Solstice Chronicles: Missing in Action Hands-On Preview – Threat Control
Twin stick shooters have enjoyed a certain popularity on all formats, even more so on PlayStation consoles thanks to the games developed by Housemarque, such as Dead Nation and the recently released Alienation. During Gamescom 2016, I had the chance to try out a game that has been heavily influenced by these titles, Solstice Chronicles: Missing in Action, the sequel to The Red Solstice, currently in development by Ironward.
At its core, Solstice Chronicles: Missing in Action doesn't play that differently from its predecessor. Players will control their characters from a top down view, moving with the left stick, aiming with the right stick, shooting with one of the trigger buttons and unleashing a variety of other attacks, such as melee attacks, with the face buttons. Like in the Housemarque games, it's pretty easy to get overwhelmed by hordes of enemies, so players will have to be careful at all times while traversing stages. The only stage I was able to try out, some sort of underground facility, was packed with enemies, but pretty straightforward. I have been reassured that stages will be more varied in the final game, and slightly less dark, so it will be easier to spot enemies before they can overwhelm the player in stages such as the one I have tried out.
One thing that some will surely appreciate is how challenging Solstice Chronicles: Missing in Action is. With weapons having limited ammo, and special abilities having a cooldown timer, players will also have to manage their resources carefully. If you're aimlessly shooting around, you won't last long in the game, even with an expert companion at your side. Thankfully, there will be ways to control the number of enemies with a rather unique mechanic.
In Solstice Chronicles: Missing in Action, players have the ability to alter the Threat Level, which influences enemy spawning, but also rewards. To raise or lower it, players will have to perform certain actions or use specific weapons, something that adds yet another strategic level to the experience. Using a powerful weapon may save your hide in a difficult situation, but if it raises the Threat Level too much, one might want to consider other possible solutions to avoid having to deal with more enemies later on. Considering the co-op nature of the experience, this mechanic will also bring teamwork to a whole new level. If the game proves to be too difficult even with masterful control of the Threat Level, however, players will also be able to choose between 4 difficulty levels, so the experience can be customized in some ways.
Sadly, I think not many will be able to enjoy the Solstice Chronicles: Missing in Action co-op experience, at least at launch, as the game won't feature online co-op on release, only local. This is definitely disappointing, considering the game is clearly geared towards a co-op experience, but hopefully things will change before release. Not counting online co-op, Ironward is also planning to add more features through free updates, as well as additional content through paid DLC packs.
Solstice Chronicles: Missing in Action is not a revolutionary game by any means, but the Threat Level mechanics, which have yet to be fleshed out fully, may add that twist that will make it stand from the rest of the twin stick shooters now available on the market. The game will launch in 2017 for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, though it is unknown yet if the release will be simultaneous across all platforms.
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