Marc M, 23 January 2024
Let’s get right to it. Is Stargate: Timekeepers worth it? Oh yes, I think so. It’s an engaging game with smooth gameplay, lots of options for how you play and a collection of interesting characters and locations. I’ll get into all of that more in a bit, but first, some background.
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What Is Stargate: Timekeepers?
Stargate: Timekeepers is a long-awaited real-time tactical game from Slitherine. As with Starship Troopers: Terran Command and Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock, Slitherine is offering a game built around a fan-favorite franchise from the past1. Stargate: Timekeepers brings the Stargate universe back to fans of the Stargate SG-1 series and introduces the franchise to a new generation. As a real-time tactical game, you control two characters for each episode. Each has his or her special skills, abilities, or weapons and you’ll need to use them all – and at the right time – to succeed.
This game will be available in two seasons (releases), each with seven episodes (missions). Purchasing the game immediately gets you Season 01, part 1 with episodes 1 to 7 and then later, once it releases, part 2 as well. While Episode 1 has been available for a while as a free demo, I got a review copy to start looking at part 1 of Season 01. At this point I’ve played through the first couple of episodes and so far, I’m having a good time. I’m familiar with the Stargate universe, but not hugely familiar. I’ve seen the original movie and several episodes from the SG-1 series. Even with limited familiarity with the characters and locales, I can feel the depth of the lore in this universe, and I see the developers want to honor it.
Stargate: Timekeepers Gameplay
What’s the game like? The game introduces Episode 1: Battle of Antarctica by recreating the air battle over Antarctica from the SG-1 “Lost City” story. If you’re a fan of the series, you’ll recognize this introduction immediately. The game’s storyline begins with fighter/interceptor pilot Colonel Eva McCain crashing as the air battle rages overhead. Major Max Bolton has also crashed – he and Eva will be your operators on the ground for this episode. The SG-1 team is under the Antarctica ice seeking the secrets of the Lost City of the Ancients and a group of Kull Warriors are trying to blast their way through the ice to reach them. Your mission: stop the Kull so SG-1 can finish their mission. Here’s the plan – commandeer a turret on a crashed ship from the Anubis fleet and use it to bring down a wall of ice onto the Kull. Sadly, neither Eva nor Max has a firearm. Getting Eva a submachine gun and Max a sniper rifle will be your first two objectives. Along the way you’ll be avoiding death at the hands of Jaffa and Kull warriors.
Your characters start the episodes with a good set of abilities as well as a quick physical attack. “Physical” means you have to be right on top of an enemy to engage them. However, the characters do have distraction or lure abilities that can either draw an enemy in range of that physical attack or buy our heroes time to bypass the enemy entirely. Plan on doing the latter more than you might expect. As a tactical game, Stargate: Timekeepers doesn’t reward you for dashing in and shooting up everything. Remember, you start with no guns at all. Even when your team has weapons, their ammo is limited. Really limited. And unlike many games (but very much like the real world), there aren’t random clips of ammo or discarded weapons just lying around. Having only five uses of Eva’s submachine gun is a clue that you’ll be using it judiciously.
The game map is basically an isometric view of your environment. While it’s a 2D game, it’s helpful to remember the environment is 3D. That’ll be important as you make your way to your final objective in each episode. As you’d expect from this type of map, the pathway you take is fairly obvious, but there are often a couple of different options for following the path. Sometimes you’ll decide which is best based on how (or if) you want to engage enemies.
The game helps you as you go. One of the best features for me here is the ability to click on an enemy and see their field of vision. It might be static, or they might sweep the area, or the enemy might even be patrolling a location. There are areas indicated in this cone of vision where you can crouch and remain hidden. Knowing where the enemy is and what they can see will be key to plotting a path or planning an attack, especially since enemy views often overlap. Sneak up on one to take them out and you may find you’ve crept right into the line of sight of another. At that point I’m thankful that by default I’ve been getting reminders to do quick saves. Keep in mind, some enemies do have patrol patterns. You’d be wise to take a minute or two to figure those out so you can avoid an unpleasant surprise.
Part of the fun of this game is that there’s usually not just one way to deal with enemies. In fact, often you’ll need to use two methods, picking complementary abilities from your characters. Have Eva toss a bullet casing to distract a guard long enough for Max to sneak up and engage his camouflage ability. He’ll now be in place to punch and tie up the enemy, taking them out of commission. Or a camouflaged Max may whistle, drawing a guard into range of attack from a concealed Eva. Understanding and using all of the character’s abilities are big parts of enjoying the game and succeeding. In fact, a character might gently scold you if you’re not doing this, basically saying “…um, you’ve got a bunch of skills to work with…how ‘bout you DON’T just punch everything in sight.”
The game helps you make the most of your team’s skills with tips available throughout the map, demonstrating abilities and how they might help you in the upcoming engagement. You even get Opportunities, elements on the map that allow you to use the environment to your advantage.
The beauty of the game design is you can say, “Nope. I’m gonna punch them anyway.” The genius of the game design is that you’ll likely spend more time making that one-dimensional tactic work over and over than if you’d just taken a few minutes to figure out something more complex. Either way, it’s up to you.
One really helpful feature the game introduces is Tactical Mode. You can use this to plot out an action for each of your characters ahead of time. You can even synchronize their actions. That’s really nice if you’ve got two guards and you can’t take one out without alerting the other. Enter Tactical Mode and have your characters execute strikes simultaneously.
Again, you’re trying to be stealthy, so often rather than just shooting an enemy you’ll subdue and tie them up. Do remember to tie them up quickly. Here’s a tip. Your enemies will notice if they happen upon an unconscious comrade tied up in the area they’re supposed to be guarding. Here’s another tip. You can pick up the unconscious enemy and stash them out of sight…or off a cliff.
Early on, most of the enemies will be Jaffa warriors. Pretty much all of your skills and weapons will work on them to some degree. As you progress, you’ll run into enemies that are more difficult to deal with, such as Kull warriors or armored Jaffa. Your options for dealing with them are more limited, so choose carefully. Or choose a way around them. If see a bunch of Kull standing around, it’s a good hint there’s another path to take. Remember, 2D game, 3D environment.
Once you complete the final, main objective, you’re whisked away to a new episode, and a new setting, and pick up a new character with new abilities. If you successfully take control of that turret and thwart the Kull plans, you’re off to Episode 2: Resistance.
Here Stargate Command puts Eva in the lush environment of the planet Hak’tyl and teams her with A’ta, a member of the Jaffa Resistance. Their mission is to escort a caravan of supplies across the map, but they quickly find out that job one will be clearing the way of enemy Jaffa loyal to the Goa’uld Moloc. Eva has a couple of new abilities you can try out and of course A’ta has a bunch more that you’ll need to learn and use, all suited to a Jaffa character. One of her skills you’ll need to use: scaling some of the climbable features in the environment.
You can choose between two paths for the supply train in this episode. I’m not sure I made the best choice (and I’m curious to see what I missed in the other one) but I succeeded in the end.
Clear the path for the caravan and you’ll be plunged into nighttime on Hak’tyl. You’ll pick up the story with Max and another new character, Sam, who has a couple of really interesting skills. Sam can disguise himself as a fallen enemy and try to distract enemies with chit-chat. That sounds like fun to me. They’re facing a ceremonial sacrifice of Jaffa children. Oh yeah, we’re not going to let that happen.
What I Like About Stargate: Timekeepers
There’s a lot to enjoy with this game. Here are the main things I appreciated:
- It’s a well-designed, thoughtful game. I mean that a couple of ways. First, the developers really wanted to honor the legacy and canon of the Stargate universe, so they put lots of thought and effort into doing this. Secondly, this game rewards thoughtful play. I’m not usually a fan of a game where you just bull or grind your way through levels, so I really appreciate that the developers have created a game that lets you use some creativity to make it through the episodes.
- That thoughtfulness leads to another enjoyable factor. There are different ways to succeed. Different paths, different skills, different combinations and different tactics are all available. Do you think you could’ve handled an engagement or an episode better? Try another way. The game gives you stats at the end of each episode, so try again and see if you can trigger fewer alerts or use fewer quick saves. This variety also suggests good replayability.
- The game is well-written. The objectives are logical and make sense for the setting and characters. I appreciate a lack of contrived objectives and stories. The episode setups make sense and are well thought out. Perhaps that’s even more important in a universe that has such deep lore. Good writing to me also means there’s not too much of it. Yes, there’s banter between the characters as is common in these games, but it’s not overpowering. It adds texture to the episodes, gives the characters a bit more depth and hints at back stories. It’s pretty easy to ignore if you want to, but I think you’ll feel something is missing if you do. Side note, I really appreciated those “Hey…wouldn’t you like to be a bit more creative?” lines. That’s a really clever way of encouraging me to use my head and play the game as it was designed to be played.
- The game is beautiful. They’ve even managed to make the wastelands of Antarctica look good with enough features and va riation to keep what’s probably a pretty barren landscape interesting. Hak’tyl is gorgeous, with lots of forest colors and textures and I’m interested to see more of the environment. The maps are detailed as well, and that detail doesn’t just improve immersion. It makes the game more challenging. You really have to pay attention to see enemies lurking in the shadows. I learned that the hard way.
I’ll just add one thing that I really appreciate as someone who’s been playing video games since the ’90s. A free demo was available before the launch. Free demos used to be the norm. See a new game, download the demo and see if you like it before you buy the full game. Playable demos are exceedingly rare now and I think offering a full episode before the launch of Stargate: Timekeepers was an awesome move.
Stargate: Timekeepers Final Thoughts
To sum it up, I really enjoyed this journey into the Stargate universe. As I said at the beginning, I don’t have a great depth of knowledge about it, but this game is a fantastic introduction for me and leaves me wanting to know more. Aside from being a fun game and, I’d guess, a welcome new entry for longtime fans, it’s a good hook for new fans and casual fans like me. And let’s not forget, the gameplay is smart, thoughtful and engaging. I really like the tactical nature of the game and the creative problem solving it encourages. I’m looking forward to more.
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