5 Lives Studios
As you may have heard by now, Satellite Reign is the long-awaited spiritual successor to the Syndicate series. The game owes its creation to a successful Kickstarter campaign led by 5 Lives Studios. It’s no wonder that many in the gaming PC community joke that these days, Kickstarter might as well be called SpiritualSuccessorStarter, in light of it being used (at least in their eyes) almost entirely for funding both pop hits and cult classics of the past. The most ridiculously glaring example of this is (to those not hiding under a rock) is Wing Commander’s spiritual successor, the upcoming juggernaut that is Star Citizen.
In my opinion, this is an exaggerated perspective since these comeback games are more the exception than the rule, and that’s only if their campaigns are even successful under Kickstarter’s sink-or-swim system. One thing’s for sure, however. Satellite Reign strongly resembles the original Syndicate; Bullfrog Production’s 1993 runaway cult hit, before the small yet highly innovative British developer was acquired by EA in 1995. It’s clearly a Syndicate game in virtually every way, even though 5 Lives Studios doesn’t own the license to the franchise.
The tone of its predecessor is definitely on display; you still control a group of morally compromised, cybernetically-enhanced super-agents. However, this time around, the mission structure has been opened up too allow much more freedom, while also giving it a much more open-world feeling. 5 Lives definitely had their ears to the ground when it came to studying gaming trends and had the foresight to make Satellite Reign a much more sandbox-style experience, since that’s what the gaming masses seem to favor these days.
The fact that Satellite Reign borrows heavily from many well-known cyberpunk influences isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially since there aren’t many modern games that cover the genre. In this dystopian, brave new world, massively corrupt megacorps control the masses with a nearly omni-present military presence. The haves live in tranquility and gluttonous splendor, while the rest of the populace live in drudgery and filth in the bottom reaches of the game’s massive metropolis. At the start of the game, a new player has entered this dark world, but for good or for evil…?
Players hire a team of four customizable agents of various classes. Are you more into stealth and high tech? Try out a hacker. Fancy a more brute force approach? Maybe a soldier is the ticket for you. You can kit your agents out with all sorts of cybernetic goodies and enhancements, and also a whole futuristic plethora of weapons, gear, and skills, which offer a lot more diversity and specialization for the game’s many missions.
The way that you can plan out missions is where the real fun is to be had while playing Satellite Reign. For instance, after bribing employees of a targeted complex, your team can learn of different ways of gaining entry. Perhaps they told you about a back door that would be easier to have your hacker unlock, or a rooftop zip line that you could have your infiltrator ride across. I tried the latter, and found that my agent’s stealth skills weren’t quite up to par for that, and he was quickly dispatched with ease. So, for the next play-through of the mission, I had my soldier draw attention to one side of the complex with his bullet-deflective shield of nano-bots while my hacker opened up a door at the other end. Pretty fun stuff.
This dynamic flow within each mission makes Satellite Reign refreshing in that how each one plays out is dependent upon your careful planning and execution. As illustrated above, one mistake can ruin the entire enchilada, but if you’re not successful the first time around you can learn how to adapt and overcome your initial muck-up, and hopefully do it right the next time…or the next time (okay I messed that mission up many times before getting it right!). 5 Lives Studios has done a great job of giving gamers a multitude of choices instead of trapping us in a more linear, rat maze-type experience.
Satellite Reign’s graphics are very slick and on point, and lend the perfect gritty atmosphere to the proceedings. Rain falls in cascading waves as streaks of neon fall across darkened city streets. Downtrodden citizens scamper amongst traffic as massive buildings loom overhead. The game is presented in a isometric top-down perspective, perfect for being able to check out your surroundings. Weapon effects are also beautifully rendered, with various weapons’ muzzle flashes lighting up the night, and highly destructive frag grenades pulse in dramatic fashion upon colliding with enemies. 4k gaming aficionados will enjoy even crisper visuals.
In all, Satellite Reign is a successful successor (at least spiritually) to Syndicate which keeps the same tone and theme, while offering modern visuals, sound, and much more freedom than its predecessor. I heartily recommend it!
Although Satellite Reign features scalable graphics, all that beautifully rendered cyberpunk detail takes a hefty gaming PC to fully enjoy. Even if you have a mid-range machine, players may find themselves locked out at 30 FPS with older processors. My advice would be to upgrade in order to experience all of the game’s visual grandeur while maintaining a high framerate:
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