Despite my childhood passion for
Stargate SG-1 and my general fondness for Slitherine games, I could not muster the will to keep playing Stargate: Timekeepers. These are my impressions after completing three missions in about three hours.
Stargate: Timekeepers picks up at the end of season 7 (or so it claims, I haven’t watched the show in years) with the Battle for Antarctica. Eva McCain takes after the namesake senator and immediately gets shot down, leading her and Max Bolton to crawl around the freaking south pole in their standard issue fatigues. Their goal is to save SG-1 from some Krull who are shooting up an ice wall in attempt to get into wherever the team is. This gets Eva a promotion and a mission to Hak’tyl to help the all-female liberation movement.
The connecting tissue between the missions is this rather plain-looking menu and some in-engine cutscenes imitating a TV show recap…that also bafflingly and seamlessly transitions into the premise of the new mission. The young baby gamers, they shall cry that the game has no research, base building or RPG-like elements. But I have lived in the times before every tactical game was XCOM. I remember the Commandos and Desperados series. That’s what Stargate: Timekeepers is: a real-time tactics/stealth game where missions are more like puzzles than a series of combat encounters. Save-scumming is encouraged: the top of the screen not only shows the hotkeys for quick save/load, but also the time since the last save.
Back when Commandos 2 came out, they made characters have more competences than their previously narrow roles allowed. For example, everybody could disguise themselves with enemy uniforms, but only the spy – the only one previously capable of such a feat – could do it perfectly. Stargate: Timekeepers is closer to the old model, where each character has their own exclusive skills and equipment. The saddest of the bunch are Eva’s Tactical Binoculars, which do only one thing: make armored Jaffa susceptible to punching. It doesn’t even take time – establish line of sight to mark the trooper and start throwing haymakers. This mechanic is so disappointingly barebones that I only just realized that the Krull neutralizer that several SG members have works the same way, but only for the Krull.
And that’s the gameplay loop! Sneak up on the Jaffa-version of Paul Blart, Mall Cop, punch him out, tie him him up before he wakes up and chuck him in the bushes where he’ll phase out of existence. As you can see in the picture above, it can be fairly easy to do as guards engaged in slice-of-life vignettes usually have view cones of someone staring at their own shoes. Not that the patrolling ones are much smarter – as tradition demands, they will be easily be distracted by shiny baubles, whistling, thrown bullet casings…
And so Stargate: Timekeeper goes, isolating enemies, punching them out, and hiding the bodies in the bushes or yeeting them off cliffs. Sometimes, there will be interactable environment bits with a hologram of what will happen if you use them. Up in the screenshot is a Goa’uld tree-trunk grabber that will throw the log at the two Jaffa, killing them. It’s barely more exciting than the usual “distract and whack,” but somewhat better than Eva’s P90 burst, which covers a 5 degree angle and has the range of a shotgun in forgotten mid 2010s shooter.
She also flails around like an idiot doing it, at which point where arrive at a flaw almost as serious as the gameplay: the art. From the 2D character portraits to voice acting, Stargate: Timekeepers is bad. Everything you perceive with your senses feels cheaper and sadder than watching S01E01 Emancipation in 2024. Even the Stargate-y sound for pre-mission title flashes sound more like lightsabers. Yet even more awful than that is Max’s response to Eve throwing the tutorial-mandated bullet casing to distract a guard: “are you planning on picking that up, litterbug?”
Stargate: Timekeepers would have been a fairly OK Commandos clone had it come out at around the same time when the show did. By the time season 7 ended, it would have been compared, unfavorably, to Commandos and Desperados, titles that beat it in narrative, pacing, gameplay, characters, writing and audio. As it’s a rare Stargate game that actually gets released, having the first one in ten years end up a splat on the iris is a disappointment.