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Stargate: Timekeepers Review – Real-Time Tactical SG-1 Action

Stargate: Timekeepers is a real-time tactics game developed by Slitherine and in collaboration with Amazon MGM Studios and launched on January 23 on Steam. I have spent the last few days in the game with a new cast of characters and a continuation of the story of Stargate SG-1 beyond the final season 7 of the hit sci-fi TV series. The game follows a team of specialists who must travel through time to stop a Goa’uld threat and is certainly aimed at fans of the original show.

Stargate: Timekeepers features an original and richly detailed story-driven campaign spanning 14 episodes, in which players need to use a combination of stealth, skills, and combat prowess to achieve success. The first seven episodes are available from launch day as part of Season 1 Part 1, and Part 2 will see the final seven episodes released in April 2024. A point to note is that purchasing the game will give you access to the full 14 episodes. Playing through the missions does feel very episodic, especially with the ‘previously on…’ story recaps.

Your adventure starts during the Battle of Antarctica, where Commander Eva McCain and her team are supporting the SG-1 against Anubis’s fleet. The voice acting is decent at giving each character a believable persona, matching the game’s setting. Eva crashes her ship and expert sniper Max Bolton checks on her before the pair set off to attempt to utilise a downed ship’s cannons to blast an icy wall and take out a large group of adversaries in one swoop. Starting with no weapons, the game uses tutorial prompts to teach you the basics of stealthy movement. These tutorial prompts can be a little fiddly to shift-click, especially if you have both soldiers selected. I found I had to just use one of them to read the tutorials and I appreciated the instructions that also came with short video demonstrations.

If you have played stealthy real-time tactics games like War Mongrels and Shadow Tactics: Blades of Shogun, you’ll know what to expect in Stargate: Timekeepers. You can left-click to walk, right-click to sprint, space to crouch, Q and E to rotate the camera, and if you click enemy units, you will see their cone of vision. The closest half of the cone to the enemy unit is a solid green colour, with the further half being green diagonal lines. In the diagonal lines, your character can be crouched down and remain undetected. But if you try to use an action or stand up, you will be spotted. The enemy gets alerted, and the field of vision starts filling up with yellow. If it reaches your position, the enemy will alert all nearby units and start hunting you down.

Having played a number of these real-time tactics games of late, what I really appreciated in Stargate: Timekeepers was a timer in the top centre of the UI that counts the time since your last save. I made a point to say this is such a godsend feature in my first episode recording, yet I still fell victim to being so focused on planning my next moves that when I stuffed up, I could see that I just lost 3 minutes of gameplay. In a stealthy tactical game like this, a lot can happen in 3 minutes, and I repeatedly made mistakes and realised it had been a couple of minutes between saves which got frustrating. However, I knew it was my own fault and still loved having the timer there. I am not ashamed to be thankful for save scumming in a game like this.

The new characters we meet and play as are charismatic with highly detailed character portraits and unique skills to utilise, with some great banter between them. Eva is a specialist in automatic rifles, so couple that with Max’s proficiency with sniper rifles meant I could set up some awesome gun plays. Sneaking into position, I would often have Max use his blinding dart skill which stuns an enemy unit. Eva would then quickly dispatch the enemy, tie them up and move the body out of sight. If you do not hog tie knocked downed units, they will stand back up after a timer and hunt your last known position. You could just go Rambo and shoot your way through some sections, however you would quickly get overwhelmed, especially against the stronger units that require combinations of skills to take down. Subsequent missions have you playing different combinations of soldiers based on the story elements.

Characters we play as in Stargate: Timekeepers include Sam Watson, a trained spy and technical officer, is an expert on alien gadgetry. Derreck Harper’s drones carry out some of the most difficult tasks, including healing allies and deactivating hostile electronic devices. The core team from Tau’ri makes some friends along their journey. A’ta is a Jaffa rebel and sneaky thief that carries a Ma’tok staff for short-range combat. Then there’s Xugga, a powerful yet good-natured Unas veteran, who brings along a companion.

Each soldier has some common and some unique skills that you can use in combination with others in particular missions to progress through. The squad-based combat offers a satisfying challenge and a smile across the face when you execute a perfect tactical move. Every soldier can do a basic melee knock out and hog tie the enemy unit. However, where some great tactical moments came into play was with tactical mode. Here the game pauses and you can set each character to perform one move and one action skill. Once you click execute, they will carry out the skills automatically which was useful to take out pairs or small groups of enemy units that were clumped together.

Most similar games have a tactical mode, but what stood out for me in Stargate: Timekeepers was the ability to synchronise the skills you set. For example, if your soldiers are spread out and after setting the skills to use, you see that one unit is going to get to the enemy a second or two before the other. When you play this out, the first character knocks out their character, but the second enemy unit gets alerted and has time to take a shot at you. Before executing the tactical skills, you can click synchronise and if a character gets in position first, it will wait for the other character and then synchronise their moves together. It’s so satisfying to watch this play out and be successful.

Flanking manoeuvres, environmental hazards, and enemy patrol patterns demand careful consideration and strategic execution as most actions you do create noise. Experimenting with different character combinations and abilities adds further depth to your tactics. Some missions took me over an hour to complete, but when you get the mission summary at the end, it shows the mission only took 25 minutes. There were some frustrating moments when I would right click instead of left click, or I wanted to re-read what a skill did but instead of hovering over it, I would execute the skill and set off every enemy in the vicinity – and most often when I had 2-3 minutes since my last save – but these were my own fault.

I found the graphics in-game to be very well detailed and reminiscent of scenes from the Stargate SG-1 TV series, especially starting off in Antarctica. Though the cutscenes are of lesser quality, they are decent enough to connect you from one scene to the next. Other locations such as the jungle gave us multiple paths we could take to achieve the objectives. This made the episodes feel a lot less linear than other games and allowed me to feel in total control of the units. I don’t normally have patience enough to play games like this for multiple hours in a sitting, but having the save game timer and coupled with some of the skill combinations you can utilise made for many fun hours in this game.

Stargate: Timekeepers won’t be for everyone, but I really enjoyed the throwbacks to the SG-1 series, playing through the episodes with these new characters, setting up some great tactical kills and negotiating the long missions. It’s certainly challenging squad-based gameplay but rewarding when it all comes together. As a fan of Stargate SG-1, this has got me excited to start another rewatch of the TV series. I am keen to see how the story progresses when Season 1 Part 2 episodes release in April 2024.

This review utilised a key provided by Slitherine and Stargate: Timekeepers is available now on Steam.


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