Developed by Elder Games, Meridian: Squad 22 is a real-time strategy game that boast gorgeous graphics and well-polished gameplay. The game’s strengths come from a combination of combat strategies, light RPG elements, and a familiar atmosphere. What’s surprising about this sequel, at least for me, is how difficult it can be at times and still manage to keep my attention throughout each mission.
When I booted up Meridian: Squad 22 for the first time, I did not know what to expect because it has been such a long time since I played a real-time strategy game. What really brought everything together for me was how well Elder Games was able to present all the elements of the game. Little things like textures used for the water, lighting, and the structure of each level were some of the best that I have seen when compared to some of the more recent titles. While the combat was similar to games like Halo Wars and StarCraft, it was extremely satisfying and left me wanting more. It is really hard to find games that have all of their elements functioning in a satisfying manner and that is where Elder Games deserves the credit.
The interesting aspect of Meridian: Squad 22 was that it was mentioned within the game’s trailer that the game was developed by one man. It is really hard to imagine that when considering the elements mentioned above but who can really doubt that when there are talented developers with tons of motivation out there? With only four available missions, the developer promises more content is on the way to support the campaign. It is worth noting that this game has just recently left its “Early Access” stage. The question is… how worth is it playing a game that is still very much under development? The answer is simple because Meridian: Squad 22 is a lot of fun and a call back to some of the more established real-time strategy games.
Meridian: Squad 22 follows the events of its predecessor, Meridian: New World, and takes place in the nearby future. In this future, a shortage of water and food threaten the entire Earth and force those in charge to send out a recon team to the planet of Meridian to assess any possibility of habitation. As the team completed its course to Meridian, communication with those on Earth fell silent.
The plot seemed very similar to some of the films within the sci-fi genre but that did not seem to do the game any harm at all. Players must travel to this planet in order to find answers to what happened during the initial mission. Upon descending, Squad 22’s ship is shot down and players are confronted be scattered groups of aliens that are waiting to unleash chaos. This approach is really smart because it forces players to learn all the little nuances of the game – which is good for players who new to this style of gameplay. It was especially good for me due to my extended vacation from real-time strategy games. However, Meridian: Squad 22 eased me right back into the fold with the easy to understand tutorial it started me out with.
As I stated earlier, the elements of Meridian: Squad 22 were present very well and the gameplay is no exception here. The overall nature of the game is similar to others in the genre it terms of its basic functionality. Players simply click on the units that they wish to move and then click on an area of the map to send them to. Attacking enemies in the game works in a similar fashion as players can just click on those that they want to attack – most real-time strategy games utilize the same core functionality.
What I really enjoyed about this game was establishing a “base of operations” and having to defend it. To establish any units or additional troops, players have to collect the corresponding amount of Shardium (a form of currency) using drones. Like anything else in Meridian: Squad 22, you must defend your assets in order to reach the objective. If the drone that is collecting the Shardium is taken down, Shardium production cease and progress toward the objective will slow down and players will have to build a new drone. This action can be done by clicking on the factory and selecting the drone on the bottom left of the screen. The same can be done for any of the other units as long as you have the required materials to do so.
For example, if I want to build a drone that harvests Shardium it would take about 15-20 seconds for the unit to be created. Once the unit is finished and ready to go, it will come off an assembly line – waiting to be directed. There is no order in terms of each unit’s production but if you do not have a substantial amount of Shardium, settling for the cheaper unit may have to do until you can purchase what you really want to utilize.
It is important to mention that some units work in conjunction whether each other – each stage has an officer or two that you must protect at all times. If that officer dies, the game is over and you have to start over from the beginning as the officers cannot be purchased. Units such as chimera, soldiers, drone, and the crusader can always be repurchased but at a cost of being vulnerable. Since the enemy has a similar attack pattern to what the player can do, it is important to think ahead and plan out your attack so that you don’t lose control over the stage. There is no such thing as a “silver bullet” style strategy because what works in one stage may not work in the next one. So make sure to mix up whatever strategy you decide to use from stage to stage or even mix it up as the stage progresses.
There are various units that can be built from the start of the game but it would not be fair if I left out one of the more robust features within Meridian: Squad 22. The game empowers players to upgrade their strategy by utilizing a tech tree that focuses on the combat, economy, and defense. This tech tree – which can be upgraded as the player sees fit – will give players access to additional units, stronger combat, and a fortified defense that will have a considerable impact on the game as well as add another layer of variety to already solid real-time strategy game.
My time with Meridian: Squad 22 was tough and that is putting it mildly. Since my last experience with a real-time strategy game was a long time ago, keeping track of my units, fortifying my locations, and making sure that my commander wasn’t destroyed proved to be rather difficult. The frustration of getting my butt handed to me at every turn was doused by the game’s terrific gameplay as well as my willingness to overcome the obstacles by allowing me to change the direction and use of the units I had control over. Completing each objective gave me a sense of pride and even shouted at the game as if I was the actual world. Elder Games did a great job of immersing me into Meridian: Squad 22 that I will revisit the game once the additional modes are implemented.
While each of the locations in Meridian: Squad 22 were similar to other games in the same genre (Halo Wars), they were very detailed. Whether it was a beach, spacecraft, or fortress-like location all of the action suited each mission and flowed together in an impressive manner. My only complaint is that when playing in an indoor environment the action can get intense because of how narrow some of the corridors are.
It is a small issue that can be troublesome for more inexperienced players in the real-time strategy genre. Overall, the feel of each stage provided a sense of wonder and depth that I could not identify with when playing games that aren’t in the same genre. This is a testament to the developer as well as a pattern that I hope will continue to be improved upon in future titles.
The sound in Meridian: Squad 22 was nothing short of amazing. Listening to the tanks move or the enemies fires at me or even the explosions were very immersive. The quality of the sound is surprising and in some cases rivals some of the bigger studios – which is amazing considering that this game was developed by one person. My favorite aspect of the sound was most certainly the music. There was not one song that didn’t fit the engagements that I was involved in during the game. Sometimes I caught myself bobbing my bead to the music because it was so good and catchy. The developer clearly has a knack for this part of the development cycle and it shows.
Meridian: Squad 22 comes with additional modes such as the game’s conquest mode tasks players with taking over a territory by engaging in a sequence of encounters. Once players are able to take over the required territories there is a path that opens up leading to an endgame mission for everyone’s enjoyment. Personally, I did not try these missions because I found the campaign to be extremely difficult but satisfying. However, I do recommend playing these missions if you want to continue playing after the campaign is over.
Elder Games really did a great job with Meridian: Squad 22. The polished graphics were complimented very nicely by the challenging gameplay and were heightened by an awesome score. The missing modes, while a bummer, did not take away from an otherwise great game. Having been away from the real-time strategy genre for quite some time, this game has done it job providing me some great gaming memories that will make me want to revisit the first title in the series as well as other games in the same category. It really makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside when a developer releases a titles with the core gameplay and additional elements functioning as intended. Whether you are a seasoned real-time strategy player or are new to the genre, Meridian: Squad 22 is a great experience that is worth every moment the game dishes out on the battlefield.
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