I can safely say that myself like many other gamers, dream of being the ultimate bad ass wearing an awesome mechanised bodysuit who deals out some out some extreme damage! Now you may have noticed that it’s been some time since we got a game like this? The fairly underwhelming Space Marie came out about 6 years ago now and since then all Warhammer games that aren’t Total War have been pretty terrible.

But hopefully things will change with this new isometric shooter set on everyone’s favourite sci-fi planet, Mars. What could possibly go wrong?

Solstice Chronicles: MIA takes players onto the planet Mars which has been colonised after the fall of Earth due to the deadly STROL virus. But it seems that Mars is just as harsh a place to live as corporations and insurgents fight for control and to discover the cure for the virus. However, humanity is about to face total extinction as the virus begins to spread across the colonies of Mars, not to mention a horrific storm is tearing the planet apart. Hundreds of thousands are dead as blood thirsty mutant’s rise from the underground. An onslaught of death is taking place, a lone marine could be humanity’s only hope.

The campaign starts off with a lone marine taking a last stand before he is soon captured and awaits his gruesome fate. In the underground liar of the Martians, the marine is saved by a wondering droid who’s looking for a particular person on Mars. Together the droid and dry-witted marine form an alliance in order to escape Mars while obliterating the overwhelming number of enemies using an array of devastating weaponry and destructive tactics.

Early in the game, players will be able to choose their class of Power-armour which specialises in four fundamentals of dealing out death. There’s Assault, Hellfire, Demolition and the ultimate class: Terminator. Each class is fundamentally the same in practicality but each has their own skill trees, secondary weapons and special skills that branch out different methods of destruction. Hellfire was my first choose as it’s a class that specialises in flamethrowers, incendiary grenades and shotguns. Usually my favourite class of character in multiplayer games like Gears of War and Team Fortress 2.

But each class has its own set of weapons and gadgets that can deal an immense amount of damage and believe me, the carnage can be unreal at times. Each class can fit any gamer personality from the all-rounder to the guy or girl who loves blowing s*** up.
You can develop the power-armours skill tree and choose a variation of gadgets and perks to mould your warrior into a near perfect killing machine. There’s a huge variation of gadgets and upgrades for you and your droid, including chemical grenades, flame thrower turrets and the usual perks such as max health and speed. With each class having their own array of gadgets and upgrades to purchase, this brings the scale of customising your warrior to an immense degree.

What Solstice Chronicles: MIA is at heart is an isometric shooter but it has as much brains as it does brawn. What plays an important part of enhancing the core gameplay are tactics and planning, making this not just any mindless shooter. Aside from the epic weaponry used by our Marine, the droid proves to be just as devastating. The Droid has four main functions that’ll aid the Marine whether it’s to scout for vital resources, protect a small area for our marine with a shield, distract enemies to a nearby location or trap or act a massive bomb dealing massive damage.

Tactics play an important factor in player progression as there’s an interesting mechanic which determines the level of resistance you’ll face from the enemy. The threat level can determine whether a segment of a level is a breeze or a living nightmare. As the threat level increases, the amount of enemies on screen can be overwhelming to say the least. But the droid’s own skills can help to lower the threat level by shielding the marine or raise more attention as it scouts for supplies. There’s often a fine line between moving on or exploring the area for vital upgrade packs and resources.

Solstice proves to a great deal of fun, alone or with a friend in co-op. The main issue that held back Solstice overall was the lack of any compelling events or interesting mission objectives. Don’t get me wrong, the action is excellent and every so often there’s a great set piece or epic boss battle. You’ll encounter moments where you have to control a giant turret, taking out hundreds of enemies or outrun a mammoth creature eating the bridge you’re traversing on.

I’m discussing more in question the majority of levels which reframe from anything vastly compelling other than moving from point A to point B with turning on power generators here and there. This wouldn’t be problem if there were other features to counter out the repetitive nature to mission structures. There are very few dynamic level designs meaning that most levels play out the same. You run, gun and that’s pretty much it. There doesn’t seem too much threat outside of the enemies you gun down, as environmental hazards are next to none in the game.

It’s a shame that there’s little effort in constructing new concepts for environments/levels and mission structures that would make this different from other isometric shooters. It’s the same as Victor Vran which is another fun game but didn’t create anything new in the world or level design. Solstice is the same and offers nothing fresh for the genre in terms of pacing and level design.

Now don’t get me wrong Solstice is still a great deal of fun. The action is relentless, hectic and truly immersive. The impact of firepower from each weapon is highly satisfying and the endless hoards and brutality each encounter brings is immensely enjoyable. Plus with features like co-op and a fantastic survival mode in the mix, Solstice is actually a decent, action shooter.

While it does lack fresh ideas for its level design and pacing, Solstice is definitely worth checking out. The intense action, high level of customisation in the skill trees, brutal weaponry and sheer chaos you can cause alone or with a friend is utterly enthralling.

++ Intense and immersive tactical action
+ Game world and destruction looks great
+ Great customisation and skill tree upgrades

- Lack of new ideas for the genre
- Repetitive mission structures and dull level design

A Steam review code for Solstice Chronicles: MIA was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.