The Red Solstice is a top down mostly real time strategy game. In it, you control a group of marines who must fight their way through a Martian colony after the titular red solstice occurs, a yearly mega storm.
You have control over the squad of Black Light, which is made up of 4 marines. Each of these marines has a small backstory, however this does not affect gameplay. There is a large amount of customisation available to you. The class of each marine can be changed, with many different classes available as well as a range of primary and secondary weapons to kit out your troopers. Various stats of your troops, types of ammo and grenades, and several abilities are all also available to modified to your hearts content. You start off with the assault class unlocked and an assault rifle, shotgun, rocket launcher and a pistol available to your men. Additional classes and weapons are unlocked by finding them in levels or by completing objectives.
The story focuses on finding the boss of some company, which owns the martian bases and its security force, namely you. Information gleaned from cut scenes and various notes left scattered around reveals a sinister plot by the top dogs of the company to control a virus named STROL which destroyed earth. This evidently went wrong and the colony was taken over by the virus, which creates strange creatures that try and attack you.
The game world is very nice, with lots of junk, dead bodies and bloody viscera laid about. There are also interact-able objects that can be used. Ammo crates can fill up your ammunition, storage crates can hold anything inside them, and sentries can be a good tactic to cover your escape from an area. There are also weird floating energy balls, that when picked up will give a large XP boost to your group. XP, which is also collected when killing enemies, allows you to unlock and upgrade abilities for each of your troops. There are ‘normal’ abilities you can unlock, such as a health top up or better aiming, but there are also really cool abilities, such as a laser sword that kills anything in an arc in front of you.
When not in combat you control the squad leader, a man by the name of Tyler Holt. The other 3 members of the squad will stay nearby X and will automatically open fire on any nearby enemies. Whenever you engage in combat, each member of the squad becomes available to be individually controlled and moved. Being in combat also allows you to activate tactical mode, which slows down time by 90% and allows you to plan troop movements and tactics in relative peace.
Your marines enjoy a defensive stat bonus when placed in a good defensive position from the enemy, most of the time a small wall separating the two. Utilising this bonus along with line of sights and the different skill sets of your team means that strategy is always forefront in your mind.
The maps are vast with nary a long corridor filled with beasties in sight. You are free to engage enemies from many different angles, or just go wondering through abandoned houses. Triggers are well placed to activate only when they should, while still letting you explore.
The lore was well written and left me constantly searching for the next piece, and kept me invested in the story. For a game of its scale, The Red Solstice hits the nail on the head with its sound design, suitably eerie to creep me out but not enough to distract me from the game play. Voice acting is also similarly great, with Tyler being fully voiced and the rest of the squad having a decently sized repertoire of lines to spout out.
Also included is a multiplayer mode where up to 8 players can control 2 squads and complete missions in randomly generated maps. These missions promise to enhance and enrich the story from the single player. For those of us with out friends *sob* there is also a survival mode, which is a more difficult version of the multiplayer missions.
While Red Solstice does seem to have some trappings of turn based games such as activated abilities and highly specific stats, more suited perhaps to a game in which you can select a specific trooper at your leisure, the tactical mode does allow you most of this freedom, allowing for a more fluid and open game. Game play wise, it feels very similar to a real-time X-COM, an idea I am a huge fan of.
The only issue I have with The Red Solstice is its long loading times, though I guess that something we have to get use to in these times rather than getting angry at a specific game. The cross of top down strategy and real time movement makes a game that I am thoroughly enjoying and constantly wanting more of.