Twin-stick shooters are common enough that few bat an eye when a new one is announced. At first glance, Solstice Chronicles: MIA seems just like any other twin-stick shooter on the market. Look a little bit closer, and you'll discover that the title has some relation to the developer's previous game, The Red Solstice.
The preview build showed off a lone space marine accompanied by a drone that has a more human personality. For the most part, the expected twin-stick shooter mechanics are present, with a laser pointer giving you a good idea of where you're aiming. Depending on the weapon you're holding, the pointer also gives you a good idea of weapon accuracy and spread, depending on how long you're pulling the trigger. Unlike most shooters, you have finite ammo and the ability to only carry two weapons at a time. The world doesn't have too many ammo deposits, so to survive, you need to manage your shots and learn when to run away or use your melee attack.
The shooting seems fine using either keyboard and mouse or a standard controller. Though the graphical prompts aren't there, support for the Xbox One controller and the Dual Shock 4 are in and work fine in this early stage of the game. Solstice Chronicles features a small upgrade system for both your soldier and your guns, with the former leading you to upgrade things like regenerative health and faster reloading, while the progression of the latter is less noticeable. On a side note, the presentation held up fine with Unreal Engine 4 as the backbone, but without a full screen option, it's difficult to see how great the graphics actually are.
There were a few new wrinkles that made the game more interesting. The first is the ability to put down turrets to act as your second gun. It doesn't make too much sense to have it in a game where you run around quite often, but it did provide some help when the game got more crowded. The other neat new thing is the ability to carry around explosive barrels. It makes you a more vulnerable target since you're moving slowly, and any attacks to that barrel mean a fiery explosion in your face, but it is fun to chuck it at your foes. You can watch it crush an enemy and see physics cause it to go in a different trajectory before exploding.
What we're seeing is fine thus far, but if you go by the Steam page for Solstice Chronicles, there seems to be more to look forward to. Four different classes for your soldier, co-op play both locally and online, and drone tactical abilities are some of the things promised, but the latter is the only thing currently in the game. Even then, the only drone abilities you can play with are scouting, which lets the drone scour more ammo for you, and bomb, which acts like a local grenade.
It's very difficult to gauge how Solstice Chronicles: MIA is coming along based on the preview build. The shooting mechanics are fine, while the tactical approach is relegated to careful ammo management. We got a taste of both character upgrades and uses for the drone, and while they seem promising, it'll take some time to see if those mean anything in the longer term. For now, it'll be worth checking on the game's progress just to see if the developers can get closer to their original vision.
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