Satellite Reign offers a great real time strategy experience in a cyberpunk world, but doesn’t keep the experience as fresh as it could have been.
The bleak, rain-slicked streets of Satellite Reign offer a scene any cyberpunk fan will be intimately familiar with: neon lights askew across dreary metallic buildings, and roving patrols of an enforcing corporate presence shine their flashlights along the dark alleyways, constantly seeking out any resistance. Satellite Reign has been dubbed a spiritual successor to Syndicate (the old one, not the newer game of the same title), and it’s easy to see why: the real-time action brought by 5 Lives Studios will give players plenty of choice to play the game how they want to, when they want to.
Satellite Reign throws players in the role of a CEO/Commander of a company struggling for control in a dystopian world where life after death has been achieved, leading to a new age of mercenary-based corporate espionage. Players will control a squad of company agents that fit into classic RTS classes like soldier, infiltrator, support, and hacker. These soldiers of fortune can be upgraded as they collect experience, and upon death can be reincarnated, although if they’re cloned too many times they’ll show some wear-and-tear.
The game introduces players to a simplistic corporate vs corporate plot and, after a brief tutorial level, throws them into a large and urban open world. A satellite-esque viewpoint allows the player to see the immediate area around their agents with a camera that can zoom and pivot on command. The city is a large and dense urban jungle, and roving lights will reveal a desolate and colorless city filled with people and cars going their own ways. A mail system will show players potential objectives, which they can then ping on their minimap. It’s easy to tell where potential robbery or espionage targets are, as roving patrols, danger signs, and red-lit security gates give off a clear message about trespassing.
Here is where players have the freedom to do what they want. There are plenty of targets in each district, which present tactical challenges like sheer enemy presence, cameras that will trigger alarms, and timed gates to bypass. Each type of agent has special abilities they can use to help get past these barriers, and most players will quickly develop a system for how to infiltrate most bases and complete objectives to earn new technology, money, or gameplay-impacting bonuses.
The beauty of Satellite Reign is that players don’t have to answer each problem with guns blazing, either. They can send in a lone hacker to bypass security, and that clone could complete the mission all by himself, solely utilizing the stealth aspects of the game. Banks can be hacked to increase eventual profits, or players could come in firing at will and using their soldier to blow the vault and make off with a load of instant cash.
Despite all the action and heart-pumping moments the game can deliver, it struggles to keep up a consistent momentum. Infiltrating security outposts, banks and facilities will sometimes make players feel like they’re just going through the motions as they use different combinations of the same routine to get to their objectives. Dash past one camera, assassinate this lone guard, get past this mechanized tank – it all blends in together to make the gameplay feel too straightforward and repetitive. The far-away camera makes soldier movement feel sluggish, which doesn’t help the feeling that things slow down once you get used to the gameplay.
However, that’s not to say halfway through the game the missions will become a bore, as things can quickly get out out of hand. One alarm and your team of clones can suddenly find themselves under fire from two sides, with enemy drones coming in and a zipline to the escape zone stuck behind armored infantry. It’s moments like these where Satellite Reign subtly pumps up the retrowave-esque music and players will immerse themselves into the game.
Satellite Reign utilizes a cover-based system, which has large impacts on both deflecting incoming fire and hiding units when stealth is still a factor. The tides of combat are heavily impacted by cover, weapon types, and distance to target (much like X-COM), which forces players to think about where they’re positioning their squad. However, whilst games like X-COM have a certain amount of shock value in certain events, Satellite Reign lacks any true ‘wow factor’ throughout both combat or stealth.
Your company agents have a ‘wanted meter’ that fills when they ply their trade, and higher wanted levels mean increased enemy forces. Escaping from enemy compounds and biding time in the shadows outside will make the meters fall back to normal, and the agents can casually stroll to their next target – just don’t forget to tell them to put their guns away before they walk through the downtown district.
At the end of the day, Satellite Reign is a fun cyberpunk game that fans of top-tier classic games like Syndicate will enjoy, but it struggles to keep up an exciting pace. The city offers plenty of places to go, but they’re all just slight variations of each other. This results in a game that brings forth an idea of dystopian chaos, but never seems to reflect that in its own gameplay. That said, the gameplay was fun enough to keep us entertained for hours, making it a worthwhile experience for fans of the genre.
Satellite Reign is currently available for PC, Mac and Linux. Game Rant was given a PC code for this review.