My first reaction to the tactical shooter game Solstice Chronicles: MIA was ‘this game is both amazing and brilliant!’ Not just because I like a good shooter and this game has everything I want in a good combat title, but the idea of the game is what I liked the most. First and foremost you get to shoot hoards of Martian mutants. Ok there is more to this game then shooting Martian mutants, but the fact that it’s a third person shooter, you’re a Marine with a war suit, it’s on Mars, array of deadly weaponry and explosives at your disposal, a virus, and a devastating storm that you the player must contend with make this game a real treat. Also you get a very handy drone to aid in your mission.
The gameplay for the most part is easy but the areas can get quite challenging. However, as long as you keep your target aimed on the enemy and use your drone and skillset to counter the threat level, the game will run smoothly. Let’s now look at what makes this a brilliant third-person tactical shooter.
The story of Solstice Chronicles: MIA has survivors of a virus that devastated Earth colonizing Mars. On Mars these human colonists came under control of the corporations but violent storms are threatening to destroy those colonies. Because of the storms the corporation and insurgents are fighting to find a cure so they can return back to Earth. Meanwhile the virus has spread to a Martian colony and transformed the colonists into mutants. The game begins when a corporate Marine finds himself in enemy territory. From here he must fight his way through hoards of mutants to safety and get the cure. Along the way the Marine picks up an insurgent drone named Saffron who aids the Marine in his mission.
Now that we know a little about what is going on we can get straight to the gameplay. To add to the level of gameplay the player gets choices on which Marine they want to manage the threat level in the game. Does a player want to be a tank and use ballistic weapons, explosives, and flamethrowers? Then they go with the Hellfire. Or maybe something more close combat with an energy blade for melee and a ballistic weapon? Then they would chose the Assault class. If skills and explosives are your thing, go with the Demolition class. Maybe the teleportation ability is appealing, then the strongest of the classes, the Terminator is the right choice. Personally I wanted a tank that dealt lots of a damage and a flamethrower so I went with the Hellfire class.
For the Hellfire, the flamethrower becomes bound as the secondary weapon. As you go through levels collecting new weapons they become unlocked to be used for primary weapons. In the Assault class, what I use for Survival mode, the Marine has access to the same weapons for both primary and secondary. However, you have the choice of only two weapons at a time, primary and secondary. When finding a new weapon in game your current weapon gets replaced. Good news is ammo is shared between weapons.
Choices for weapons are assault rifles, shotguns, and pistols. Though I mostly stick with the assault rifle and shotgun. Actually the flamethrower was available only after I came across the experimental war suit following the first levels and after the very first boss fight with a very tough and large Mutant that took me out with one hit. The good thing is you get three self-revivals before game over. Once you actually die you can respawn at the last checkpoint. Because each level area can be long checkpoints are plenty. However, most mutants are easy to take down and your drone can provide backup. Along the way your Marine can also get back up from turrets, friendly bots, and large guns that rapidly and without mercy slaughter mutants. One thing about this game is after a short while piles of dead bloody mutants and mutant pieces can surround you, trying to resemble a sort of realism.
On that note, this game has mild gore but it makes the game appealing along with the raging storms and ominous screams in the background. Adding to the ambiance are green glowing eggs that spawn what look like the alien larvae, the ones that attach to people’s faces, from the Alien movies. Theses eggs burst in green goo and the mutant “hives” release green gas. Cavernous openings found through out levels spawn an unending amount of mutants. Shooting Martian mutants can be very entertaining but also can be tiring if you try and shoot all of them. Most of the time its best to just escape an area and seal off the dangerous zones. Although with an onslaught of enemies your skills come in handy. I am partial to the napalm and chemical grenades. It seems that the best way to take out many mutants at once is using fire.
In the end the AI just keeps spawning mutants that attack on site. There are also levels of mutants, from the larvae, humans in early transformation; Star Wars Rakghoul looking mutants, large hideously deformed bosses, and centipede looking creatures that roll.
When escape is deemed necessary you can sprint but be warned stamina drains quickly and needs to be replenished. Have no fear Saffron will come to your aid bringing new supplies with the scout ability. These abilities are found during the missions and include scout, taunt, block, and the bomb ability. Taunt when activated reduces the threat level and block keeps away mutants during activation. Threat level determines how many enemies are present and how strong they are. It is also a warning system. Saffron also acts as a guide and is used to unlock doors and activate/deactivate equipment like power generators. She is also a personable human voice in the inhuman nature of the devastated colony.
Add to the mutant threat we also have mines and explosives to contend with, along with the Martian storms. All these threats and challenges makes for an interesting game. Adding to the challenge are the two modes that players can choose. The first is the Story mode that is the main campaign with a set of objectives for each level. Survival mode is to put what players learn in Story to the test. This mode can be played solo or in co-op with two players. In Survival mode the goal is to survive for as long as possible while completing side and main objectives. Once all of those objectives are completed the final objective and boss are revealed.
By the way its voiced, so players can move along with the action with the Marine and Saffron talking to each other. I felt this gave more to the game and felt like a story rather then just a shooter. You also learn valuable intel from their conversations.
Through out the game players get points to add to a skill tree specific to the chosen class for a better equipped and hardened Marine. The experimental suit gets traits as part of the class skills, then there are general skills, and drone tactical. I always make sure I put points toward stamina, the flamethrower, and grenades even if the drone suffers skills.
Movement is as easy as using the keypad and if E is pressed the route to take in the level is highlighted. The E key is also used to activate items, obtain supplies, and interact with objects. To fire aim with the mouse and enjoy slaughtering mutant hoards. Players can also use the space bar for melee and other keys can control the character’s actions including skills. In addition, the number pad controls drone ability activation. With a limited amount of keys to know and use, gameplay is straightforward which leaves the player to just have fun and complete the objectives. Aim has to be precise though or you can start shooting randomly around, so always know where the mouse is and have the target sitting over enemies.
Overall this is a very entertaining tactical third person shooter where players get to shoot up Martian mutants. The gameplay is such that the player focuses more on the game and less on controls. Levels change design and give a sense that the player is moving through an abandoned Martian colony. Even Saffron is unique and has a personality and painted in a way that reminds players of humanity and that humanity must be saved. Cut scenes are kept to a minimum but give enough story so the player knows what is going on. Do I recommend this? Absolutely. If you like tactical shooters, sci-fi, want to satisfy your desires to kill Martian mutants then Solstice Chronicles: MIA is the right game for you.