For those gamers amongst us that look back at the early ‘90s with rose-tinted fondness, Syndicate was a cyberpunk tour-de-force. Set in the not-to-distant future, in a world where mega-corporations had replaced governments (we’re looking at you Google, Apple et al), Syndicate put you in charge of a team of four drugged-up cybernetically-augmented agents whilst you carried out your CEO’s agenda. It was, to be blunt, awesome (though, in truth, that may be the rose-tinted specs talking). So it was with great excitement that we approached 5 Lives’ Satellite Reign, billed as the “spiritual successor” to Syndicate (and its sequel Syndicate Wars). Usually a certain amount of scepticism should be employed when people refer to things in this manner, however seeing as it’s from the creator of Syndicate Wars we figure it bodes well.
And bode well it does. Obviously, as this is a pre-Alpha release, no hard and fast conclusions can be drawn but so far it does look like there’s a gem of a game being built here.
Firstly it looks amazing. The designers have captured (and you’re going to hear this comparison a lot) the rain and neon soaked aesthetic of Blade Runner’s cyberpunk dystopia perfectly. Relentless rain batters a grimy cityscape, full of dark alleys and seedy establishments, whilst people trudge about their daily existence. Hover cars fill the streets and the various rival gangs and (presumably on the payroll) police force roam around ready to blast you six ways from Sunday should you try something (which you of course will). Secondly, in a natural evolution from the original series, the four agents you control now have differing skill sets (Soldier, Support, Hacker and Assassin) as well as personalities. This works on multiple levels, firstly your attachment to the characters is stronger than in the original series and secondly you’ve got to be careful about exposing everyone to danger (need to hack that panel to progress? Probably best not to go all Butch and Sundance with your Hacker!). Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, it just feels right. The open plan city, the black trenchcoats, the sound of the guns – it’s all there. A particularly nice touch is the agent re-spawning. Should your agent die (and chances are they will) they will re-spawn at the nearest beacon, assuming you placed one down. This takes time, however befitting a world run by mega-corporations, you can always pay to speed the process up.
The controls are simple enough, and taking 5 minutes to learn some quick-key selections really pays dividends. Combat is fun, with plenty of scope for tactical approaches that weren’t available/feasible back in the day, and should you choose to eschew violence, there’s plenty of cover to sneak behind on the way to your objective. 5 Lives have promised a lot, including a fully functioning city where inhabitants (civilians, police and corporate soldiers) react uniquely to your actions and the city’s infrastructure is there for you to play with (or destroy) as you see fit, depending on your own agenda. So far they’re definitely on the right path to pulling that off.
Sure, we’ve no idea how new features will affect the game, there are bugs to be worked out and a lot of fleshing out to do, but we’re confident that 5 Lives will build upon the excellent start they’ve made. Definitely one to watch.
Find out more about SATELLITE REIGN and how to support the project HERE.
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