Review

Satellite Reign Review

  • First Released Dec 11, 2014
    released
  • PC

Hard-Boiled Cyberpunk Land and The Questionable AI At The End Of The World

It's a risky operation, but the mercs have some valuable tech in their armory and the bosses want us to snag it. I paid off the security guards. They're going to leave a couple of gates unlocked. We're going in quiet. We shut down the cameras. We silence a stray guard here and there, but a lone mech-bot catches us because our inept soldier decides to go his own way instead of staying with the group. A camera catches the fiasco, and enemy guards close in on our position. But we find a little hiding hole, and five minutes later, it's like a gang of heavily armed thieves didn't just break into the largest gun-running operation in the Industrial District.

Satellite Reign lets you loose in a metropolis, where you're free to murder, sneak, and bribe your way to the top of the corporate ladder. Before it's all said and done, your squad might be equipped with poison-immune lungs, hive mind-hacking tech, cloaks, and cyber legs or laser shotguns with energy shields and high explosives. It's your team; it's your call. When Satellite Reign is at its tightest and most focused, it delivers the thrill and tension of leading a small squad into a rat's nest of traps and more enemies than you can ever kill on your own. Satellite Reign is also never more than one click away from ruining your mission with poor pathfinding or encounters with enemies with fleeting attention spans.

Starting a firefight in the hotel courtyard was probably a mistake.
Starting a firefight in the hotel courtyard was probably a mistake.

Satellite Reign's approach to plot is bare bones; it's more about dropping you into open areas and teasing new sandbox environments than telling an actual story. You control a squad of four mercenaries, each from a different classic cyberpunk archetype. You work your way through the game's city in pursuit of evil Dracogenics employees whose control over resurrection technology -- uploading your mind into someone else's body -- makes them the most powerful corp on the planet.

The beginning of Satellite Reign is brutal and not especially satisfying. There isn't much in the way of "story" missions. Beyond gaining the credentials to move from one district in the city to the other, your only required objective in Satellite Reign is to infiltrate Dracogenics Tower. So, you begin the game relatively directionless as you take on random tasks, get new gear, and level up the skills of your mercs. This is problematic because Satellite Reign is designed for you to take advantage of specific character builds and to vary the tech of your squad members, but it took me nearly six hours with the game before I felt like I had a squad that was equipped and properly leveled to manage the tasks given to me.

When Satellite Reign is at its tightest and most focused, it delivers the thrill and tension of leading a small squad into a rat's nest of traps and more enemies than you can ever kill on your own.

Each enemy compound is a playground-like puzzle that tests your ability to manage your team's tools and abilities. My infiltrator (a stealth-specced sniper) became a core member of my team. I connected her mind with my hacker, and she was zipping in and out of compounds all by herself in the early stages thanks to her invisibility. I could have her in and out of early areas without setting off a single alarm, but later stages require more teamwork. You send your infiltrator in to turn off the initial security, and you bring in everybody else to clear out guards and disable traps. Poison gas floods your stealthy point of entry? The soldier can take care of that. Doors don’t open when you turn off the security system? Time for your support to scan the electronics network of the compound. Each area offers something for each member of your team to do no matter which builds you've chosen for your squad.

The future's so bright I have to wear shades
The future's so bright I have to wear shades

In its best moments, Satellite Reign keeps you on your toes -- particularly if you go with a stealth build. Enemies are everywhere, and although the game offers shadows for you to crawl to, the combination of cameras, enemy patrols, turrets, and massive tanks means the window of opportunity to escape unnoticed is thin if you aren't spamming your cloaking skill, which I wound up doing a lot. Sometimes, the only way to move through an area without drawing the attention of enemies is to create a major distraction elsewhere on the base. I had an infiltrator stuck in a compound, and I had to cause a ruckus at the base's entrance so she could sneak out the front door with the valuable prototypes she was carrying.

This all assumes that Satellite Reign is working; however, it often doesn't. Satellite Reign's pathfinding is often poor, getting you into trouble when you least deserve it. Your teammates are either bunched together so tightly that their character models are indistinguishable or they've adopted a laissez-faire attitude while moving as a group, walking into plain sight on their own accord. To move from district to district, you have to pass through tight checkpoints, and stepping over certain lines causes every enemy in the city to come bearing down on you at once. At the first checkpoint, my team consistently stepped over those lines despite being told to go another way, and countless stealth missions were complicated when one of my teammates decided he just didn't want to go through the vent with everyone else.

Your teammates are either bunched together so tightly that their character models are indistinguishable or they've adopted a laissez-faire attitude while moving as a group, walking into plain sight on their own accord.

The pathfinding is bad, but its faults are overshadowed by the game's AI, which is simple and easily fooled. Although enemies are capable of some sophisticated sweep maneuvers when they've spotted you, it's far too easy to reset a failed stealth run by just sprinting to some dark corner of the base and hiding there til you get the all clear. In the beginning of the game, sending your soldiers into a base and shooting out every last camera before enemies open fire is a totally viable tactic. When your brazen infiltration is met with an enemy assault, don't worry, because after your sacrificial run into enemy territory ends in death, nobody bothers to fix or reset the security cameras, making your next run easier than it should be. It's far too easy to undermine Satellite Reign's threats by exploiting its simple AI systems.

All those cameras & drones would be more intimidating if I couldn't turn invisible.
All those cameras & drones would be more intimidating if I couldn't turn invisible.

Satellite Reign also refuses to engage with its cyberpunk milieu in a meaningful way, and when it does, it embraces the worst elements of the genre with little commentary or self-awareness. Though the neon-streaked city you explore is reminiscent of Blade Runner and your squad is equipped with enough ridiculous tech to make Hiro Protagonist blush, Satellite Reign is cyberpunk at a surface level. Conceptually, it has the chance to explore gaping wealth disparities, but the game does nothing with it. At it's worst, Satellite Reign relishes in cruelty. Though you're free to play many missions stealthily, others require you to kill people, some of whom are innocent citizens. In a particularly uncomfortable moment, you're ordered to murder the female neighbor of a corrupt executive to ensure that he cooperates, but there's never any evidence that she deserves to be dragged into the conflict and ultimately killed. It may be haphazard, but that sort of violence is borderline misogynistic and ultimately leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

When Satellite Reign is on and all the parts decide they want to work together, it is a blast. Infiltrating a base without setting off any alarms and stealing new guns and money from under the enemy's nose is tense and satisfying, and you have to be willing to take risks to succeed. I just wish you didn't have to slog through the uninviting early hours and the game's regularly busted AI to find those thrills.

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The Good
A host of inventive customization options support both stealth- and action-oriented gameplay
Rewards on the fly, fast-paced decision making
A large world with a variety of challenges that test your ability to form a team and execute on its members' strengths
The Bad
Early missions are restrictive and frustrating
Broken pathfinding consistently mars stealthy approaches
Enemy AI is easily exploited
Cyberpunk roots are rarely engaged with at a thematic level
Violence occasionally turns cruel instead of strategic
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Don digs the beat poetry inspired cyberpunk of William Gibson and the comic absurdity of Neal Stephenson as well as a great tactical strategy game. He spent just over 20 hours with Satellite Reign in order to finish his mission.
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Avatar image for so_hai
so_hai

'...that sort of violence is borderline misogynistic and ultimately leaves a bad taste in my mouth."

Don't tell this reviewer about GTA.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

I heard that you can't fully rotate the display screen; just shimmy the camera a bit clockwise or counter-clockwise before the camera snaps back. Doing some research on this game, it appears that this problem had been there since late 2014 - and in the official forum for the game no less. It's still there now.

This is some awful game design decision, really. I have never seen a competently designed tactical strategy game where the player cannot fully rotate the camera, or at least render things transparent (the game doesn't do that either - again, this has been raised by players too, but nothing has been done).

Avatar image for GarGx1
GarGx1

I'm enjoying it and as far as I'm concerned that's all that counts.

It's far from perfect but is still good fun.

Avatar image for Byshop
Byshop

I would still strongly recommend this game to anyone who's a fan of the originals as it's a great update and is very faithful but also expands upon the formula significantly. I'm guessing the review doesn't factor this in since there's no mention of those games anywhere in the review (and the reviewer was four when the first game came out). :)

Moderator
Avatar image for Hurvl
Hurvl

@Byshop: Metacritic has it at 77 based on 24 reviews and based on my previous impressions I believe they're more accurate of what I would rate this game. With the Shadowrun games, Satellite Reign, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and, last but not least, CDPR's Cyberpunk 2077, fans of cyberpunk have plenty to be happy about.

Avatar image for Byshop
Byshop

@Hurvl said:

@Byshop: Metacritic has it at 77 based on 24 reviews and based on my previous impressions I believe they're more accurate of what I would rate this game. With the Shadowrun games, Satellite Reign, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and, last but not least, CDPR's Cyberpunk 2077, fans of cyberpunk have plenty to be happy about.

Yeah, it's a genre that's pretty heavily under-represented past the 80s in TV, films and video games.

I haven't played the game all the way through yet but I'd put it closer to a 7 or an 8.

Moderator
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AshTrai

I rarely, if ever, had a problem with the pathfinding AI. I will say that i played the game "guns blazing" rather than pure stealthing like the reviewer seemed to have but pathfinding always sent my agents to the place I intended and all the agents always went as a group.

It did become slightly unwieldy when you had 5 enemies mind-controlled as they would swarm around you when idle (basically the exact same thing occurred in syndicate and syndicate wars though).

The enemy AI seemed on par with any other game out there imo. The review bemoans the fact that a site resets to default after 5 minutes of searching (fruitlessly) to find you when you are detected but there has to be a cutoff somewhere otherwise u would feel the game is stupid for never going back to normal for you to proceed in the way you want to.

There were some bugs with the games npc's on initial release that they fixed like 3 days later.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@AshTrai: That's what passes for "mind-control"? Switching sides but retaining whatever crappy AI which they have? How archaic.

This is old shit which should have stayed in the past. More competent game designers would have replicated the control mechanism for player characters for mind-controlled fools.

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Bexorcist

I miss the days when you could just 'cataclysm' entire cities!

Syndicate Wars REDUX please! :(

Avatar image for Byshop
Byshop

@Bexorcist said:

I mis the days when you could just 'cataclysm' entire cities!

Syndicate Wars REDUX please! :(

A greater emphasis on destructable environments was a stretch goal that they didn't reach. I would have liked to have seen this as well. There was an internet cafe above an arcade that the company I worked for provided all the gaming rigs for. We used to hang out and play multiplayer matches, sneaking around the city disguised as citizens and then ganking each other from up close with nuclear grenades, plasma lances, and that one gun that you had to use the cheat code to get in multiplayer. Since there wasn't really any scoring, we stopped when the entire city had been destroyed and all the citizens killed because at that point it was just a four on four deathmatch in an empty map.

Moderator
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Bexorcist

@Byshop: Aaah sweet sweet memories. How come the series never got a decent reboot? And don't mention the FPS with the 'Syndicate'-tag on it, as that one doesn't exist in my reality! :D

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Byshop

@Bexorcist said:

@Byshop: Aaah sweet sweet memories. How come the series never got a decent reboot? And don't mention the FPS with the 'Syndicate'-tag on it, as that one doesn't exist in my reality! :D

That's basically what this game is. "Spiritual Successor" made by some of the original team. Isometric games are mostly the domain of crowd source campaigns these days (this, Shadowrun Returns, Divinity, Wasteland 2, etc).

Moderator
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AshTrai

@Bexorcist: There is a community made installer for syndicate wars that makes it run natively in Windows x64bit if u look around the net. You still need the CD to use this installer though.

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Bexorcist

@AshTrai: It was free on origin a few weeks ago but it really is awfully outdated now. Looks like crap! :D

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AshTrai

@Bexorcist: Think it was Syndicate, not Syndicate Wars, that was available on Origin for free not long ago. The original Syndicate wasn't that bad looking tbh, there just wasn't much detail or much going on at any one time.

But yeah, SWARS is a bit ugly now as well, since it's max res was 800*600 haha.

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Byshop

@Bexorcist said:

@AshTrai: It was free on origin a few weeks ago but it really is awfully outdated now. Looks like crap! :D

Early 3D games age about as well as early CGI movies.

Moderator
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Gelugon_baat

@suppaphly42:

There was an indie game which came out on multiple platforms and were broken on specific platforms. Remember the earlier wave of indie games, back in 2012? Fez, in particular, and how its Xbox 360 version had game-breaking problems such as a black-hole respawn loop?

In addition, there were quite a lot of video-game critics who downplayed those problems of Fez's Xbox 360 version in their reviews on video game sites - including McShea, formerly of GameSpot. Some others just gloss over them.

(Also, recall that in 2014, there were some people who accused GameSpot of being biased towards artsy-fartsy indies, especially in the wake of some AAA titles being panned.)

I don't think that the issue that indie games get scrutinized harder than AAA is serious.

Rather, the issue is that too many people have double standards which are in favor of either AAA or indie games - or the B-listers, for that matter.

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SuppaPHly42

@Gelugon_baat: hey buddy :) first i want people to know that you do have people that like you on here. both myself and RogerioFM - enjoy what you have to say most of the time. i believe homelessgamer, liked you as well, but has been awal for 209 days as of today :(

now i'm not going to lie, i was wasted when i said all that, my mouth ran away with the spoon. :P

so yes its true there have been some indie games on consoles that were broken, but in order to destroy my argument you would have to post the scores that the broken games were given here at gamespot. if, even in spite of them being broken on a platform, the games that were got favorable scores.

i'll save you some time fez got an 8 which is a good score. however that review was played on the 360 so it was not the same level of broken as bat man AK

Confirmation bias maybe, it is something people do. however, i don't think i'm doing that.... although now that i think of it, the reviews of "life is strange" are stellar across the board, but here at GS it gets 6's and 7's one 8 and we have yet to see what the last episode will get. now what level of game would that be under i wonder... AAA or a niche game

good job you have made me think i love it when people do that, it means they could be bothered to try :)

i have taken up a new hobby of playing the devils advocate to see if people are interesting and if they will defend their position and how well they will do it

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MJ12-Conspiracy

So basically this a copycat Shadowrun Returns without any real cyberpunk themes and crap stealth and AI then???

why'd anyone wanna jump ship from Shadowrun then??? kinda like jumping from cola to Sprite or 7UP.......F that noise man.......

Avatar image for Byshop
Byshop

@MJ12-Conspiracy said:

So basically this a copycat Shadowrun Returns without any real cyberpunk themes and crap stealth and AI then???

why'd anyone wanna jump ship from Shadowrun then??? kinda like jumping from cola to Sprite or 7UP.......F that noise man.......

No, it's a completely different kind of game. The only similarities between the two are cyberpunk themes and both are modern updates of games that came out in the early 90s.

Moderator
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Gelugon_baat

@MJ12-Conspiracy: I get a stronger vibe of old-school Syndicate from this game instead.

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SuppaPHly42

@Gelugon_baat: i have played it my first thoughts were of syndicate

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Lach0121:

I would agree with you that as an ideal, reviews should be updated when the games get updated.

Yet, I strongly disagree with you on the matter of post-release patches. While you can say that every game will have bugs, there is the other ideal, which is that games should be released bug-free.

You can argue that this is unrealistic, because there can be no reliable guarantee on the Quality Assurance process. Yet the ideal that reviews should be updated whenever there is a patch is unrealistic too; for one, the effort spent on updating an existing review is effort not spent on making other reviews.

(Not to mention that this is a freelancer review. Peter Brown will have to ring up Don Saas for an update when he could be doing something else.)

More importantly, how would you suggest that they update the reviews? If you are suggesting that they remove any complaints about technical issues because they have been fixed, then you are condoning the practice of post-release fixes (which is a bad practice in my opinion), when the ideal should have been that the bugs are not there in the first place.

Avatar image for Lach0121
Lach0121

@Gelugon_baat: Actually I fully agree with you. As you bring up some valid logical points.

I almost missed your post btw.

Since it has been seen to be extremely common practice now that games usually take upwards of 3-6 weeks after launch to get most of the patches they need. Then my opinion would be to wait to review the game until most of the initial few patches are done. I know this might be viewed as unrealistic. However, the exact opposite has been happening. A lot of games get reviewed here before they are even released, and don't even have a day one patch applied for the review. (not the case here with Sat Reign) but you get the jist.

That is my suggestion. Sat Reign review almost falls within that time frame, but since it was a "freelance" review. Then that alludes to it being a review that was done before, but just now got to where its posted. Negating some of the newer patches.

That being said I do wish the games released more complete. But I do welcome improvements in patches as well.

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Bexorcist

@Gelugon_baat: Are u still waving the 'most hated object on Gamespot'-flag?

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Bexorcist: Yeah, sure. I heard that before. :/

For anyone else reading this, you might want to know that the people who hate me are not exactly pleasant people themselves. Just try disagreeing with them on things that really matter to them - you can see for yourself.

For example, Bexorcist here recently said to another person: "How did you teach your anus to talk?"

Go figure.

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Bexorcist

@Gelugon_baat: BTW, I have not a single disliker on gamespot, you obviously excluded. The fact that you have plenty says enough imo. ;)

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Bexorcist:

You don't seem to remember the altercation that you had with a certain user under this article. The other person was being quite snarky towards you for your opinions on military shooters.

And then there's someone who questioned your taste in TV shows, under this article, suggesting that you won't be liked by fans of Firefly.

"Not a single disliker"? Hardly indeed.

Avatar image for Bexorcist
Bexorcist

@Gelugon_baat said:

@Bexorcist:

You don't seem to remember the altercation that you had with a certain user under this article. The other person was being quite snarky towards you for your opinions on military shooters.

And then there's someone who questioned your taste in TV shows, under this article, suggesting that you won't be liked by fans of Firefly.

"Not a single disliker"? Hardly indeed.

Holy crap! You even edit your replies to make your case more coherent? No wonder nobody likes you! :(

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Bexorcist: I do wonder what your understanding of "like" means. :\

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Bexorcist

@Gelugon_baat: Pics or it didn't happen! :D No, nice one under the table there, u darn subtility-warrior! :D

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Gelugon_baat

@Bexorcist: I expect that you are going to call me a "stalker" or some such other things. I doubt that you are not that predictable.

With that said, I will head off that remark: your comments are publicly viewable, and all of them are Google-indexed. It's easy to look them up.

If you think that people who look at your publicly viewable comments are stalkers, you are one very touchy person.

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Bexorcist

@Gelugon_baat: Seriously, mate, you have issues beyond belief. Just leave me the **** alone, OK? People like you scare the shit out of me.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Bexorcist: No. I will take any opportunity to show others how predictably stupid you are.

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Bexorcist

@Gelugon_baat: Feel free to, oh crusader of the keyboard!

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SuppaPHly42

@Bexorcist: lol he/she scares you thats funny

Avatar image for Bexorcist
Bexorcist

@suppaphly42: It ain't healthy to dig in game communities the way galugon does. I don't want my foetus cut out by some game-addicted nutcase, no thanks!

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Bexorcist: Really? It's in your list of comments - which is publicly viewable under your user profile. To be specific, it's in the third latest page of comments under this article.

Now, either you are being duplicitous, or you have a very short memory. It's likely the latter.

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Satellite Reign More Info

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  • First Released Dec 11, 2014
    released
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    Satellite Reign is a real-time, class-based strategy game, set in an open-world cyberpunk city. You command a group of 4 agents through rain-soaked, neon-lit streets, where the law is the will of mega-corporations.
    7.2
    Average Rating15 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Satellite Reign
    Developed by:
    5 Lives Studios
    Published by:
    5 Lives Studios
    Genre(s):
    Strategy, Real-Time
    Theme(s):
    Sci-Fi