Review: 1971 Project Helios

As a turn-based strategy title, I was immediately interested in 1971 Project Helios. What I didn’t expect was a blend of XCOM, Frostpunk and a beautiful cel-shaded art style. 

The plot has you control a group of heroes all from different walks of life to get to a scientist who could save mankind. The post-apocalyptic landscape is probably the main star here, as despite being a barren wasteland it looks excellent and full of interest. 

There is a blend here of how you control your characters and how they fight. You move them on the map in real-time, stopping to get into battles where it shifts into a turn-based environment complete with a grid on the system. Characters have the ability to utilise action-points for a different number things such as the expected moving and shooting, but with different abilities unlocking along the way.

Having recently played XCOM 2 though, I was surprised just quite how much has been lifted from it – it’s clearly a heavy inspiration. There is the ‘overwatch’ ability, for example, to set traps for enemies as they move across the map (which I personally have always felt a bit weird about using as it can turn games into a defence heavy strategy), and unlock trees to reveal more abilities for your characters but the game is pretty short and I didn’t really need to bother with it. 

There are a couple of mechanisms however that are pretty cool. Or rather, very cold… anyway, so the cold affects your characters. Frostbite can cause you to lose health and quickly your team could die (although losing a member results in a restart rather than an XCOM style permadeath). 

Whilst a hazard, the environment is probably the real star. In fact, the atmosphere as a whole is brilliant, as the soundtrack is a fantastic supplement to the action and surprisingly varied. Different locations keep this from getting too boring as well. 

The characters don’t really get fleshed out too well over the course of the game which hurts the narrative a bit. I wasn’t overly fussed as I enjoyed the turn-based combat and strategy elements, but it’s definitely a shorter experience than what I was expecting for this style of game, or again perhaps that’s an unfair comparison to the gargantuan XCOM. 

Even though it gets a bit repetitive after a while, it’s short enough to not annoy too badly, and instead stands out as a nice little strategy game with a great atmosphere that’s worth a look for fans of the genre.

Reviewed on PS4

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