Unlike The Red Solstice, which felt like a highly tactical and strategic title, Solstice Chronicles: MIA is a bit more of a character and story-driven experience utilizing twin-stick shooter mechanics. You (and possibly a localized friend) play as a space marine left behind enemy lines on Mars. In the midst of a civil war, the deadly STROL virus has made its way to Mars after devastating Earth, leaving nothing but disgusting mutant creatures in its wake. Left to your own survival, you explore forgotten lands facing waves of enemies as you attempt to make it back to a safe zone. Along the way, you pick up a drone left behind from the resistance forces (no one ever said you were necessarily a good guy) that serves to provide you information and a bit of humor in light of the literal dark situation you find yourself in.
A survival shooter, Solstice Chronicles may let you slaughter countless mutants, but given the scarcity of ammunition for your weapons, you may want to think about the situation prior to engaging in firefights. The game can be played using mouse and keyboard controlled or using a controller, depending on your preference. Drone commands include things like creating a force field around a particular area or scouting for additional items nearby. While I didn't have a chance to play the game cooperatively, it does offer the ability for two players to tackle both the story and the survival modes.
While exploring the landscapes, you need to be aware of the threat meter located at the top of the screen. The threat meter indicates your level of apparent "threat" to the mutants, essentially serving as a varying difficulty. It'll rise steadily unless you manage to kill a steady stream of creatures, but be warned: a full threat meter increases enemy spawn rates exponentially. You essentially get swarmed under a mass of disgusting, wriggling, fleshy creatures bent on murdering you. The threat meter at certain points in levels will auto-fill to the max, forcing you to be on your toes. The Survival mode is much like any other horde mode and can be played cooperatively. In it, players last as many rounds as they can, but with the possibility of using "evac" to escape. Evac will save your character's progress, allowing you to improve your skills before attempting it again but staying provides an increase in possible rewards.
The game also features role-playing elements in the form of points you can allocate to abilities. You are free to select the skills based on your play style, including skills that boost your drone's abilities, improve your chances of survival, or your offensive skills. Aside from that, you're also presented with three class types to pick from in the beginning (a fourth unlocks after completion), giving the game some additional replay value. Your weapon capacity is limited to only two at a time, but it's fun to switch between them and mow down enemies. Enemies themselves also come in greater variety as the game progresses, keeping you on your toes and forcing you to learn new patterns. Early on enemies are pretty easy to take on, but later missions ramp up the difficulty. Adding to the challenge are also enemy bosses that are littered throughout the story; these can be extremely difficult if you're not careful or not using the environment to your advantage. Even though it's a great challenge, I wish that the game included online co-op. At least the game's isometric view and graphics are an improvement from the previous game in the series.
Solstice Chronicles: MIA. is a solid twin-stick shooter. I enjoyed the narrative, sequences, and even the sometimes cheesy voice work. I initially wasn't aware that the game provided skill points, in fact I accrued 19 points before I even knew the system existed. My main complaint honestly is the lack of online support, as that was hands down one of the best parts of The Red Solstice.Note: The Solstice Chronicles: MIA review is based on a digital PC copy of the game, provided by the publisher.