Satellite Reign puts you in the role of a leader of a criminal syndicate, fighting its way through a cyberpunk city and trying to overthrow the evil megacorp that controls every aspect of human life. Does this spiritual successor to Syndicate fight the power or should it have stayed in hiding?
First off, some full disclosure. I was not a backer of Satellite Reign when it was on Kickstarter and this copy of the game was provided by the developers. I have absolutely no background with the Syndicate series as a whole, besides knowing from people that the reboot of it was awful, so I have no attachment to the series whatsoever. I do like cyberpunk and am a huge fan of squad based, tactical RPGs so Satellite Reign did seem right up my neon lit, rain soaked alley. Unfortunately, a combination of rubbish controls, questionable world and mission layout and a real lack of identity made me dream of electric sheep during my time spent with the game.
So, what’s the setup for Satellite Reign? The answer is not a whole lot. Besides a brief intro cutscene which tells you about the megacorp Dracogenics and all the nasty things they done to the world, you are dropped into the shoes of a criminal who is hell bent on overthrowing this corporation through any means necessary. Past this intro and the occasional bit of chatter from your crew back at underground criminal HQ, the story is very much on the backburner during your time with Satellite Reign. Seeing as your squad is all randomly generated and made up of cloned humans (we’ll get to this system later), you feel no attachment to your squad or feel that they have been at all affected by Dracogenics and all the other horrible things that exist in this world. This would be somewhat alleviated if the world itself was interesting but it is the most boilerplate, samey cyberpunk world that you’ve seen over and over. If you have seen Blade Runner, played Deus Ex or read anything by Philip K Dick, you’ve been in the world of Satellite Reign before. You get the giant neon signs advertising some technobabble, thousands of strip clubs and seedy shops as well as steam rising from every other bloody vent in the floor. It completely lacks its own identity and honestly feels like a half arsed Blade Runner game.
What adds to this problem is that the bustling city is actually lifeless. When you first step into the world after the initial tutorial, Satellite Reign’s city seems full of activity. There are loads of crowds walking about, cars driving and music blasting as you skulk round the landscape so it feels like a living, breathing place. Then you notice that you never hear any background chatter from the NPCs or reactions from them besides running away if you pull your gun out. You can’t go into any of these shops or dens of iniquity and the music outside every club is exactly the same. Cars always stop when you cross the road and they have a tendency to get stuck in junctions and start doing donuts for eternity.