Remember Steam Greenlight? It was a way for indie developers to get their games on Steam, based on community approval—this was all before Steam opened the floodgates and let most developers onto their platform. But back during Greenlight, developers really had to work to get their game noticed and approved. The Red Solstice was such a game—and I remember its campaign to get onto Steam, and the resulting hard-as-nails tactical co-op shooter that was a bit infamous for its difficulty. Now developer Ironward invites you back to Mars, decades after The Red Solstice, to take care of the lingering mutant threat.
Red Solstice 2 is a tactical shooter played from an isometric view where you control the Executor and up to seven other squad members—or join up to seven other friends to complete objective-based missions. It’s been 117 years since Earth was rendered uninhabitable, but Mars turned out to be not much better as hordes of mutants started making trouble for humanity. As the Executor, your job is to stem the mutant tide to carve out a future for people on the red planet. I had a chance to get some hands-on impressions from the Alpha, and I have to say: I like what I’ve played so far.
I really appreciate that a game that has such an emphasis on semi-large squad tactics can be played both with real players, or with bots—not everyone has friends available. Of course, playing anything with friends makes it more fun, but if the bots are good enough, you can almost forget you’re having a solo experience—and Red Solstice 2 does a good job of making you feel like you’re part of an elite group of mutant killers. Red Solstice 2 presents this type of action in a way I’ve never experienced before: as hordes of enemies press in on you and your team, you have to make split decisions, strategize, and reorganize to deal with the constant body-horror threat. These mutants come after your team in a relentless flesh wave that requires active coordination to overcome, lest your team is overwhelmed and wiped out.
There are six classes you can play in Red Solstice 2, to further diversify gameplay and create some team synergy. Some classes specialize in damage dealing, others can be important support or early warning for your team. Classes like the Assault, Demolition and Heavy are designed to dole out some damage. The Assault is a frontline expert, while the heavy is great for suppressing large groups, and the Demolition class rains hell down in the form of rockets and other explosives. The Medic, Recon and Marksman classes aren’t defenseless, but their strengths come in supporting the rest of the team. The Medic heals and revives teammates, while the Marksman is the eyes of your team, detecting threats early—but can also deal powerful high caliber damage from a distance. The Recon class is a ghost, and can sneak up to groups of enemies unaware, and able to call in powerful air strikes.
Between missions in Red Solstice 2 there is a planning phase that might look familiar to those who played X-COM. Your base of operations is a large airship, which you travel across Mars in search of objectives to complete. In-between missions you can also distribute skill points, tweak your squad, and even customize your character. You can also conduct research, and use collected resources to resupply your squad with ammo, explosives, and medicine.
I only had the chance to play a preview version of Red Solstice 2, but I’m excited for its full release. I’m a sucker for co-op games, and the ability to play with a combination of friends and bots makes the eight player squads seem a little more attainable. Who doesn’t want to fight hordes of mutants with sheets of lead and high explosives? And it’s always more fun with friends.
Red Solstice 2 is coming to Steam June 17th.
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