Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
June 9, 2020
The first thing I noticed about 1971 Project Helios was how stunning its graphics are. The game has a distinct and colourful aesthetic. The character avatars feel authentic and are beautifully drawn, and the soundtrack is great. Despite 1971 Project Helios’s story being set in an unforgivingly cold and harsh world, the scenery depicted in the game still feels inviting, and it certainly tempted me to jump straight into its story.
The story of 1971 Project Helios starts in medias res; as you start a new game, you control two characters: Émile and Hanna. In the middle of an assignment where an anonymous client has ordered them to destroy a convoy, the two cross a snowy landscape to complete the job. Shortly after destroying said convoy, you discover that it belonged to Butch, a powerful figure in the game’s world. He informs Émile and Hanna that his ‘convoy’ consisted of a person, the scientist Margaret Blythe who has since escaped. After confronting Émile and Hanna about what they’ve done, Butch gives Émile an ultimatum: either find Margaret and bring her to him, or have his family killed. It’s up to you to find the scientist and save Émile’s family.
Gameplay-wise, 1971 Project Helios consists of turn-based tactical battles interspersed with dialogue scenes. While you start the game with only two characters in your party, you meet more people along the way, some of whom are added to your entourage. Each story chapter comes with several levels to complete. After completing a few chapters in the game however, I noticed that the dialogue could have benefited from some more polish before release. Dialogue scenes are often stilted and cheesy, and characters are dropped into the mix so quickly that it’s hard to figure out who they are and what they’re there for. A few hours in, I still had no clue whether Émile and Hanna were soldiers, assassins, or something else, and didn’t understand Butch’s role either. As a player, you’re given little to no insight into the game’s setting, and the lore of the game’s world isn’t really explained clearly. As a result, the world felt hollow to me, and I cared little for the characters in my party.
Undoubtedly in an attempt to create tension and engaging cliff hangers in the story, the game’s dialogue is often wordy and written in a cryptic tone. This could have worked well if I had had a thorough understanding of 1971 Project Helios’s world and the stakes characters like Émile and Hanna are facing. Unfortunately, I was often left scratching my head trying to make sense of what I was reading, and as a result I often felt like skipping the dialogue altogether. As I progressed through the first few chapters of the game, I also noticed a few awkward sentence constructions in the dialogue here and there. Not being a native English speaker myself, I can understand the challenges and difficulties creatives face when making content, especially in their non-native language. However, in my opinion the writing would have benefited from some edits. The fact that the game was released without this final polish seems unfortunate. The clunky writing only added to my confusion about the story and alienated me as a player.
“…battles are a lot more engaging than the dialogue scenes.”
This might not matter if the game’s turn-based combat was phenomenal, but as it stands it’s decent at best. Once your party encounter enemies, the game enters a combat phase where your characters and enemies face off on a traditional grid. Each character gets two action points per turn, and several characters have additional special abilities. Most special abilities need to cool down one to three turns after being used. Even though the grid makes for a traditional strategy combat format, battles are a lot more engaging than the dialogue scenes. Since every battle is set up differently, there is some variety in every tactical combat.
That said, the battles do become repetitive after a while, and the in-game combat certainly isn’t without its flaws either. Rotating the camera in battle sometimes obscures a corner of the battlefield completely from view. Sometimes, the game’s AI also behaves so strangely that battles can become quite tedious. For example, a few times I had multiple enemies insist on targeting one particular character in my party, even when they were standing on the other side of the battlefield. Many characters who spontaneously join you are relatively weak, which becomes an issue because once a character in your party dies, you lose the battle. When the AI disproportionately targets your weakest character, it makes for illogical and irritating gameplay. A lot of battles varied wildly in difficulty, too; while one battle was cleared in literally seconds, another battle took so many tries that it became exhausting.
All in all, I found playing 1971 Project Helios an entertaining experience of inconsistent quality; it had moments of potential, but mostly this game strikes me as a rough diamond. With a further polish I’m convinced that it could be great, and I am convinced that Recetechnology S.L. will deliver impressive games in the future. However, for Project Helios 1971, the gameplay just falls short of being completely engrossing for me.
- Beautiful visuals
- Great soundtrack
- Easy enough to grasp
- Lacks depth and polish in the writing
- Occasional awkward camera angles
- Stilted dialogue and unclear story
- AI can behave weirdly in combat
- Battles feel tedious at times
All things considered, I think 1971 Project Helios will be enjoyable for casual gamers who enjoy the occasional strategy title. Even though the game lacks depth and polish, 1971 Project Helios’ combat setup is easy to grasp and looks great. Its battles can certainly be entertaining for someone looking for a quick strategy fix. However, if you’re looking for a bigger strategy challenge to sink your teeth into, perhaps 1971 Project Helios is not your best bet.