Twin-stick shooters hold a special place in my heart; Super Stardust, Geometry Wars, and even Shadow Complex just to name a few. Solstice Chronicles: MIA from developer Ironward is mixing up the formula a bit, bringing us an RPG element to the classic twin-stick shooter gameplay that we know and love. The question is, does it succeed with this fresh take?
The game is set in the same universe as The Red Solstice, Ironward’s previous entry in the series, but it is not a direct sequel. It isn’t necessary to play The Red Solstice in order to understand the story in SC: MIA. That being said, there isn’t much story to be had. You start the game as lone survivor who happens to be very skilled in combat and your only friend is an AI drone. Your mission is simply to survive the waves of hordes on the unforgiving planet.
At heart, SC: MIA is a good twin-stick shooter that tries to blend RPG elements into the mix, but doesn’t quite check all the boxes. The shooting gameplay feels great, all the guns seem to be effective in their own right and stand out enough to make players choose what works best for them. Some guns use the same type of ammo, so it's possible to use all your ammo from your assault rifle and end up being empty for your pistol. Its something I haven’t seen in a game in a while and it took some time to get used to, but it added more pressure on me to try to conserve ammo as much as possible. This exact scenario had caused me to fail multiple times on one level and seemed to take away some of the joy from the experience.
Check out the first hour of gameplay down below:
The constant managing of the Threat Level seemed like a back and forth see-saw or even a never-ending tug-of-war at times. The Threat Level can be increased and decreased based on the monsters you kill and how quickly you kill them. There’s a tutorial for the threat level with multiple pages to read and fully grasp the way the threat level works. I had to go back and re-read the threat level tutorial three times before I began to understand (somewhat) how it worked. In a twin-stick shooter, where you’re expected to kill waves upon waves of enemies, it does seem a bit silly to have this as a main feature. I know they were trying to bring something different to the table but this didn’t do it for me, it ended up causing more frustrated losses than anything else.
The RPG element to the game is probably the best feature. I really like the idea of leveling up my character and drone to gain new skills and tactical weapons (drone) throughout the campaign. If you’re looking for an experience that will allow you to evolve your character as you play, this definitely brings that quality. Mind you, the skill system does what it should, but don’t expect something as deep as Skyrim or Diablo. It is a respectable amount of customization, perfect for a twin-stick.
Having the option for Co-op really makes this game enjoyable…but it’s local only. Not being able to connect online is extremely unfortunate, especially since it is very uncommon to play local multiplayer on PC.
The graphics are great and seem very similar to The Red Solstice, which is a good thing! The game plays very well, 60fps 1080p with little to no drops. The lighting seemed to impress me the most, walking down a dark corridor with your flashlight is actually some of the best-looking parts of the game. Also, explosions are epic!
The sound effects were great and met all the needs of a twin-stick shooter in space fighting alien monsters on Mars. I felt there could have been a bit more ambient effects in those slower portions of the game (there weren’t many) but it would have added to the immersion. The music was ok but the game was actually very quiet at times which seemed a little disappointing.
The single player campaign is roughly 4 hours, so not very long. As stated before, Co-op is local only so unless you have a buddy over, you’re not trying the co-op mode anytime soon, which is a shame because this really would lengthen the experience. The addition of a survival mode, which is described as a rogue lite mode definitely adds to the replayability, but knowing that I can’t play with another player online just makes me want to play some other twin-stick that has online capability. Unfortunate, but true.
WHAT COULD BE BETTER
ONLINE! You would think that this is a no brainer at this point, if you’re going to add and type of multiplayer, you must have online (especially on PC!). Also the gunplay was spot-on 90% of the time but did have a few glitches here and there. Just some minor bugs that need to be patched out but nothing that breaks the overall experience.
Solstice Chronicles: MIA is a $20 twin-stick shooter with RPG elements and brings a huge challenge to the genre. It attempts to be a strategic twin-stick but comes up a bit short with the tools at your disposal.
“It’s a short and challenging twin-stick that makes you think before you shoot; just expect some frustrations and hope they add online play…sooner than later.”