developer: Creative Assembly
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Mar 24, 09 (released)
|» All About Stormrise on ActionTrip|
In July 2008 Sega and Creative Assembly revealed they were cooperating on another strategy next to Empire: Total War. The game's pre-release PR banter -- totally eclipsed by the far more prominent Total War series -- spoke of a revolutionary new control scheme for console strategies. The goal behind Stormrise was similar to what Ensemble Studios and MS were doing with Halo Wars - to bring an intuitive and enjoyable real-time strategy to consoles. Of course, the difference between Stormrise and Halo Wars is tremendous, both in terms of design and overall quality.
The population of Earth has been drastically reduced after a catastrophic event that occurred centuries ago. This event destroyed the planet's protective atmosphere, leaving the remaining survivors to roam through a bleak and barren world. People adapted to such harsh conditions in order to survive, which eventually led to the creation of two different races - the Echelon and the Sai. The relentless battle between the two factions escalates, as the rebuilt civilization lies on the brink of another cataclysm.
The tutorial of Stormrise introduces players to the so-called Whip Select control system, which supposedly offers a swift and easy way to issue orders to your troops. Having gone through the first portion of the tutorial, I immediately recognized the potential of the control scheme. As soon as I got a chance to maneuver multiple units, things got increasingly frustrating. In theory, Whip Select sounds like just the ticket for console real-time strategies. In practice, however, things are quite different. Instead of coming up with a user-friendly unit control system, the developers created what's probably going to go down in gaming history as the worst control scheme ever designed. Now, I know that may seem too harsh, but just hear me out.
Stormrise shuns the typical top-down perspective, making you experience the action up-close and personal, while in command of individual squads. Switching to other squads is a real pain. In order to move to the next group of units, you use the right thumbstick to swivel a line placed in the center of the screen. You release the stick when the desired unit icon is highlighted. The system works fine when there are, say, two or three squads on the battlefield. Anything more than that, and utter confusion ensues. The screen gets cluttered with too many icons, leaving you to hover aimlessly from unit to unit, not knowing which is which.
We did see a few neat ideas at work. Assuming control of power nodes to accumulate resources was cool. These nodes may be upgraded and reinforced with turrets that provide adequate support for your troops. These benefits won't do you much good when dealing with other major issues. One of the biggest problems is that players don't have a clear view of the map. During my time with the game, I had trouble coordinating units on higher ground with those on lower ground. In fact, organizing any sort of tactical approach towards enemy positions felt like an agonizing chore. The incredibly dumb AI and awful pathfinding doesn't improve the situation. There's an overhead view on offer, which instead of giving you an accurate depiction of the battlefield, just hurls you into a half-done virtual presentation of the surrounding area. Calling this a map would be the understatement of the year.
The gameplay mechanics still seem interesting and they should've been synchronized with a similarly potential control system. Sadly, all of that was nothing more than empty marketing bullshit the devs kept promising before release. In reality, there's nothing to keep you occupied in this game. Even the story seems unfinished and the voice acting is really quite pathetic. Visually, this game gets lost in the shuffle of countless underdeveloped console titles.
In light of the game's ambitiously advertised, but ultimately disastrous technology, one has to wonder just how many hours were actually spent on testing this shambles of a game. Whoever worked on this project should've been sent to do something more useful. Hm, like ironing out bugs in Empire: Total War? Stormrise is a great example of how to mess up a great concept. There's a multiplayer component to experience, albeit we strongly advise you skip that as well, seeing as it inherits most of the flaws from the single-player.
2.8 Don't Bother
There is potential here... if you're persistent enough to look;
Extremely flawed controls, lousy pathfinding and AI, a game that never should've been let out the door, Creative Assembly's greatest flop.
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