What do Valkryia Chronicles, League of Legends, Red Solstice: Survivors have in common? Let me save you some time, I suck at all of them. That’s right, what we have for today is something from Ironward studios, a game called Red Solstice 2: Survivors. And it’s one of those titles that made me rage quit mid-campaign and start over in easy mode. So let’s wallow that bitter pill and get rolling.
Here we are with yet another game that involves space marines slaying some humanity-ending menace, only this time it’s not from War Hammer. The world isn’t exactly habitable anymore and survivors are forced to survive on Mars. While prospering seemed like a thing for a while, it suddenly turns out that mother nature isn’t ready to play nice on another planet, either. With a constantly growing army of mutants out there to consume anything that’s alive and a mysterious storm that destroys everything in its path, you, the executor, are tasked by one of the remaining powerful entities of humanity to get everyone out of this mess. And what a mess it was.
Production (2.5 / 5)
As soon as the map and models loaded for the game I immediately thought: ‘Huh? Is this a StarCraft 2 spin-off?’ as the UI and general art direction seems to match that feel. Abandoned towns, birds-eye view of everything, and an interface meant for RTS play.
Don’t really look that complex and textures fall into the category of ‘unremarkable.’ Animations are easy enough to follow but honestly, it’s a little difficult to say this was anything along the lines of polished. Rather, I’d chuck it to somewhere around 2012 in terms of graphics.
The audio experience is fine, with the music suggesting that you’re wading through a grand quest on a huge theatre. Where that is kind of the case, but not. I’ll explain in more detail later. Sound effects are hard to really describe since nothing felt distinct. I’d suppose they did the job. Gunshots sounded like gunshots, and explosions sounded like explosions. It might have been nice if there were signals for either ability cooling down or items being used. Actually, there were a bunch of times that I didn’t know if I was actually interacting with an objective or not.
Voicework is also too standard, I suppose. They nailed down personalities and voice-over types to the point that it just seems more and more like a StarCraft spin-off the more you play it. This is particularly with the operator who is trying to guide you through objectives while on a mission.
Mechanics (4 / 5)
This is actually quite complicated to go through, but let’s see how far we can get.
You can break down the game’s loop into two phases: The world map phase and, the sortie phase.
The world map allows you to do all the prep work and research you might need. From picking a location to sortie in, reviewing your skills, currently worked on upgrades and of course setting up for the next do-or-die mission. This is also the point where you manage your resources.
Like any RTS-like game, you have people, logistics, supplies, and time. And time is probably the hardest thing to manage as the game goes on. I was initially under the assumption that I can do all the missions as I proceeded but I was severely proven wrong around the midgame point. You need time to produce special equipment, to finish research, and most of all, to reach missions before they expire. Over time, the infestation creeping through the planet and the storms ravaging it above continue to grow worse. You really have to make wise decisions as the game progresses. You can’t do everything; as some missions will just end up being unwinnable for any number of circumstances.
When you get down to the actual mission, it’ll look much like one of those hero missions from Blizzard’s RTS games. Where you will have up to 4 units under your control. However, the only one you fully control would be your commander, while the abilities, supplies, and sub-weapons are under the control of the AI. You can ask your troops to either follow you or go to certain positions, but that’s about it.
When you’re on the field, you will be directed to complete your main objective. However, there’s a chance you can gain bonus experience by completing bonus objectives along the way, which happen randomly across the map. They’re usually out of the way and will require a good amount of time to complete. Also, the longer you stay on the map, the more intense the army of mutants that are pouring down upon you. So, you’ll have to evaluate your situation if you can sneak in one more sub-objective or if it’s time to evacuate. Because a dead team is a useless team.
Do you want to make the most out of your deployment points, that only refresh once every several days? Or would you rather progress slowly but surely through your campaign? Which developments do you want to research that you think will be most useful for the next upcoming missions? If you finish a rescue mission, will you still have enough left to go to the next point and defend an outpost?
As your reach expands so do the number of fronts you have to keep track of, eventually you’ll have to make some tough choices on whether to abandon one mission or even territory so as to protect your other assets. Your objective, in the end, is to save Mars or escape with what you have, and the clock is ticking.
Content (2 / 5)
Red Solstice 2: Survivors will generally have 2 types of missions to present to you, there would be the story missions that generally go at a pace you’re willing to take and the random generated missions.
Story missions generally have a special map for them with events and enemies pre-determined. They also move the story forward where you get either a conversation out of the characters involved, if you can call them that. Failing these missions generally doesn’t have a real penalty to the campaign and you can just try it again.
The random missions generally pop up anywhere so long as you’ve activated that territory. They vary between escort, rescue, destroy, defense, and retrieval missions. While they do have different objectives, what you actually do doesn’t seem to vary much. You go to point A, wait and defend for a certain duration, interact with the McGuffin, then go to the next point of interest. It’s pretty engaging at first, where you’re still figuring things and learning how things work. But you eventually recognize all the reused assets, reused maps, enemies, and even voice lines. Missions don’t really vary in what you have to do, where the only thing that’s really making the mission feel any different is the infestation level of the area.
I found myself pretty much swapping between the ‘move’ and ‘hold position’ for every extra mission I played. The very helpful ‘overwatch’ ability which basically makes your unit auto-aim any enemies that get into your sight range makes this process even simpler. Yes, manually aiming will also allow you to get a better crit chance, but being able to move freely while shooting is a much better deal in my opinion.
In the end, the actual story missions seem simple enough and the grinding of random missions you have to take to get to them seems a bit excessive. The game gets less interesting for every convoy mission I have to repeat.
The most interesting content of this game are the classes you can explore, you basically start with 4 job classes but expanding to more specialized ones is possible. But that also means grinding them from Level 1, where the max is 7. At that point, your starting members are already around Lv 4 or 5, so it’s a little discouraging to even try them out since they come to you underpowered.
Apart from this, you can also personalize their skillsets, weapons, and power suit loadouts. Though they have much less flexible than what you can do with Executor’s suit. But you can make them tankier, be able to handle bigger weapons, more ammo, or be able to dish out abilities faster. Oddly enough, the AI-controlled units seem to hardly ever have problems with supplies.
Features (1.5 / 5)
The game boasts of being able to have 8 players in one game. And on paper, they can do it. The question becomes, is it done well? On launch I experienced people joining my solo campaigns out of the blue while I’m on a mission, ending up at the initial spawn point, where they are inevitably swarmed and taken down without much of a fight. The entire time I thought I was playing single player.
When you play multiplayer, it looks like you can’t really carry your progress from your campaign into it. In fact, I didn’t quite understand how the game worked, only that the host decided what mission to take and the rest are stuck in the waiting room. On paper, this would make the game work a lot better, a game with 8 players will undoubtedly be able to handle all sorts of side-missions while completing the main mission. Where everyone enjoys the bonus experience points for having so much done in one go. But, getting a match is a bit tricky, and since the players don’t really have a way of communicating except maybe chat during the actual mission, it’s hard to figure out what’s going on until you’re on the ground.
There’s also the issue where every extra player doesn’t have minions of his or her own to bring. Making it unattractive to have less than 5 players in one game. I mean yes, an extra asset is an extra asset. But that means also splitting on map resources like ammo drops. And running out of ammo is the last thing you want to have happened in a swarm situation.
Well, at least the single-player experience is pretty smooth, right? Right?
As much as I’d like to say yes, my own ignorance of how to play this game wasn’t the only reason I had to humble myself and play this game on easy mode. Yes, I know it sounds like an excuse but hear me out. The game had some bugs that made it very difficult to finish. Sometimes one of your men would path completely wrongly and end up on an opposite side of a cliff or a wall which would lead to their demise. Another way they’d die is they end up stuck on command I can’t undo unless I actively try to move them or around them until they somehow get unstuck. Sometimes NPCs you’re trying to protect decide to run into the horde of mutants you’re trying to run away from. Sometimes the enemies you’re trying to kill don’t even spawn. And there were even times the objective didn’t update.
I ended up at a point that I couldn’t really continue the game so I decided to try again but on easy mode, which allowed me to get far despite my men running into walls or deciding to become a tree for some reason, at random, during missions. If the mission itself bugged, at least it wasn’t hard to get back to the point I needed to be.
In general, the features of this game seem lacking, particularly for multiplayer. I wish they had some way of quickly reloading the game or some mission objectives when NPCs or other things get bugged. That would have made for a lot less pain.
Red Solstice 2: Survivors brings to the table a spin on the RTS genre that should ideally make it interesting. But instead of capitalizing on the strengths that the genre brings, it exposes its weaknesses in glaring detail. This game would have played out a lot better if I could play it like a twin-stick shooter. Where instead of making all the movement and attack commands dependent on the mouse, I could use maybe WASD so making use of the manual aim method would be much more rewarding. The inability to allow NPCs to correct their positions and other bugs that aren’t addressed by some feature makes it that much harder to stay motivated playing it. In fact, I’m really curious as to why it picked an RTS format when other formats would have probably fit this game much better.
There’s also a severe lack of information being shown to you, like if your teammates are getting hurt, dead, or want to do something else. Yes, you can lines draw on the map. But since scrolling around the map isn’t really a good idea and you can’t see the waypoints on the field, what’s the point of using it?
This is by no means an unplayable game, when I tweaked the settings a bit, or when there are no AI allies to manage, a lot of things work out just fine. But there’s also a severe lack in what you can do in the game. Maybe if capturing other types of mutants was actually feasible and they made missions out of that, there’d be some variation of shooting you’d get to do. Apart from maybe the outpost defense mission and some of the ones in the story. I’d have to say playing the random missions repeatedly just so that you’re getting something done while waiting for upgrades and bases to finish up was probably the more draining part of the experience. The part you’re supposed to be playing the most is the one I want to do the least.
Playing as a team of elite space marines out to destroy an unending horde of mutants feels pretty bad-ass. And I have to say it has its moments. But it is too few and far between to make this feel like something I’d want to come back to.
Red Solstice 2: Survivors may need some more solar-powered beams to bake properly, as it feels only halfway there. Scoring a 2.5 / 5
Available on PC.