This week, Ironward and Nkidu officially launched The Red Solstice, a sci-fi co-op tactical action strategy game available on Steam Early Access. Today we’re taking a look at this ambitious title to see whether or not the game can live up to the hype, even at this early stage in development. At this point, The Red Solstice is entirely an online game. This being a Early Access title, features such as single player have yet to be added. Upon loading up The Red Solstice, you’ll have the opportunity to play through a “prologue”, which is basically a short tutorial to help new players get accustomed to the movement and actions available in the game. Playing the prologue is highly recommend before jumping into mutliplayer, it’s pretty helpful. Once you’ve got a handle on the controls, it’s time to jump right into the mix with the general population.
I was able to find an open lobby quickly and was thankful to be grouped with a few veteran players that could sheperd my fellow new recruits and I through the mission. It wasn’t until first entering the mission that I got a true feel for what this game was all about. I knew this was an 8 player co-op game and had already gone through the prologue, but that knowledge didn’t mentally prepare me for the true scale of the game. The Red Solstice is way more epic than I had initially thought. With randomized objectives and events, combined with absolutely huge maps, The Red Solstice never feels underwhelming even when you’re teaming up with 7 of your buddies. My first co-op encounter was a roughly 40 minute long timed mission that had us battling through a gigantic map on the hunt for both primary and optional objectives. Our highest ranked player assumed the role of team captain and attempted to lead us through the dangerous city streets. Our squad of 8 was fortunate enough to have an additional high level player accompanying us on this mission, or at least it seemed fortunate at the time. Within minutes though, things got pretty serious for the squad. Our second-in-command was lying dead somewhere, having grown overconfident in his ability to wander off from the group for a moment. As many players will quickly discover, dying in The Red Solstice is forever. Working together and staying close is your best chance at making it out of there alive.
The Red Solstice is all about trying to find the right balance between the needs of the few and the needs of the many. Players are given limited ammo and supplies at the beginning of a mission, it’s up to the team to salvage and distribute the items that will soon be in short supply. There is always that possibility that a few greedy players will dash towards the lootable objects while the rest of your team fights back hordes of enemies. That might work out for them in the short term, but when the greedy few have all the ammo while the rest of the squad is running on empty, they may see the error in the ways. This limited ammo supply creates a good deal of suspense as you make your way through the map. “Almost out. Watch my shots. Hopefully there’s a locker in the next building.” I’d say to myself, as I watched my ammo count trickle down closer to zero. With everything being randomized, you can never depend on that next room to replenish your ammo, it’s all quite tense. Things got tougher and tougher as another one of our teammates would wander too far and be cut down. Eventually, due to the sum of our mistakes, we failed. In the end, it was down to just 2 of our original squad of 8. Our team leader and a single new recruit had both managed to live, though not together. Both had become separated in battle and found themselves too far away to be of any use to one another, and quickly running out of ammo. They both died no longer shooting, but simply running for their lives.
Not every mission will be a success, even if you put an hour into it, you can still gloriously fail. It’s the panicked sense of impending doom that shines most brightly. The next room may be your last. That equipment locker might not have enough ammo to last very long. Your Medic could get caught unprepared for an ambush. The Red Solstice is absolutely glorious, and is everything PC gaming is about.