Preview: Solarix Joe Parlock March 18, 2015 Previews 1 Every once in a while, a game will pop up in my inbox and manage to reference just the right combination of games to make me obscenely excited to take a gander at it. That’s what Pultense Games’ currently in beta Solarix managed to do. Describing itself as being influenced by “PC classics such as System Shock 2 and the original Thief games”, Solarix makes a lot of big promises by throwing that sort of pedigree around. Unfortunately, my excitement about anything influenced by those games quickly died once I actually in-game. For starters, you could summarise the plot of Solarix by saying ‘Dead Space’ and literally nothing else. A strange artefact is found on an alien planet’s mining facility, and promptly brought aboard a spaceship. There, it causes insanity and dementia in the crew, and strange zombie-type creatures start popping up. For comparing itself to games with such interesting worlds and stories, Solarix really doesn’t do much to differentiate itself. Instead, it presents a particularly not scary, hammy, and uninteresting use of narrative tropes that have been done countless times before to much better effect. Games such as Thief really emphasise the freedom of choice given to the player. You’re given a set of tools, an environment, and simply told to have at it. Unfortunately, Solarix also falls flat in both of these areas. The environments range from dark, battered complexes to slightly less dark, muddy mining facilities. Identical boxes are thrown in seemingly random places to hide large, empty areas of levels that serve no purpose other than to totally throw you and make you incredibly lost. At times, the game can give off major Aliens vibes with the heavy rain, but once that is stretched out for a long period it grows stale. The game gives you the standard tools, such as a hacking device, gun, and ‘short-range’ stun gun. Some of the quest-essential items just sit in your inventory with no guidance on how or when they are used, resulting in some almost Lucasarts-levels of obtuse logic in their puzzles. For example, one part of the game required a hand for scanning to gain access to a Guard compound. Do you think I could’ve used the unconscious body of a guard I’d knocked out right next to it? Of course not, you have to schlep all the way across the level, find a saw, then find a scientist in a distant cave and take their hand instead. Why? Who knows? There isn’t anything fancy in the tools department. Nothing on par with Thief’s rope arrows or BioShock’s plasmids, except the stun gun can work from seemingly any range on certain enemies. I spent a lot of time just lining up my headshots and clearing entire sections of the guards with absolutely no threat of being caught or retaliated against. This isn’t to say that I found the enemies particularly challenging before I started abusing what I’m hoping is a simple bug that will be ironed out during development. The enemy AI is almost brokenly inept, a fatal flaw in a stealth game. I’ve been caught with enemies (normal, human, living guards, not the generic space zombies) looking straight at me before, only to turn around and walk away. I’ve regularly missed shots with my stun gun, letting off a loud bang and a flash of light, for the enemy to promptly ignore it and carry on with their day. Enemies are very, very slow to react, quick to forget about you, and apt to return to their pre-programmed movement patterns. There is no challenge to Solarix once you’ve ascertained just how dense the enemies truly are. The demo I played does have plenty of technical problems as well. Reports from other players about the game making them feel physically sick due to the field of view, camera shake, and visual effects the game employs, although I personally did not have this problem. Additionally, collision detection problems both mar an already not fun game. For example, you are unable to sprint off of ledges. Even teeny-tiny ones, such as a small rock or a box. Running away from enemies is frustrating when you’re stopped because of an otherwise unnoticeable drop in the terrain, resulting in you getting caught and dying. Apparently, Solarix has been in development for a number of years now, and I can’t quite tell what they’ve been doing all this time. It’s currently a technical mess with some major flaws in the enemy AI and equipment balancing, the story is completely derivative and uninspired, and the art style is just bland. If it wasn’t coming out in Q2 2015, I’d have been convinced it was a bargain bin game from 2007. While some things will more than likely be improved in the run up to release, Solarix is panning out to be one in a long line of failures, which is a huge shame considering the namedropping of System Shock 2 and Thief that drew me in initially. Stormbringer I thought this piece was well written as a procedural overview of a game session without loose ends. Too often writings on this site (and probably others too) seem to be written as if the reader has a window into the writer’s thoughts. Perhaps you guys don’t have the luxury of an editor to at least give each piece a quick look-see from the point of view of someone who isn’t the author. Maybe good writers don’t need an editor as long as you keep the reader in mind.