Seems I am on a bit of a genre binge at the moment. Following up from Warborn, I got stuck into 1971 Project Helios. A turn-based strategy game from RecoTechnology.
What struck me with 1971 Project Helios wasn’t the gameplay or anything like that. It came from the looks alone. You see 1971 Project Helios is absolutely beautiful. So much so, I cared little as to how the game played as it was pure eye candy for me.
I have a soft spot for isometric games that really lean into an art-style that uses depth of field so well. I say isometric, as it isn’t a classic isometric style as such. Much like Lonely Mountains: Downhill and Frostpunk this is dripping in atmosphere.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world that has been overtaken by the cold and covered it in snow and ice. You along with a cast of characters you meet travel through and encounter various enemies in set-pieces that work in the same way as X-Com, Mario & Rabbids, etc. You endgame is to rescue a scientist that could very well be the savior of mankind! Have you seen post-apocalyptic films and TV shows? Then you get the idea! The story here is actually pretty interesting and frames the game really well and works to keep you moving forward.
Honestly, the story feels secondary, nay tertiary, in the importance of the developers here. Even the gameplay feels a little by the numbers and safe in order to present to you a stunning world that you just have to admire and one I loved being in throughout my time with the game.
1971 Project Helios’ gameplay itself, as said, is a bit by the numbers. That isn’t to say it is poor, it just doesn’t do much to move the genre on. But is that really a problem? Does every game need to do something new? Of course not.
Each encounter plays out in pretty much the same way, with minor changes to layout and modifications to the enemies and the like. It is turn-based, so planning is required to get the advantage with the usual sets of skills and abilities having an effect. Using characters who are better a short-range with those who offer more at long-range, then playing their skills off against each other can create some interesting combinations.
The USP here, if you want, is the effect of weather on units. Frostbite will take hold and forces you to play more aggressively than you may in other similar games. I think this works well within the story but it also covers up the fact the gameplay is by the numbers as previously mentioned.
In my mind I had this set in the same world as the fantastic Frostpunk. Playing the personal stories of one of the expeditions you send people on from that game. Everything about 1971 Project Helios would fit within that world perfectly. So much so I did check to see if there was anything about the developers being linked somehow.
The lasting memory I will have with 1971 Project Helios though is just how gorgeous it is and how wonderfully crafted the world is. It has so much variety considering the blanket covering of snow and ice and it is remarkable just how well this has been pulled off.
1971 Project Helios isn’t the longest game you’ll ever play and is actually over fairly quickly compared to others in the genre, but the time I spent with it are some of the best hours I’ve had in a game this year.