|Release Date:||March 27th, 2009 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
Stormrise is a game which has been released at the wrong time. With Halo Wars dominating the market (cleverly marketed with the Halo 3 Mythic Map Pack), Stormrise is attempting to make its mark at a time when the much-hyped game is riding high, and as such will not have a chance to make an impression of its own, which is a shame, as it's not a bad little strategy game at all.
Set in the far future, Stormrise centres around two struggling bastions of what's left of humanity; The Echelon: pure-human survivors complete with massive mech battle suits, dropships, artillery and high-technology and The Sai: mutated humans with a penchant for massive, fire-breathing beasts and tentacles.
The setting is the post-apocalyptic world of the future after a weather-control experiment gone wrong has unexpectedly ripped the planet to shreds, reducing everything to a (rather bland) world of greys and blacks and constant gritty sandstorms.
The plot itself is not the strongest point of the game, which is not surprising considering the developer's pedigree of making cracking PC strategy games (such as the Total War series) which are great, but have no plot.
But the action makes up for the lack of a storyline, with constant waves of soldiers, mechs and massive beasties facing you- great. Of course, the main problem is that while trying to fight off the constant waves of beasties and soldiers, the gamer is also fighting something else- the control system.
Dodgy controls are a problem which has beset the RTS genre on consoles since they started, and for what Stormrise gets right, there always seems to be one or two things that it gets wrong.
First up, Whip Select. This is a system which makes it easy to switch between units on the fly. By pushing the right thumbstick in a direction, the gamer can bring up an orange line which can then be pointed at the icon of the unit he or she wants to control and then zip across the map to that position. This is a great little tool for keeping the battles quick and frantic, especially as tracking down units in console strategies is always a problem.
The main issue with Whip Select is it's a bit fiddly. While bringing up the icon is easy, once your units are spread over the map, telling which is which becomes incredibly difficult- all the unit icons look the same and are really, really small- making grouping units essential for success.
Grouping units is also a problem however. Stormrise will only let you group three units into a triangle formation, which is a pain when lots of units need to move to a certain zone. Also, the unit icons tend to overlap in the Whip Select screen, making tracking down which group you need rather annoying- Whip Select, while a good idea, is more negative than positive.
The second major issue is the difficulties I found when trying to look around. One of the main attractions Stormrise promotes is 'verticality'- units can climb building or towers, leap from rooftop to rooftop and fire down on enemies, which in itself is a very useful tool for setting up ambushes or defending an area, but being able to see the area a unit is moving through, and whether or not there is a way up to the top of the building, is restricted by the stiff in-game camera.
The camera is usually slaved to the right thumbstick, which has been assigned in Stormrise to the Whip Select dynamic, rendering the camera control useless at best - I actually had to reposition units to be able to see what I wanted to look at.
The camera also has a habit of going nuts every time a unit climbs a building or enters a tunnel, occasionally getting stuck, which seems a little odd.
And it's not just the camera that gets stuck. While most of the battles go off without a hitch, the units' pathfinding can occasionally get a little spotty, with units taking the long route to an objective or running towards and through a group of enemies, rather than skirting round them, resulting in a huge loss of resources which could have been easily avoided.
These problems unfortunately also translate to the multiplayer, which offers a large selection of maps of all shapes and sizes, as well as a challenging skirmish mode for up to 8 A.I. controlled players.
The multiplayer mainly centres around the capture and control of 'nodes' which provide resources to buy more and better units- basically it's nothing that hasn't been done before, but the aspect of 'verticality' makes defending a node a bit more tricky, especially when the Echelon gunships and Sai's massive flying hydra start appearing high in the sky to rain down endless death for your carefully planted sniper squad on the top floor.
Graphically the game is pretty solid, especially when dealing with the various greys and browns of the post-storm world. Each map and mission is nicely though out, with choke points and vertical buildings nicely planted to offer just the right amount of challenge to capture and hold.
The sound is also pretty good. The movie-style epic score suits the fast pace of the action nicely, though the voice acting can come across as a little hammy and units will often repeat the same line every time they're attacked. Some of the lines can be quite humorous, one stand out conversation was: Echelon trooper: "We do all the hard work, then those infiltrators take all the credit", Infiltrator: "That's because we're just better than you." Charming.
All in all, Stormrise is likely to be a victim of a poorly-timed release and incomplete testing. If a little more time had been spent streamlining the interface then it could have been something truly special. As it is, it's a game full of good ideas with potentially cracking gameplay and decent graphics, sadly let down by a few major flaws.
- Lots of units
- Fast paced gameplay
- 'Verticality' offers a new challenge for gamers
Not so good stuff
- Whip Select is fiddly
- Weak storyline
- Dodgy camera controls