Satellite Reign on PC
Somewhere in between the lines of direct sequels and copyright infringement lies the world of the so-called ‘spiritual successor’. Satellite Reign, named as a spiritual successor to the Syndicate series by designer and Syndicate Wars lead Mike Diskett, embraces the idea wholescale. A cyberpunk-style tactical RPG with elements of stealth, strategy, and more, Satellite Reign is perhaps one of the more ambitious Kickstarter-funded games I’ve had the chance to play. With such lofty goals, though, does Satellite Reign live up to the expectations set during the crowd-sourced funding?
Satellite Reign takes place in what’s now a pretty typical near-future cyberpunk setting. Mega-corporate entities keep a stranglehold on the financial world, and oppressive government forces occupy the streets to keep citizens in line. Only the brave or stupid stand up against the system; naturally, that’s where you, the player, come in. Taking control of members of the aptly-named Resistance, you’ll find yourself tasked with missions of espionage, corporate sabotage, and tactical strikes against militaristic law enforcement. In addition to direct control of your party, you’ll manage the Resistance’s cash flow, research projects, and much more as you fight to build a better world for humanity.
One of the first things to strike me about Satellite Reign, following the introductory tutorial to help get a feel for the game, was the sheer scope of it. Once players complete that short mission, a flood of objectives become available. These include story-driving missions required to proceed, ATM hacks to increase your funds, corporate break-ins to steal valuable research blueprints, and more. The game does little to push you in any particular direction, opting instead to allow for free (ahem) reign over where your party will head next and what they’ll do.
The free-roaming nature of Satellite Reign means that you’ll rely on figuring a number of things out yourself, as well. Many of the missions have multiple approaches available; should your team try and brute-force their way into a station where a needed informant is being held, or bribe a corrupt officer for other means of entry? Will your hacker sneak ahead to disable cameras and other security systems, or will your team stick together and fight their way through company-controlled security drones? The freedom of choice is great, and most of the options seem equally viable, though the early going definitely favors the stealthy approach, as low-level parties are not exactly suited to all-out firefights with well-armed enemies.
The nuts and bolts aspect of Satellite Reign is certainly not lacking, either. Gorgeous cityscapes, detailed environments, and great mood-setting music and sound design come together to create a fantastic all-around aesthetic. While a few technical details, such as AI path-finding and enemy combat tactics, could use some polish, most of the game works well. Satellite Reign also features a no-pause style of play, keeping the action and world moving even as players look over their mission logs, character skills, and so forth. This makes the tactical aspect even more important, since things like research spending and hacked-ATM income will keep on going.
Altogether, Satellite Reign is a great experience with a richly-detailed world and approach. While the concept isn’t necessarily groundbreaking in a world where games like Shadowrun and the spiritually-preceding Syndicate series have covered much of the idea, it still creates a compelling experience that is unique and well-built. While the $29.99 price on Steam is sure to push away some prospective buyers, the amount of content and level of detail makes it more than fair. If you’re really into it, another $10 nets players a copy of the soundtrack, a prequel novella by Shadowrun tabletop author Russell Zimmerman, and an art book featuring concepts, designs, and more from the game’s development. If you’ve been looking for the next great cyberpunk RPG with some added flair, look no further than Satellite Reign.