Solstice Chronicles: MIA
Solstice Chronicles: MIA has a corporate marine fighting through hordes of mutants on Mars, trying to escape the planet's enemies. On the way he runs into a robot companion that helps him defend himself against the hordes.
Single Player Campaign
Single Player Survival
~20 mins per level, 22 levels
July 26, 2016
Genre: SHMUP, Action, RPG, Strategy
Rating: N/A (but more appropriate for mature audiences)
Solstice Chronicles: MIA is a top-down RPG action game that serves as a sister game to The Red Solstice, a game we’ve previously reviewed. And like The Red Solstice, Solstice Chronicles: MIA offers the type of fun that one can only get from fighting zombie-mutants on Mars. Developed by the independent Ironward, Solstice Chronicles: MIA is a well-polished shooter offering a fun challenge for both newbie players and hardcore gamers.
The point of the game is to shoot and kill mutant life forms with different weaponry. Blood comes out of the aliens and there are dead bodies and bloodstains on the floor. In-game art features skulls and bones.
The main character curses, but the robot he travels with bleeps out the cursing in-universe.
You are encouraged to help people in distress. In some parts of the story, the main character will go out of his way to attend to the injured.
Solstice Chronicles: MIA is a game that knows what it is, and does it well. The game’s story, gameplay, and atmosphere all serve one purpose: to make killing mutants fun and engaging. There is a long and noble tradition in gaming of shooting down hordes of enemies, and this game adds another worthy entry into that hallowed pantheon.
There are two modes in this game: story and horde. The story mode begins with picking one of four classes and throwing you into the action with a battle against an army of Martian mutants attacking a barricade. There are twenty-two story missions, and completing one will unlock the next chapter. Major story points are told through cutscenes that happen in between each level.
The game follows the hero, a corporate marine, as he attempts to escape from Mars, cutting down mutants with the help of an abandoned drone. That’s all you really need to know if you want to enjoy this game, and this simple plot works. There’s backstory of course, but it’s not an essential part of the game. It’s an easy template that makes engaging in what is happening mean more, but doesn’t distract from where the real focus of the game lies.
Like its predecessor Red Solstice, Solstice Chronicles biggest strength is in its gameplay. Both in story and horde mode, the game offers up a lot of different ways to defeat the mutants. It’s a top-down game that uses the keyboard to move and mouse to aim, and the controls are tight and responsive. There are several different guns with different strengths and weaknesses that give you important decisions to make. Should you use the high damage, low range shotgun, or the long range assault rifle? I had a lot of fun blasting baddies with the shotgun, and the light machine gun for longer range. It’s easy to find a load out that suits your preferred play style.
The game’s RPG elements help to reinforce the choices you make as a player, and makes playing through Solstice Chronicles feel like a rewarding experience. The more you use one type of gun, the more it levels up and the more damage it does. You can also boost your stats and unlock new secondary weapons and health upgrades. Solstice Chronicles doesn’t actually explain this system in-game, but it’s intuitive enough to pick up if you’re familiar with RPGs, but those new to the genre may feel overwhelmed.
Early in the game, the player meets a floating robot companion who provides even more elements to consider. This drone has the ability to project force fields, erupt into a massive explosion, and search for supplies and ammunition. Doing so affects the number and power level of the enemies that spawn, making it’s use a high risk-reward situation.
The atmosphere is what I believe to be the game’s biggest misstep. Solstice’s Chronicles graphics look good and the studio obviously put a lot of work into it, but the game’s environments felt identical and boring. It’s hard to tell one level from another, and most maintain similar personalities. While killing mutants is fun, the tasks that escort you from one end of a stage to another are very simple and usually not engaging. They consist of things like pushing a switch to open a door, or pressing a button and waiting for an elevator. The character designs for the baddies are fun, but nothing stands out about the protagonist.
Overall, Solstice Chronicles: MIA has a lot of appeal. There are different levels of difficulty that provide for a variety of gaming experience, and the RPG elements reinforce player agency, which means the game plays how you want to play it, and that is this game’s greatest strength. In a game where you’ll be killing hundreds of mobs, these mechanics make doing so really fun, and an experience worth revisiting multiple times. Some of the material might not be appropriate for younger kids, but fans of the top-down shooter genre would do well to add this game to their library.
Review copy generously provided by Ironward
+ Fun gameplay
+ Easy to pick up
+ RPG Elements help create strong player experiences
- Simplistic quests
- Repetitive level design