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    Satellite Reign: Wet Future, Preview

    Nothing says “covert agent” quite like an excellent coat. Think black and floor length, Matrix-esque. Featuring a well dressed, little cast of miscreants, Satellite Reign promises cyberpunk dystopia, open world initiative and tactical, class based play. As such, the 5 Lives Studios booth at PAX was a poorly kept secret, attracting a palpable buzz of interest among players, media and developers over the three days.

    What is it about a spiritual successor to Bullfrog’s Syndicate Wars players so want? A sense of rebellion or power, the gritty world or just that nostalgic feeling? Mike Diskett, programmer and the original lead on Syndicate Wars says that while the 1996 title has guided development, “Satellite Reign differentiates itself with modern design elements.” It is more than a pretty remake.

    The most special part of the experience is clearly, as Diskett says, “class based agents, special abilities and tech research trees.” With a party of four, one agent can scan to see where a camera is powered, for example, while another hacks doors and objects. Success relies on being able to solve problems smartly, over brute force, though violent solutions may be entirely viable in some contexts.

    When asked about a full range of abilities expected for release, designer Chris Conte says, “Players will be able to customize weapons, gear, skills and augment their weapons. With armor, shields, cloaking generators, EMP grenades, bionic eye implants, explosive chest devices, plasma cannons and laser overclockers, we want the player to have lots of options.”

    This build begins with the need to break an agent out of prison, but the story will play out in a way that is also largely left to your imagination. Objectives can be pursued in the order you consider most interesting or useful. Rob banks, carefully, balancing risk with reward, or siphon money from people who use the ATMs scattered around.

    Indeed, the world is dynamic and constantly changing in a way that entirely disregards your goals.  Diskett says, “NPCs track all kinds of statistics, from how hungry/bored they are to how full their bladder is. They are always looking to fulfill their needs, like to escape danger or earn money. We also factor in base statistics; bravery, intelligence, respectability, affiliation, dependents.”

    Despite the detailed behavior of NPCs, though, the one (of four) districts we explored feels large, ominous, wet and quite impersonal. Of course, this puts you in the right frame of mind for ripping people off, or worse. There’s an odd feeling to first hanging around, scoping out targets, learning to play and taking little risks. The progression from incompetence to powerfulness is crafted by you.

    Interestingly, Satellite Reign is also Australia’s most successful Kickstarter, funded for 461,333 Great British Pounds. Actually, does that currency seem a bit suspicious to you? Where did the money really come from? (The man in the black coat behind me says it’s just because Aussie Kickstarter hadn't launched yet, don’t worry.)

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