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Satellite Reign

By WskOsc19-09-2015
Satellite Reign

The Defence

5 Lives Studios
5 Lives Studios
Action, Stealth, Strategy
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core i5 3.4 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 660
AMD equivalent
4 GB
2 GB
9.0c, 11

The Case

Satellite Reign from 5-Lives Studios is a spiritual sequel to the classic Syndicate games by Bullfrog. With a team of four agents you must explore, subvert and conquer a cyberpunk city district by district. On the way you'll gather researchers, bribe people, abduct people, research gear and augmentations, and augment your agents to forge a team suited to your play style.

The Trial

Satellite Reign is a simple game on the surface; you command a team of four agents, each with unique skills, in a style that's very reminiscent of other modern strategy and RPG games. Your agents can take cover, hiding from sight and gaining additional protection but the cover points on objects are a little finnicky when you're controlling your whole squad and hurriedly clicking in a fight can often end up with half your team on the wrong side of cover.

Hicks and Hudson aren't exactly how I remember them.

Hicks and Hudson aren't exactly how I remember them.

The same issue can ruin the stealth, attempting to hurry your team through a narrow gap in enemy patrols and cameras might look like a good idea but will likely end with one of your team not getting the memo and taking cover around the corner of a container, right in plain view of the enemy.

Either way, you're going to be reaching for your weapons, be they SMGs or plasma rifles you'll be applying bullets to faces a lot. Often in a fight you'll be overwhelmed, making a fighting retreat, or if close to your objective a fighting advance. Fights are chaotic, helped by the ability to slow time via an agent power, and revolve around flanking and manoeuvring towards a more advantageous position but again this can be hampered by a dodgy cover system – visually there can be room for three agents to take cover on a box, but the cover system will insist that two of them go around to different sides and get shot in the arse.

Other game systems are thankfully more robust. Infiltrating an enemy compound will often result in you gathering a prototype item which, if recovered safely, can be researched to enable you to produce as many of that item as you need, letting you equip your agents with more powerful and varied equipment as you progress through the game. Research can be sped up by assigning more researchers, but that comes with an increased cost.

Scully's changed too.

Scully's changed too.

Money comes from hacked ATMs, each providing you a small trickle of cash and adding up over whole districts to a substantial income that you'll spend when bribing guards, recruiting researchers, doing research and buying additional information on your targets. District passes can also be purchases to skip quests to obtain them. A chunk of your income however will be spent on resurrecting your party after death, with each piece of equipment pushing the amount required higher.

It's not just what guns you have tucked under your trendy neon and black trench coats but also the hardware you jam into their bodies via similarly researched augmentations that influence things like accuracy and shields. Their bodies are also a type of equipment, each agent is built from cloned stock with variable stats. These stats degrade with each cloning ensuring a constant need for fresh victims to be abducted by your team.

Despite hit and miss gameplay systems the story holds up a lot better, delivered via your mission control menu, which gives out objectives and exposition and also via the data terminals scattered throughout the game's several districts that provide a short chunk of story, often building the world or providing enough ambiguity for you to question whether you're actually the good guys still. Scattered amidst the text blocks are the occasional voice clips narrating parts of the tale and they're well acted, the voice actress behind Tag (your mission controller) being especially easy to listen to.

Hilariously, the guards targeted their own drones then run to the autoturret for help. It didn't take their side.

Hilariously, the guards targeted their own drones then run to the autoturret for help. It didn't take their side.

Many other systems interface with the core gameplay, tying everything together. For example, hitting the CCTV monitoring station will slow down camera detection times. Most objectives have some kind of influence like this, making it important to prioritise your actions and planning in advance via scouting for cameras and reinforcement spawn points. This helps make each district feel more interconnected and alive than the wandering crowds and guard patrols ever could.

The Verdict

Overall the game's more than the sum of its parts; the wonky cover mechanics should ruin the entire experience but for fans of Syndicate there's more than enough to love in just running around a huge cyberpunk city and abducting civilians for your nefarious purposes. From a critical standpoint it's a functional game and may not be for everyone thanks to slow progression and often unfair odds. For Syndicate fans it's a no-brainer, a must play even. With that in mind I wish I could score it twice but I can't so here's the critical score, because any Syndicate fans have bought it already.

Case Review

  • Syndicated: It's a faithful spiritual sequel.
  • It's Huge: The city is massive and sometimes surprising.
  • Progressive: There's a lot to do, but progression takes time and patience.
  • The Odds: They're often stacked against you. Feels like you're forced to sneak a lot.
  • Uncovered: The bad cover system often makes battling an exercise in frustration.
Score: 3.5/5
Fundamentally flawed but still a fun cyberpunk adventure.
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