Solstice Chronicles: MIA Preview
Solstice Chronicles: MIA is an isometric, tactical, twin-stick shooter currently in its Alpha build, and at the time of this writing, is still crowdfunding via fig.co. Taking place in the same universe as Ironward’s The Red Solstice, Solstice Chronicles: MIA is expected to release on PC as well as PS4. Though still in its final phase of development, I was able to go hands-on with the title, and this preview will reflect the title’s current development point. Essentially, Solstice Chronicles: MIA’s Alpha build was short and sweet, and left me wanting more.
The story of Solstice Chronicles: MIA places you behind enemy lines of an infected colony on Mars. The player character, a Corporation Marine, is declared Missing in Action (thus the MIA) and must escape while working with an AI drone. The story works well enough for this type of gameplay and action sequences, though the actual story within the Alpha build appears to throw you somewhere in the middle of the game, offering no explanations. Though I had to look up the actual story, I would expect that the final build of the game will be more clarifying.
“The game emits a DOOM-like mood and aesthetic, albeit in an isometric viewpoint”
Simply put, the gameplay of Solstice Chronicles: MIA was fun, especially when swarms of enemies begin to surround you. The controls took a little getting used to, but once I got the hang of it, I was eliminating mutant Martians left and right. The game features twin-stick combat with a variety of upgradeable guns, equipment, and your AI drone. Furthermore, skill trees and a threat level system make the gameplay more interesting and tactical. The threat level system determines how many enemies will spawn to attack you, and is determined using certain AI drone skills that you select.
At first, I felt like ammo was too readily available, but as I encountered larger groups of enemies, ammunition could not come soon enough. Unfortunately, ammo is tied into a total rather than different ammo for different guns. The need for ammo is also balanced with one of the drone skills, increasing the tactical aspect of battle. Aside from an otherwise enjoyable gameplay experience, one issue I encountered more than once was that the targeting system had issues when the enemies were at the top or bottom of a slightly elevated area, where turrets and flamethrowers would fire exactly horizontally rather than directly toward the enemy aimed at. Lastly, a lack of checkpoints meant that dying in the final firefight requires you to start again at the start of the level; however, I am hopeful that checkpoints will be added into a later build, given that the Alpha build’s levels were relatively short.
When I first booted up the game, I was met with a generic and relatively underwhelming title screen. Although I do expect this to improve by the final build, all the other screens have generally been pleasant. The graphics of the game are not great, but the attractive art style overcomes the technical quality. At times, the game emits a DOOM-like mood and aesthetic, albeit in an isometric viewpoint, partially due in part to its mars colonial setting and red overtones. Perhaps my favorite aesthetic quality in the game are the flames, particularly when using the flamethrower. The Alpha build did lack a fullscreen mode, which is unfortunate, but we hope to see it implemented in the final build.
Much like the graphics, the sounds within the game contribute well to the atmosphere, from the groans of mutants to water dripping in wet areas. The guns sound great, though if firing as I enter a cut scene, the guns will continue to fire in the background despite my character running on-screen. It is also worth noting that voice acting was present in the game, and the portions I experienced were done reasonably well. Though not in the Alpha build, I hope to see subtitles (in addition to a settings menu overall) as a bit of the dialogue was hard to hear the first time.
Solstice Chronicles: MIA is also set to debut its survival mode, though it was unavailable at the time of writing. Though minor details likely associated with the title being in its Alpha build, the core mechanics and gameplay of Solstice Chronicles: MIA are very well done. Solstice Chronicles: MIA is shaping up to be a quality title given what I have experienced, in conjunction with where the game is at developmentally. The team at Ironward certainly have the time available to shore up any minor issues, and we look forward to seeing the final product.