all the warning signs should be there for people expecting a fully working and bug free game, so there is little to complain about when you run into any problems.  Reporting errors is made easy to do, so letting the developers know about it will only make the game better.  Satellite Reign at this point has one district open, no tutorial for the player and provides minimal help so it is up to the player to learn the user interface and find the best strategies for gameplay while they interact with the world.

My first impressions of Satellite Reign is that the world itself looks very pretty, it is colourful and the artwork has a Bladerunner style about it, especially with the advertisements that tower above the streets and the constant falling rain.  The dystopian nature of the world is evident on the way the streets are patrolled by armed forces and CCTV style camera follow your every move.  For the most part though until you’ve caused some chaos they won’t bother you and when they do it is easy to see just where the assault is coming from.  When you’ve raised alarms with some missions (or just shooting a camera) you’ll soon find that the corporate police forces are ready to shoot on sight.

During gameplay at this time one thing that can slightly annoy is the restrictions placed on the camera view.  With future builds it would be nice to have the ability to rotate the camera to get a better view of not only the battle area but also the area where the mission is taking place.  Being able to fully look around a building to find its weakness is something that would help strategy a lot.  Though to be fair the tools you are given to fully examine the area for weaknesses are well done, especially through the stealth and hacker character abilities.

At the moment it is evident that the AI of the police force that are on guard still needs some work.  They will put up a fight, but it is easy to run past them to get to your goal before making a quick escape.  If death occurs this leads to respawning at a different part of the district but it’s not long before you can run back into the action at full strength.  Each mission complete provides you with more cash and the chance to pick up tools and weaponry that can be researched for your team and lead to toys that do more damage.

At this point based on the pre-alpha build of Satellite Reign feels like there is a lot of potential ready to be released, and importantly it does bring back nostalgic memories of playing Syndicate all those years ago.  It is important to note that this version of the game is obviously for testing and is just a taste of the game so when more districts unlock and it becomes whole we’ll get a better feel of what the final product will be.

There are plenty of options to tinker with for the more technical minded and they do improve performance for gameplay, but it is also obvious that a lot of optimisation needs to be done before final release.  For fans of Syndicate and Syndicate Wars though Satellite Reign may be the spiritual successor that they hoped for.  At this point though, just don’t judge the Early Access version too harshly, there is plenty of work still to be done before a final verdict can be made.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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