Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
I never completed Satellite Reign, because fellow journo and one-time board game co-conspirator Matt Lees told me something that completely demolished my enjoyment of it. I won’t tell you that thing unless you come with me below the line, because I want you to know that this game is pretty good and you shouldn’t listen to me. It’s an isometric neon haze of cool cyberpunk freedom fighters who will get in and out of scrapes in supreme style, in a vast city that looks just as cool as anything Deus Ex has thought up. I recommend it. That’s all. You can go now.Oh, you followed me below the line? Well, it’s just an Ubisoft game in disguise, isn’t it? A game of tickboxes and upgrades and sidequests – no greater purpose or direction other than clearing those little icons off the mini-map. That’s what Matt said to me, the bastard. And he was right. Suddenly, I didn’t like it anymore. It was like seeing through the style, the haze, the artistry and noticing the grubby puppeteer hunching in the shadows above it all. Ten minutes ago, I was enjoying this game immensely. Now, I realise I have played it a dozen times before in another skin. Ubi’s formula has infected a much more exciting world than they had ever created. Yuck.
That’s not a huge revelation, it probably doesn’t even put you off. Ubisoft’s sugary omni-design is good enough for a lots of us. Even I get on board if the world is right – I thought The Division was spot on, for example. But there’s something about noticing the strings that I am rarely able to come back from. I played maybe thirty minutes more of Satellite Reign, which I’ll still say is a good game – because it’s got style enough that it took someone else to break the illusion.