Red Solstice 2: Survivors is a unique mishmash of genres, combining the look of Starcraft and the gameplay of a custom mod from Warcraft 3 Classic. Developed by indie studio Ironward, this real-time sci-fi survival strategy game pushes the complexity of its systems to the limit while still keeping the core loop simplistic yet intense. Enjoying the carnage of mowing down hoards of Martian zombies has never felt more satisfying. Red Solstice 2: Survivors is available on Steam for the retail price of $30.
Generic Mutant Martian Madness
A biomass infestation known as the STROL is overrunning the human colonies on Mars. As a result, the Founders are in deep trouble, and who better to call than the cybernetic super-soldier, the Executor. The Executor has been tasked with leading the Cell, a high-tech organization that aims at eradicating the STROL and save the last remnants of humanity on the planet.
A Basic Yet Repetitive Operation
The goal in Red Solstice 2: Survivors is straightforward. Drop into a desolate, mutant-infested area and complete one of three basic mission types — “Looting, Escorting, Interacting.” Looting missions involves landing on a map and retrieving items and gear from certain supply caches. Escorting is pretty self-explanatory. The player must locate a group of civilians or armed soldiers and accompany them to safety. “Interact” missions have players find a tech device like a telecom computer or arsenal database and wait out the data retrieval time while fending off alien zombies. There are also a few unique scenarios in the main campaign; however, more than 90% of the missions in Red Solstice 2 will fundamentally be the same.
Occasionally, an optional side quest will appear, such as “kill X number of elite enemies” or “stop enemies from spawning at location X.” The only purpose of these side missions is to gain extra experience for the deployed squad members. Bear in mind that only the Executor is the only playable character. The rest of the squad is controlled by AI unless the mission is being played in co-op mode.
Simple Gameplay, Convoluted Systems
The Executor and their squad will land in a random area and head towards the point of interest while fighting off alien beasties. Depending on the set difficulty, the rate at which monster hoards flood the map will vary in speed. Stay for too long on a mission, and the STROL might just get the best of the squad. Those who manage to make it out alive will receive experience points. Receiving enough XP will allow the character to level up, granting new passive perks for each operative and special skill points that can be used for the whole squad or just the Executor.
The Executor is controlled by clicking a destination. For fighting baddies, there are two modes: “overwatch” mode automatically shoots at any enemy within a set radius, and manual fire uses the LMB button for attacks. AI squad members are always on overwatch mode and will attack on sight. The tricky part comes from positioning the Executor in such a way so that the squad members aren’t in a dangerous spot. It would have been nice to have an option to control the other members, especially during combat. However, Ironward hasn’t implemented this feature into the game.
While the core gameplay of Red Solstice 2 is simple, the systems and mechanics set in place are not. There’s a host of information in the in-game Archives for curious players regarding the game’s research tree, complex strategies, campaign lore, and much more. The problem here is that the game’s design doesn’t explain anything to the player except for the basics. Honestly, what’s in place is already suitable enough for anyone to enjoy Red Solstice 2. Yet, it might have been better if the convoluted systems could match the simplicity of the gameplay. The exploration and combat itself already feel very “mobile game-esque” with its automatic firing mechanic, so dumbing down the unnecessary complexity of the game’s inner workings definitely wouldn’t hurt the core loop.
Stunning Sci-fi Environments in Lifeless World
The Unreal Engine was a perfect choice for Red Solstice 2. The look of the abandoned futuristic camps and buildings really nails the helpless vibes of a massive alien infestation. Lighting, architecture design, and textures all breathe high-quality design. The variety of mutant zombies are very distinct. What doesn’t emit quality is the sound design and music. The featured audio and OST are, by no means, incompetent, but there are many areas where either the sound cuts out or is missing. Weaponry often sounds weak and lacks that desired “heavy audio” when fired. Kicking a door down sounds like poking an empty tin can with a dull nail. Although the background music is decent, it’s seemingly set on repeat, playing the same 2-3 tracks over and over. Additionally, while the game’s visuals are pleasing, the in-game UI and menus are not and feel quite outdated. The world in Red Solstice 2 feels lifeless, and it’s not because the humans are gone.
Ambition Does Not Equal a Good Game
While Red Solstice 2 appears to be very polished on one aspect, it feels half-baked on another. The simple gameplay is fun for the most part and offers some occasional thrilling moments. Yet, it often gets overshadowed by the lack of diversity in its content. It’s highly repetitive and doesn’t offer enough depth to justify its convoluted systems. The visuals are fantastic, yet this level of quality isn’t reflected in the sound design. Overall, Red Solstice 2 feels like it is trying to achieve so many things at once, resulting in an experience that many will find taxing to enjoy.
Ironward certainly outdid themselves with Red Solstice 2: Survivors. The repetitive gameplay is fun to an extent but isn’t anything to write home about. Care attention was placed on the visual design, but the audio and UI need work. It is evident that the indie developers truly love their ambitious project and wish to see it succeed. Up until the time of this review, Ironward has been hard at work listening to the community, ironing out bugs, and even adding free new content. To conclude, Red Solstice 2: Survivors is not a bad game, but too much currently hinders it from being good. With diligent updates and an ear for feedback, Ironward will hopefully make their project worthy of attention someday in the future.
- Fun, short-lived gameplay
- Impressive graphics
- Lack of dynamic gameplay
- Excessive repetition
- Lack of polish in audio design
- Very complicated systems that do not match the simplistic gameplay