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 Lach0121
Lach0121

They have just released patches for path finding.

They have more planned that involve improving the path finding, and exploiting the AI. Even hinted/teased about a future update may contain Co-op.

This is kinda why reviews on these sites are a joke.

Lets remember now, Batman's AK scored a 7.... and yet how it released on PC was an utter mess, actually it was down right broken, and for many out-right unplayable. It hasn't even been re-released yet!

Gamespot has proven again, and again, that when it comes to indie games, they are far more critical. When it comes to big budget games, they are far more lenient.

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Zloth2

@Lach0121: Bull honkies. The game was released three weeks ago and they only now fix the pathfinding? If your game isn't ready for the critical reviews then don't release it. They actually gave the game a break by reviewing it late.

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Lach0121

@Zloth2: ... again I point my finger at releases like Batman AK.

However, I do agree with the sentiment that games should be released once they are finished. But patches for improvement should still come for the game after launch if they can.

But whatever, its your opinion, and my opinion.

However, GS reviews are a joke.

Avatar image for suppaphly42
SuppaPHly42

@Zloth2: you can say that and just ignore his point that a game, that was broken on pc, still gets a review of a 7 which is still a good score. so his issue that AAA titles are not held to the same critical standard as that of indie games (some of which i and a great many others think are better) is still a very valid point.

you can disagree with this accretion, but you are going to have to do better then that if you wish to dissuade others from feeling the way we do. try citing examples of indie games that scored high but were broken on certain platforms...... oh wait you can't, because its never happened.

hmm i don't know how you could possibly support your position, without even one example of this. all you have done is say this game, was given a break, because it was reviewed 3 weeks after its launch. well batman AK has been unavailable on PC for almost 3 months, after it was pulled from pc for being broken. so when it finally come out on pc, will it get a review of its own, where it looses 6 points for being broken.... no i don't think it will.

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aiat_gamer

@suppaphly42: you do realize they review games separately on platforms? This game is only on PC, so it can only be reviewed on PC. Also, funny that you say indie games are treated harder, on indie games that get high scores, people are saying the exact opposite!

Avatar image for suppaphly42
SuppaPHly42

@aiat_gamer: umm no that is not what i am saying. ok yes this game is only on PC but what does that matter?

if a game comes out on all platforms at the same time or there about, there is ONE official review. here at gamespot. (gtaV didn't get a new review after its PC launch) .it has happened, that a game like "the journey", has been given a re-review (one for the PS3 and one for the PS4) now the re review of that game IMO was pointless as NOTHING was changed.

next "Also, funny that you say indie games are treated harder, on indie games that get high scores"..... try writing that again

what, both lach0121 and i are saying is indie games get points deducted for things that AAA game don't., there are many examples of this i am lost as to why you think i said other wise

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Zloth2: I agree with you. Some people are too forgiving.

Avatar image for suppaphly42
SuppaPHly42

@Lach0121: i think this too. pillars of eternity is a 9 by my book dlc included yet it gets an 8 and the dlc a 6..... bull shit

Avatar image for Zloth2
Zloth2

@suppaphly42: Seriously? You think every reviewer is going to give every game the exact same score as what's in your book??

Avatar image for suppaphly42
SuppaPHly42

@Zloth2: well of course not, as the proof is in the pudding, they don't.

however i can say, i don't agree with what a reviewer has given as a score, to a game i like. i can also talk to one of my buddies, about why i disagree with the score and agree with my buddy as to why both he and i disagree with the score a reviewer at gamespot has given.

which is all we have done

Avatar image for Lach0121
Lach0121

@suppaphly42: Been wanting to give that a go. But so many games now, and constantly dwindling time.

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SuppaPHly42

@Lach0121: i know eh but if you have the time it is a stellar game :)

Avatar image for Lach0121
Lach0121

@suppaphly42: I have been wanting to play some fantasy games that have cinematography/atmosphere that is "Ethereal."

Something along the lines of the 1985 movie "Legend." Or the first "Never Ending Story."

The first Diablo game had this in droves. But its something of a "relic" these days.

I always got the impression that Pillars of Eternity may actually have some of that from what I have read of it, and the images I have seen of it.

Avatar image for suppaphly42
SuppaPHly42

@Lach0121: i would compare it to icewind dale its not quit up to BG standards but i love it and support it all the way

yes it does have an "ethereal" feel to it as it mentions reincarnation and awaking of the soul in it come to think of it. it may be exactly what you are looking for :)

Avatar image for RogerioFM
RogerioFM

@suppaphly42:

But is it good or not? I heard the game had numerous flaws, but the devs have been patching it.

Avatar image for suppaphly42
SuppaPHly42

@RogerioFM: satellite reigh is about a 7 in my books i'd wait tho. it will be patched and be better after that but i do like it

Avatar image for Lach0121
Lach0121

@suppaphly42: Well, now I have to try it. :)

Avatar image for me3639
me3639

In 6 months like ALL games, it will be much better.

Day one is for suckers and reviewers who get free copies.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@me3639: I agree with you. Impatient people deserves it if they get shafted by rush-jobs.

Avatar image for suppaphly42
SuppaPHly42

@me3639: that is a glib interpretation. some games are, for some people, day one purchases. no need to try and shame people, because they want to play a game as soon as they can.

Avatar image for Ultramarinus
Ultramarinus

This guy once again with his misogyny outrage.

"Violence occasionally turns cruel because I gotta kill a woman."

You rated 6 for Fair but you didn't rate fairly, apparently.

Avatar image for RogerioFM
RogerioFM

@Ultramarinus: True, who gives a damn that she has to die, I bet he killed a lot of innocent males.

Avatar image for suppaphly42
SuppaPHly42

@Ultramarinus: i like the game. i also agree, that is an odd thing to get bent up about o.O

Avatar image for lulababy
lulababy

Its meant to be violent and ruthless just like Syndicate Wars .

Not for squimish .the whole point is to make human life worthless and inconsequential. Author of this review missed the point .

Go and play Syndicate or Syndicate Wars .cruelty is the name of the game .stop brining political correctness here.

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CheapMerc

@lulababy: Nice comment

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evil_m3nace

This game actually compares very much to Ghost in the Shell, except for some story differences, the cruel world around you, the almost third world districts, the rain is particularly beautiful in the game.

Avatar image for ArunabhaGoswami
ArunabhaGoswami

For anyone interested, the current MC score is 78/100.

Avatar image for pelvist
pelvist

Good review, well done.

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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):
    Real-Time, Strategy
    Theme(s):
    Sci-Fi