Stargate: Timekeepers Review

Stargate: Timekeepers

by Alex Avard |
Published on

Format: PC

Previously on Stargate… well, how long have you got? With a short-lived 2018 webseries previously marking the only piece of Stargate media for over a decade, it's been a hot minute since the franchise last held much in the way of cultural relevance, and even longer for those whose only interaction with the series was Roland Emmerich's breakthrough picture, which celebrates its 30th anniversary later this year.

Yet, with a story sandwiched between seasons seven and eight of original TV spin-off series Stargate SG-1Timekeepers is hardly the most approachable re-introduction into the mythology of this once ubiquitous sci-fi franchise. Even those in possession of the full ten-season boxset may quickly find themselves turning to the Stargate wiki pages for clarity, as this real-time strategy campaign refuses to waste any time catching players up to speed; a strange choice for a lore-heavy television show that last aired on our small screen over 15 years ago.

Stargate: Timekeepers

Tonally, at least, Timekeepers successfully captures the campy strand of 90's sci-fi that_Stargate_ epitomised right from its cinematic origins, and even if you're left scratching your head around the details of your spec-ops team's fight against the Goa’uld, its quippy cast of original characters do manage to offer a surface level investment in the proceeding adventure nonetheless.

Enough to make a compelling case for bringing Stargate back out of its cryo-chamber.

Perhaps an even more surprising design choice from developer Slitherine, however, is Timekeepers' heavy emphasis on stealth. SG-1's pantheon of heroes and villains may have deployed the art of subterfuge when the moment called for it, certainly, but it was hardly the defining action of a show known more famously for its operatic space battles and military shootouts. Nevertheless, the approach pays off for Timekeepers, presenting a compelling flow of play in which you must navigate your team through an increasingly challenging set of missions whilst avoiding enemy sight-lines, or neutralising them entirely.

The winning formula revolves around a couple of key ingredients. First, there's Timekeepers’ squad-centred gameplay, wherein each playable character possesses distinct abilities and playstyles. Technical Officer Sam Watson, for example, can conjure up an enemy disguise on command, completely fooling lower-level grunts, and even distracting them in conversation to give his fellow squad-mates an opportunity to slip by unseen.

Stargate: Timekeepers

Colonel Eva McCain, on the other hand, is one of the few characters suited for open combat, equipped with guns and grenades perfect for dealing with large numbers of enemies at once, often as a last resort. All of these characters have been designed to be used in tandem with one another, and pulling off the perfect plan and execution, lining up their different actions in succession and watching the harmonious team-play unfold, makes for some of Timekeepers' most fulfilling moments.

Second, the game's litany of environments, structured across a series of linear missions, are tautly designed, and a joy to navigate, offering just enough challenge to test your tactical prowess without ever feeling unfair. Stargate fans will also squeeze some extra mileage out of Slitherine's clear affection for the franchise, with a number of nice touches adding an extra layer of authenticity to the experience, right down to the loading screen animation of a literal stargate dialling in coordinates to the next mission.

There are some rough edges, to be sure. Flat textures and awkward character animations hold Timekeepers' back from being easy on the eyes, and while none of its bugs are game-breaking, the sum of their parts can be enough to snap you out of its tactical flow. There's also the matter of structure. At present, you're only paying for half a game, with Timekeepers' second set of episodes scheduled to release at an unspecified date later in the year. Slitherine is pitching it as the next "Season" of its story, but having to invest full price in only half of a product doesn't feel like a fair deal at present.

Even so, what's here is enough to make a decent first impression, and while Timekeepers is clearly catering to the SG-1 uber-fans, others who can endure the baffling lack of scene-setting will discover an inspired real-time strategy campaign anchored in crunchy, squad-based subterfuge. The resulting series of playable episodes is enough to make a compelling case for bringing Stargate back out of its cryo-chamber.

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