Syndication Begins: Satellite Reign Out August 28th

Rain-soaked, neon-drenched and corporate-haunted, Satellite Reign’s [official site] urban setting is the kind of near-future city that feels like a convincing world of tomorrow. Through sleep-starved eyes, this morning’s launch video looks a bit like the ‘world of last Saturday night’, to be honest. It’s a gorgeous Syndicate-inspired team-based tactical shooter / ARPG hybrid and after a long stay in the augmentation chambers of Early Access, it’s almost ready for release.

I’ve yet to walk these streets, never mind claim them on behalf of my megacorp overlords. Jim and Alec have both thrust their ocular attachments into Early Access builds, however. They had plenty of positive things to say about 5 Lives’ work, which has the flavour of Syndicate but doesn’t treat the past as a burden to be carried or a rigid template.

Jim and Alec both reckon the game feels and looks like what we old folk of the internet remember of Syndicate – that is to say, an open game built around systems in an enormous, believable future-city. It’s a tremendously exciting proposition and we’ll know how well it all hangs together on August 28th, when it leaves Early Access.

Despite his positivity, Jim comes to us with a warning from the past:

“There are serious limitations that the tech faces with the amount of stuff the game is throwing into this huge city, including the all-important crowds on the street. Then there’s the overall flow and balance of the game. It’s a precarious piece of design that will demand serious balancing care to be the game it needs to be. I’m not saying it’s likely to go wrong… just that it looks and feels fantastic so early, that it must now NOT GO WRONG. Do you understand?”

We understand. We wait. We hope.

25 Comments

  1. Guvornator says:

    I haven’t played apart from some early builds, but even then it was pretty compelling. It is, however, pretty distinct from Syndicate, gameplay wise.

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      Thirith says:

      How is it different from Syndicate, and is it similar in some ways?

      • Guvornator says:

        The way to think of it is this – if Syndicate had become a yearly franchise like FIFA, this would be Syndicate 2015. In the same way FIFA 15 is a very, very different beast than FIFA International Soccer, despite some surface resemblance, Satellite Reign is very different from Syndicate. Baring in mind I’ve not played the latest build or any build for some time:

        The big change is your agents all have different classes. You get a Soldier, Hacker, Assassin and Support. As you might expect, this leads to a much more strategic experience – grouping 4 members up for some carnage is still a valid tactic is certain situations, but usually it’ll end in tears/respawn.

        It’s also a continuous world. There are 4 districts, and you just break into complexes to get what you need. You have no base, so everything happens in realtime within the world, which I think is an improvement. You funnel money from ATMs, you find and bribe scientists to do your research at their facilities and do the same to security guards to tell you how to get in to their facilities, all in game, on the ground. Where Syndicate feels like your guys do a job and get out like a military strike force, here’s it’s more of a spy/terrorist cell feel. They’re embedded in the world all the time.

      • amcathlan says:

        Well, I’ll give it a shot at breaking some of it down, with the Syndicate/SynWars feature on the left and the SatReign equivalent on the right.

        Syndicate / Satellite:

        4 clones controlled as one, action game style / 4 distinct types of agents, individually controlled (Soldier, Hacker, Support, Infiltrator), strategy game style.

        No cover system / Cover system

        Agents upgraded through cybernetics and arsenal / Agents additionally have class specific rpg-style skill trees and gear (items, such as body armor, stealth generators, ect.)

        Individual levels with mission objectives / One cohesive city, with sub-districts. No set mission objectives, though possible spots of interest highlighted on the tactical map, along with information and purchasable/acquirable intel.

        Persuadatron, mass mindjacking of entire city streets / Hacker agent mindjacking specific citizens/corps of the street, either as backup or to return for cloning sample. No “persuadatron horde” (though they want to include some feature in the direction at some point. “Propaganda” they call it)

        1 health bar, increased with higher grade cybernetics / Same, though adding both body armor and personal shield bars, if equipped, and possibly health/regen bonuses from an extra-hardy clone genome.

        Tear shit up / Possible to stealth, including equipping silencers and stealth-field generators/noise-canceling grenades, ect.

        And so on and so forth. Vastly different way of going about acquiring new techs. In SatReign it’s done on a per-second research expense, once you’ve stolen a nice prototype, and your money is acquired from leech-worms put in city ATMs by your hacker. Zip-lines to get from some places to some other places. Way more traffic on the street than in old Syn.
        Ect., ect.

        Similarities mostly come from what you’re actually doing (smashing your way into to corporate compounds to steal their tech) and the general notion of four cloned, cyber-zombies walking rain-sleeked cyberpunk streets, doing your bidding and looking for trouble. I feel like I’m playing a form of advanced Syndicate, but it handles very differently simply due to me being in control of four individual agents, as opposed to the gun-hug commandos of the old one.

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          Thirith says:

          Thanks for the info. Definitely looking forward to this one – I never grew to love Syndicate as much as others did, but this sounds like it takes much of what was great about Syndicate but adds its own flavour.

  2. AlFitz says:

    As Guvornator said, it’s not really Syndicate but it’s still a good un and worth getting.

  3. montorsi says:

    I’m glad it’s not precisely Syndicate since I already played that, years and years ago. A few cool things have happened in game design since then.

  4. Kollega says:

    What had me intrigued about Satellite Reign from the get-go is the early promise that it is difficult, but possible, to stand up against all the corporations and change the world for the better, however slightly – because ultimately, it’s YOU who is supposed to decide whether helping the downtrodden is worth the enormous risk and hardship. Compared to Syndicate and its linear story that basically invites you to treat civilians as living shields because changing things for the better literally wasn’t programmed, this feels like a much more nuanced approach. Especially since the game features emergent problem-solving in gameplay. So while I may not be rushing out to buy the Early Access version just yet, after the game is finished, and if it gets favourable reviews, I may well buy it.

    The music, though… compared to something like Master Spy, it does not sound all that great.

    • jellydonut says:

      As far as brooding cyberpunk goes, I think the music works really well.

      • Kollega says:

        Sorry, but no. The music is lame :P Maybe that’s just my personal tastes, but Master Spy and Kung Fury got the whole “80s synth awesomeness” thing down much better. And while Kung Fury is vastly more action-y and parodic, Master Spy is an attempt at a stylish cyberpunk adventure in the style of the 80s, thus roughly comparable to Satellite Reign. And its music just feels… way more memorable and expressive than the theme on display here.

        • coldvvvave says:

          >style of the 80’s

          But why? Early 90’s are not the Moog-Oberheim fat analogue sound but rise of cheap digital synths and affordable samplers.

          • Kollega says:

            Ooooooookay, if we’re talking Syndicate’s sound as opposed to Blade Runner’s sound as the main influence (which I presume you mean), then it makes sense, I guess. But when it comes to synth music, I just like the modernized eighties sound a lot more. When it comes to my views on “cyberpunk coolness”, which I am not a huge afficionado of, I am definitely not a purist :P

          • coldvvvave says:

            Blade Runner soundtrack is Yamaha cs-80 mostly as far as I remember. And it was more than ten years before Syndicate. Anyway, this is a pointless taste-measurement. I’m ok with the whole “horror-disco” revival, however cheap it is (sugar overdose for me). There is no “cyberpunk” music ganrae. It can be anything electronic. It can be acoustic ffs, as long as it fits the mood.

          • Kollega says:

            I definitely agree that at the end of the day, the music fitting the mood is what matters. But regarding the trailer music, it just felt… for the lack of a better term, uninspired =/ Although I’m pretty sure that what I would consider “an awesome moody electronica piece worthy of true cyberpunk”, other people may well consider “an unsubtle, overwrought piece of digital waste”. I just really like memorable music, but it might miss out on subtlety because of my desire for it to be memorable.

      • manny says:

        Syndicate music was fantastic, so it’s a tough act to swallow, as was the Skrillex – Syndicate song. link to youtube.com

  5. Xzi says:

    No sale during EA…maybe they’ll have a slight one at release. In any case, this is a definite buy for me on or before that date.

  6. gabrielonuris says:

    “Rain-soaked, neon-drenched and corporate-haunted, Satellite Reign’s urban setting is the kind of near-future city that feels like a convincing world of tomorrow.”

    Strange, I always thought that the movie Idiocracy was closer to a convincing world of tomorrow!! lol!!

    On the subject though, I like the idea that this game is a more evolved Syndicate; that game holds a strong nostalgia feeling into everybody who played it, but trust me, if you play it today, you’ll notice it has some design decisions that almost makes it unplayable; it needed an overhaul, and Satellite Reign maybe will achieve that.

  7. CelticPixel says:

    I backed it on KS so it’s in my Steam library already, but I wanted to save the experience for when it was complete. Really looking forward to playing this on full release.

    • Unruly says:

      I’m in the same boat. I backed, have had access the whole time, and didn’t want to spoil my appetite by playing the early access stuff. I probably won’t jump into it immediately on release either, because that’s just how I am and I’ve got other games I’m sucked into right now.

  8. Sardukar says:

    Okay, played an early build a bunch of months ago, thought it looked good.

    Playing now, since I have some time after finishing That Other Game that abosrbed my life.

    This is really good! Still has some bugs, first off. Tutorial glitches, AI glitches, combat stuff.

    However, it’s enticing. Very enticing. The setting is neonpunk, the writing is suitably grimfunny and the consequences of choice apparent, tactically. So all that’s good.

    Plus the little things I didn’t expect:

    Hacking civilians and sending them back for cloning means I can then use their stats on new agents, often raising my agents capabilities. Then I dispose of the old Agents, which is horrible but also cool.

    The World Vision lets me see alllll the many things I can’t affect yet, but also gives me an idea of how connected otherwise separate systems are. Even if I can’t get to them yet, they give me ideas for later.

    So, yeah, quite liking it.

  9. Cronstintein says:

    I hate videos like this, pretty much zero increase in knowledge about the game other than the title.

    I’ve seen other coverage and it looked like a small-squad RTS but without the ability to pause it looked difficulty to coordinate effectively.

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    JiminyJickers says:

    I see it is coming out on gog so I will wait for it to release there before buying it. I’m quite looking forward to this game, it looks good.

  11. Hypn0t0ad says:

    I am somewhat disappointed with Satellite Reign, in particular with the promise of an open-world Syndicate game. I feel like they should have either made better use of the open world sandbox or retained the mission structure of the original game. Each individual mission in the old Syndicate WAS a sandbox, in which you had some choice in how to achieve your goal. There were a few optional side missions thrown in as well as other unspoken goals, like capturing a random scientist who just happened to be on the map, if you paid enough attention to find them.

    Here, the open world serves little purpose. You can find ATMs to hack, which is your largest source of income. There’s some small danger in hacking an ATM, but nothing that can’t be easily avoided most of the time. But that’s all there is to it: it isn’t a sandbox, there’s nothing to do except the missions. Almost all missions lead you to a compound, containing a vault that you have to breach. Whatever the mission objective states, it always comes down to breaching the defenses and reaching the door.

    And its fun, don’t get me wrong: the compounds are nuts to crack, and there is a satisfying variety in which you can do so. Stealth, brute force, or some combination (an ambush, hacking enemy defenses, brainwashing the guards); there are many ways to solve the problem each compound poses. But it always leads to a revolving door your agents come out of with some gear or cash.

    Where can you assassinate some politician in the middle of a speech? Rob an armored car on its way to or from a bank? Completely demolish the HQ of your enemy? These were all things you could do in the previous two games. But here, your mission is always: get to the green door.

    So, a word of caution to anyone excited by the ‘open world’ sell: it isn’t really, not in any meaningful way. Accept it for what it is though, and you might enjoy it.

    PS: I’ve played the alpha and the latest feature complete beta, so the finished product will not be significantly different from what I’ve experienced.

    • A Pair of Pliers says:

      This is pretty much my experience as well. Haven’t played the most recent beta build, but as far as I know it didn’t add in new mechanics.

      The open world isn’t really used at all to any effect aside from hacking the ATMs, and the game is very mission-based, and largely repeat the same pattern; get some intel on a compound, kill guys on the compound, interact with a door, and you’re done.

      On the kickstarter, they drummed up how the game will have a lot of emergent gameplay and whatnot, but the currently available mechanics don’t really contribute to that at all I think, since nothing ever happens in the open world spontaneously. Civilians will walk around aimlessly, guards will patrol about aimlessly, cars drive around randomly. The only thing that breaks the mold is the occasional scientist that spawns that you can bribe; but even that is a single click to bribe and it’s done.

      I still liked the game, but don’t think I’ll get more out of it than a single playthrough that focuses on just playing through the missions since there isn’t really anything to do outside of them.

  12. manny says:

    Personally felt the brutality and immorality of Syndicate was the truly amazing aspect of the game. In essence your committing heinous acts of terror just cause it’s the easiest way to get something done. It was truly ahead of it’s time and far more brutal than GTA which came 4 years after. I don’t see any indication the game has retained that feeling.

    Still the graphics, tone and tech look great, so they’ll have something to build on in the future.