1971 Project Helios – review

The genre of tactical games in the X-Com style is going through what can be called a golden age. Developers and publishers have noticed that it has a potential of hundreds of thousands of copies (if not millions), thanks to titles that know how to bring interesting tactical choices, a significant progression of the characters and a certain feeling of belonging. to the events and personalities involved.

Attempts to innovate and imitate at the same time, taking X-Com as a reference, are increasing but the result is far from guaranteed. If Julian Gollop himself, creator of the series, struggles with his Phoenix Point to achieve unanimous success … well it is clear that the bar has been set very high and that the task is decidedly difficult.

1971 The Helios project is an interesting attempt in this direction made by the Spanish Recotechnology. The decor is a frozen post-apocalyptic world that we know very little about at the start of the adventure. All we know is that the hope of bringing the world we live in to pre-apocalyptic glories is in the hands of an indefinite scientist who was working precisely on this project called Project Helios. It was because this scientist was kidnapped by a paramilitary organization and it will be up to us to take the journey to free him.

The gameplay is developed on an isometric visual map with movements in real time. There is little to interact with this map, apart from documents that reveal the story and throw a little more light on the world of the Helios project of 1971. As soon as enemies are encountered, the gameplay turns into a structure turn-based and the map is superimposed by a square grid. At this point, each character you have has the two now classic actions which can include movement and fighting freely; many available actions have a turn-by-turn cooldown.

The tactic is strongly based on the use of hedges and, therefore, on the search for circumvention and, in general, an advantage based on positioning. The maneuver achieves better success rates when you open fire; all mixed with the classic “overwatch” and the specialization of our soldiers. The characters (eight in all during the game) differ mainly in the weapons they know how to use; for example, for example, ranged rifles, shotguns for close encounters and melee weapons which can be deadly but need to be adjacent to enemies.

The skills combine well, like the overwatch and the special skill that allows you to move enemies from the position they occupy. The different abilities are unlocked and improved by using the progression through experience points, which seemed to us to be quite mechanical and linked more than anything to the progress of the game and meeting with more and more powerful enemies.

Melee weapon characters often take big risks, but they can quickly eliminate any enemy next to them.

The tactical part is certainly the heart of the game and we were positively impressed by the reduced duration of the individual battles and by the fact that the right tactical choices really make all the difference in the world. In addition to this, you will soon encounter the mechanics of frost, that is to say the bitter cold which will force you to quickly resolve the confrontations (on pain of suffering additional damage due to the cold). This particular innovation will force you to take risks and gives the whole rhythm of the experience and a feeling of hopelessness and almost roguelike challenge. In short, the basic gameplay is discreet with a limited set of innovations, a good rhythm and some interesting decisions.

The story uses a rather curious rhythm. We say very little, and if it does not weigh down the progression of the experience, however it does not immerse the player in the atmosphere as he could. The characters you have have different backgrounds, affiliations and characters, but even these aspects are little exploited during the game and are only sketched out slowly. The game has three different epilogues and, given that the adventure does not exceed ten hours in total, a second and a third descent could also be envisaged.

The aesthetic aspect of the 1971 Helios project intrigues with its mixture of cartoon, stylized and cel-shaded. The scenarios would probably be more flashy, but we can still appreciate the consistency with a story taking place in a world frozen in rough temperatures. The music is excellent in the exploration phase while in the battles it has left us at least perplexed by the extremely pressing rhythm and the metal and electronic sounds which seem more adapted to a frantic action game than to a strategy at round by round.

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Healing skills are essential, especially in more advanced encounters where the blows quickly become deadly.

1971 The Helios project suffers from a few major flaws which must be mentioned. First of all, the camera can be rotated at 90 degree intervals, but it is not possible to change the distance from the ground and handling visual obstacles that do not become transparent is completely lacking. This means that understanding the situation is often extremely complex and requires an effort which often will not even come true; with the result that we were repeatedly struck by places we had not seen and by lines of fire that were not clearly exposed. We also saw quite noticeable crashes and slowdowns in performance.

Finally, 1971 Project Helios is a title that plays the task discreetly, with new ideas, competent gameplay, an intriguing story (but not fully exploited) and some technical flaws too. All of this seems like an excellent basis for a sequel that can develop good ideas, correct technical problems and, perhaps, take full advantage of the interesting setting with a more complete and structured story.

Source : Eurogamer.it