The Red Solstice

Game review by
Jeff Haynes, Common Sense Media
The Red Solstice Game Poster Image
Violent sci-fi tactical strategy game poses great challenge.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Classic good vs. evil, fighting for human survival against impossible odds.

Ease of Play

Very challenging game; difficulty ramps up quickly, unevenly. Substantial tutorials, tactics easy to grasp, but use in battle not always successful. Easy to frustrate.

Violence

Players use pistols, rifles, machine guns, flamethrowers against creatures, humans, monsters. Enemies set on fire, blown to pieces. Green "goo" shown instead of blood; top-down perspective limits impact of gore.

Sex
Language
Consumerism

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Red Solstice is a downloadable tactical squad-based strategy game set on Mars amid a biological virus outbreak. Players control squads of four marines as they fight their way through hordes of enemies. Firearms, flamethrowers, and other weapons are used to destroy creatures, blowing them to pieces or setting them on fire. Green "goo" is splattered on the ground instead of blood and quickly fades, and the top-down perspective limits the impact of violence. This is a challenging tactical strategy game; though there are substantial tutorials and hints, the use of tactics won't always help against the onslaught of creatures that are frequently thrown at you. The difficulty can be frustrating even for skilled players, making this a game for players looking for a challenge or for strategy fans only.

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What's it about?

THE RED SOLSTICE takes place in the distant future where humanity has abandoned Earth (overrun by a deadly mutating virus that has destroyed the planet) for the safety of Mars. The surface of Mars has undergone significant terraforming but is still subject to dust storms that last for weeks at a time. Unfortunately, during a massive storm known as the Red Solstice, contact is lost with Tharsis, the capital colony on the planet. Two squads of marines, Unit Black Light and Unit Night Fighter, are sent in to discover what happened to the colony and reestablish communication. Along with the single-player campaign, players can take on a survival mode, where they fight through randomly generated maps and objectives with a squad of four marines, or jump into multiplayer battles as one of eight players trying to accomplish the same goals against waves of enemies.

Is it any good?

Some sci-fi games seem to focus solely on killing tons of aliens, usually in a first-person view, a la Doom, or real-time strategy, as in Starcraft, but few merge tactics and squad-based play like The Red Solstice. Though you're in charge of squads of marines, don't think you can blindly charge through the creatures, firing hundreds of rounds of bullets into each monster. The sheer number of beasts that swarm through the 10 missions of the single-player campaign or that randomly spawn during the survival or multiplayer modes will tear your soldiers to ribbons, forcing you to reload and start again. To have any kind of success, you need to cautiously enter battle, using the skills and weapons of the eight classes of marines to gain ground, set up forward positions, and frequently repel waves of incoming monsters that throw themselves at you before you can successfully accomplish your objectives. It can be a step-by-step grind to complete some stages, even forcing you to strategically retreat to ammo stockpiles to rearm your grunts before clearing out a difficult checkpoint.

It's not simply the checkpoints that are challenging. The Red Solstice is a very difficult game. It doesn't matter how many times you go through the tutorials or attempt to follow some of the cautionary prompts: One tactical error, one lapse in your firing line, one mistake in triggering a skill a second too early, and even the best-laid plans collapse in a flood of aliens overrunning your position. You may even find that your AI will make some stupid decisions, disregarding some commands and leaving some squadmates behind to die. But most of these problems can be tied to mistakes you've made during the mission. If anything, the extreme difficulty makes successful completion of an objective or mission more enjoyable and drives you to keep playing even when you find yourself extremely frustrated. The challenge may keep some players away, but strategy and sci-fi fans should definitely put The Red Solstice on their lists.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact of violence in games such as The Red Solstice. Is the violence acceptable because you clearly fight monsters and odd creatures? Is it OK because you aren't seeing blood but some other alien substance?

  • Discuss strategy. Are there certain tactics that seem better suited for specific situations? Why do you think these work better than others? Is there a way to adjust to improve on those plans?

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