Two hundred years ago, humanity lost Earth to a mutant invasion. Humanity, with its back against the wall, is now forced to find a stop to this growing threat—or succumb to it. It’s high stakes and high action in a game that combines co-op gameplay with RTS elements to create a tactical-meets-action blend that is uniquely Red Solstice 2.
Red Solstice 2: Survivors is closest to an action role-playing game, but with some tactical elements. In it, you take control of the Executor to lead a squad in a fight against mutants to save humanity. I don’t know what it is with video game protagonists being put into suspended animation, but waking up sleeping badasses is a persistent video game trope. Play single player, and control the Executor as he leads a squad of AI controlled marines—or team up with others (or friends) online with 8 player multiplayer as you fight hordes of mutants across Red Solstice 2’s dark, atmospheric environments.
While Red Solstice 2 looks like a game that would be twin-stick shooter, it’s a little more automated than that. You can, of course, choose to aim manually—and this is even required for most abilities and secondary weapons—or you can choose to leave your character in an Overwatch mode, which automates gameplay to a great extent. And when I say that, I really mean it—sometimes I would click on an objective for my character to go to, set them on Overwatch, and just sit back and enjoy the carnage as my squad does all the work. It’s not exactly strategic, but that doesn’t mean it’s not necessary to intervene with a grenade, heal, or other input when things really get hairy—as they can do, and quickly.
Enemies will come at you constantly in endless waves of pink, undulating flesh. As interesting and horrific the mutants in Red Solstice 2 are, there are is very little to differentiate them from the other mounds of fleshy pink meat to be shredded against your squads’ guns, except some are bigger and harder to kill. Luckily, killing mutants in Red Solstice 2 is extremely satisfying, and definitely a spectacle. Hordes of mutated creatures bear down on your squad as bullets, blood, limbs, gore, smoke and explosions fill the screen. But while it’s fun, it’s definitely not as tactical, or as a tactically satisfying, as it could be. As an action game, it feels too automated—and as a tactical game, the choices feel limited to a few abilities, and placing the occasionally turret or bomb.
A lot of strategy and planning happens before encounters, however. Red Solstice 2 has a few instances where you can upgrade your squad. During missions you can put points into your abilities, favoring those that are specific to the situation you’re in. There are also points you can put into abilities and suit upgrades as you accumulate more experience. You can even choose upgrades to your marines, upgrading them as you see fit—though, they are expendable, and will be errantly dead if they fall in battle. If you lose your entire contingent, especially early on, it can be pretty devastating and hard to recover.
While missions are procedurally generated, It doesn’t help that Red Solstice 2 feels limited in mission types. There are only a few different mission archetypes, even if different objectives can randomly spawn during missions, it starts to feel same-y. There’s only so many times I can escort a convoy, or save a group of marines before it feels like too much. Maps are interesting, and exploration can be fun and yield good items—but it eventually starts to feel pointless, with there being no real added benefit beyond the mission itself.
Between missions, you can research, upgrade your mobile base, and use your dropship to conduct missions. The overworld is where you can see the overall infection level, and how best to combat it. The base elements and research are a bit like X-COM, but not quite as developed, though they seem a little complicated at first—especially because there is very little tutorial to get you used to many parts of the game. If you click on the hints box, it’ll just overlay walls of text. It’s not impossible to figure out the game’s systems, but I wish there was a better tutorial to ease you into its gameplay.
Red Solstice 2: Survivors is definitely an amusing game. Sometimes I would sit back, sip a cup of coffee, and watch as my soldiers destroyed literally hundreds of marauding mutants who shred themselves against a wall of lead and explosives. Still, sometimes it feels too detached—too automated. Playing with friends and online would certainly help, but I only have limited experience with multiplayer. I’d say come for the waves of enemies, but there’s not much else that will keep you sticking around.
Red Solstice 2: Survivors is available now on Steam.
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