Feature Article

Camaraderie in a Strange Land in The Red Solstice


Seeing red.

“Don't mess up!” echoed through my head as the clock counted down toward my first foray on Mars. My squadmates were more experienced than I, hashing out strategies to vanquish the alien threat, while I crossed my fingers that my modest loadout wouldn't relegate me to pointless spectator. It's not fun being dead weight; it's even less fun being dead. The mission began without any pomp, the objective to survive against the relentless xenomorphs seeming so obvious that I immediately stopped thinking about that. What else would I do against hostile beasts? There's no diplomacy in The Red Solstice, no means to reach an amicable truce. I pushed my fears aside as I set out to prove that humans are superior to every other creature in the universe, and we have the guns to prove it.

My seven comrades ventured through the desolate remains of a once-proud human civilization. The scattered remains of the people brave enough to make their home on Mars reminded us of what the aliens are capable of, and the destroyed structures, viewed from a top-down perspective, provided only meager shelter against those who wish us harm. We chose our classes beforehand. A medic to fix our wounds, a recon to speedily scout vast stretches, and a demolition expert tinkering with explosives. I chose an assault class, not only because it's one of the few choices available from the onset, but because it's obvious focus would lessen the chance of me slowing down the group. With an assault rifle and shotgun in tow, I could present a formidable barrier between the aliens and my squadmakes taking care of important matters.

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Action is as tactical as it is frantic. Move swiftly through the environments while shooting anything that moves, and slow down when you can catch your breath to plan you next attack. This Early Access game melds strategy with shooting, pushing you to think quickly while gunning down foes. The poorly lit map stretched endlessly into darkened corridors. There's no light to guide our way after the war that ended the lives of so many people, so we become scavengers rather than aggressors. I scrambled toward a nearby shed, assembled broken turrets to cover my backside. Another person had the same idea, and as we secured a robotic defense force, I could see that my initial panic wasn't necessary. We were all trying to do our best, using whatever we could to extend our life a little longer, so even though the intricacies of the situation were over my head, the core strategy was immediately clear.

I pushed my fears aside as I set out to prove that humans are superior to every other creature in the universe.

The Red Solstice's multiplayer is essentially Horde mode, in which you're inundated by a sea of nasty threats. But unlike many of its competitors, the action here encourages you to stay on the move. Even with turrets armed and squadmates nearby, the alien menace is so single-minded in their purpose that you're soon overwhelmed if you stand still. So I ran toward the darkness, willing to face the unknown rather than stand my ground against an unbeatable force. Buildings still remained, though far from the livable facilities they once were. My comrades and I would run through electric doors, honing our guns on those pursuing behind us, as we scavenged for whatever valuables remained. Lockers housed medical packs and deadly explosives, and rubble hid precious ammunition. Starting a generator would bring welcoming rays of light, and once we picked the place clean, we would continue onward.

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As we hurried from one building to the next, we would activate turrets and lay down traps to slow down our attackers, but that only served to put a bandage on a gushing wound. The longer we spent canvasing the area, the more aggressive the enemies became, and tougher foes were introduced. The scraggly, slinking aliens who nipped pathetically at our heals were soon replaced by four-legged creatures likely to break skin before you could gun them down. One enemy exploded in a poisonous fog near my feet, infecting me with a toxin that slowly drained my health. My teammates supplied me with health packs when I grew weak, and grenades when we had to make a stand, but there was no stopping the endless horde.

Eventually, I couldn't keep up with my squadmates, and found myself all alone in an abandoned area. I scrolled through the map as quickly as I could, trying to find anyone nearby I could team up with, but it was no hope. I was all by myself. So I barricaded myself in a building, laid down a series of land mines, and armed my sights on the door. It only took a minute. A huge monster crashed through, towering over his yipping friends, and my meager arsenal wasn't enough to keep it at bay. I died valiantly, but I died nonetheless, the first of my eight-person squad to meet his end.

My time was over. Still, I could spectate what was transpiring elsewhere, and I sat transfixed for the next few minutes. The once formidable team had been broken up, so there were small packs of two and three desperately trying to extend their lives. It was no use, though. Guns ran out of ammo, land mines exploded, grenades were spent, but the aliens kept coming. Everyone succumbed to the monsters we were sent to exterminate. The Red Solstice is as harsh and inhospitable as the planet it takes place on. But the immediate camaraderie I built with my squadmates was undeniable. Going back for a second and third confrontation produced a similarly fraternal vibe. I guess that's happens when you're stranded on Mars. There are no heroes here, just desperate humans trying to extend their lives a little longer.

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