Meridian: Squad 22 is a Real-Time Strategy (RTS) title, which was developed by one, single, hardcore developer over at Elder Games.
It’s your standard-issue Sci-Fi fare, full of futuristic machinery, vehicles, weapons, and other items, not to mention an alien landscape in the far reaches of outer space. Reminiscent of old-school StarCraft, can Squad 22 stand out in the vast, highly popular RTS genre and give its active community something to write home about?
Another Day, Another Sci-Fi RTS
What Meridian: Squad 22 lacks in originality could be attributed to having a one-man development team, in that, without lots of creative minds pooling ideas together, it’s easy to end up with a package that isn’t all that far from mundane. Sadly, that’s the case here, and Squad 22 fails to excel at much of anything in the sea of RTS titles available. It plays a lot like StarCraft, and dozens of other sci-fi, futuristic worlds: You’re in charge of characters out in the far reaches of space, controlling various machines, different types of robotic critters, rising buildings, and mining for precious minerals. The enemy lurks elsewhere, out in the fog of war, and the AI seems particularly gifted at using a single, solitary scout to find the location of all of your troops.
The characters involved in Squad 22 are fairly run-of-the-mill Sci-Fi commandos, with some variations in personality and motivations. The same goes for the overall plotline: You’ll run into some moderately interesting moments, but for the most part, nothing here is all that original, nor anywhere near revolutionary for the genre.
How Far Can Nostalgia Carry Us?
One thing Squad 22 has going for it is the Retro-ish, ‘90s style of gameplay, where even the graphics feel a bit dated compared to most modern titles. It certainly feels like something that could have released back in StarCraft’s heyday, or perhaps just before Homeworld. Unfortunately, this vintage look doesn’t diminish what feels like a lack of polish, and I wish that the decades-old charm carried over enough to get me hooked properly on Squad 22.
One challenge that Squad 22 faces is that it starts off on the wrong foot, with a very limited tutorial, at least in the Campaign mode. You’re introduced, weakly, to some of the main characters, and then thrust into some shipboard combat. It’s relatively simple, and you learn that you have this nifty Heal-All ability (for mechanisms and human-type creatures alike), but have to use it sparingly since it’s your only way to heal or repair your units. Afterward, there are some more lukewarm cinematic moments, and then you’re thrust into the meat of the game: typical, outdoor, ground-combat kind of RTS play. You’re taught very little about the mechanics of building units, controlling groups of soldiers and mechs, and it took me more tinkering than I like just to have a basic rundown of everything I could do with my little army of troops.
The utter lack of real instruction makes Squad 22 feel tedious far too early on, which is something I feel many of the less popular RTS titles likely succumb to in the end. I was glad that there was a pause feature, though it made the game feel more turn-based and less real-time strategy for me because I ended up cruising over to the forums more than a few times for information on how to get past a certain objective.
Sadly, there’s really nothing going on in Meridian: Squad 22 that makes me inclined to recommend it, unless you just happen to be a die-hard RTS fan that’s looking to add yet another Sci-Fi bundle to their library. The fact that Squad 22 is exclusively single-player might be a boon for some gamers, but I’m always itching to test my skills against friends and strangers alike once I delve into the RTS world. There is roughly 10 hours in the primary campaign story, which isn’t an insignificant amount of time at all; plus, you can switch over to Planetary Conquest for additional content in the player vs. AI mode.
The soundtrack isn’t half bad, and it pairs well with the ‘90s style graphics, but once again it isn’t enough to make me as attached to this title as I am to many older, heavily dated options.
It’s certainly an impressive feat, overall, for a one-man development crew, but Squad 22 needs some more features, polish, and originality for it to become a classic within the popular RTS genre. I didn’t find anything compelling enough to hook me, but I also didn’t have any glitches or negative encounters that would make me decline to give Squad 22 another look in the future. It’s a very middle-ground sort of game, but that doesn’t mean players can’t find something they love in this futuristic, strategy-based world.