Stormrise – 360 – Review

Is the real-time strategy genre set to explode in
the near future? Sales of Halo Wars could certainly boost the popularity of
strategy games, which will no doubt pique the interest of those who hadn’t
touched the genre until now. If this happens, the world may be a very different
place three to five years from now.

But while Halo Wars may be the catalyst,
Stormrise could be one of the games that pushes the genre forward. Designed to
be a down-and-dirty, in-your-face experience. Stormrise isn’t your everyday
brand of strategy gaming. It won’t remind you of the Command & Conquers of the
world, though you might have the occasional flashback to another RTS that dared
to be different: Full Spectrum Warrior.

Stormrise isn’t a mix of third-person shooter and
strategy gameplay, but that’s exactly what it looks like. The truth is revealed
the instant you start playing: rather than control one man or woman through the
whole campaign, you’ll command an army of elite, semi-futuristic soldiers and
mechanized weaponry. Still, the up close view and familiar camera angles are
deceptive. All things likely, your first instinct will be to push the left
analog stick, assuming it will move a unit in a particular direction. The actual
result is quite different, causing your 3D cursor to move around the level. It’s
a little unwieldy but is typically effective, wrapping around the environment
with top-notch precision. Players won’t need to be too precise though, thanks to
numerous goal markers that can be scrolled to and clicked on – causing your
unit(s) to head in that direction – with very little effort.

Units don’t respond immediately to your commands,
which can be a bit annoying when a battle is starting to heat up. This is
especially painful when some units are being attacked and your reinforcements
don’t arrive in time to save them. That’s the pace of the game and is just
something you’ll have to deal with. The actual movement, however, is very well
done. Even without the markers, moving around is a breeze. Stormrise introduces
a speedy navigation technique called Whip Select, a feature that allows you to
instantly jump back and forth between unit groups by pressing and releasing the
right analog stick. Unit groups are highlighted every time the stick is pushed;
tilt it toward the group you wish to select and the camera will leap to that

While not a groundbreaking function by any means,
Whip Select is an essential part of the Stormrise experience. Most of the
environments are very wide – you may have one specific goal but there is a lot
of ground to be covered. Thus, it isn’t uncommon for unit groups to become
heavily dispersed; when that happens, any one of them could be in danger. By
using Whip Select to switch between each group, players can command their units
much more effectively, creating a team-based feeling that likely wouldn’t have
developed using conventional RTS methods.

Glancing around each stage, you might be fooled
into thinking the backdrops – rugged, desolate and often filled with buildings –
came from an action game. The texture work is not on par with a high-end
shooter. But considering how many units are crammed onto the screen (not the
most ever seen but certainly a lot), the details are outstanding. Where the
visuals fail might surprise you: the character designs aren’t original and the
animations aren’t always great. The latter element is all too common for
strategy games, primarily due to the far away camera view that hides most of the
animation mistakes. But when looking closely at a group of heavily armed
soldiers or mutated alien-like creatures, you can clearly see if their legs are
moving smoothly and realistically – or chopping along with weak fluidity, as
they sometimes do in Stormrise.

Unlike most console strategy games, Stormrise
feels like it was made for a console. The developers fought hard to create a
different kind of experience within a genre that is often labeled too risky by
developers and too typical by gamers to be utilized properly on anything but a

However, while The Creative Assembly achieved
what few others have in terms of unique gameplay and controller execution,
Stormrise does fall victim to some of the pitfalls of console development. Most
notably, the mission descriptions are terribly unclear. If the game indicates
that the enemy is too strong to attack head-on, you’d think that the alternative
path (shown with a goal marker) would be best.

Stormrise wants the player to figure out the rest
– how many units to send to that location, how many to hold back, how many to
guard the control nodes (which allow you to harvest energy and order additional
units), and so on. Only a maximum of three unit groups can be linked together at
one time. If you have a few groups of enforcers (basic frontline troops),
infiltrators (snipers, essentially) and stalkers (large mechs), you may want to
send them all into combat at the same time. Even in the toughest situation, it
never hurts to outnumber the enemy.

But since you’re limited to groups of three,
you’ll have to move your units in shifts. Inevitably, the enemy will figure out
what’s going on. If the rest of your units don’t get there fast enough, the
first batch will be dead by the time they arrive. The cycle only gets worse with
consecutive groups. And with no simple way to make your allies fall back or find
cover (remember: units do not respond instantly to your commands), Stormrise can
be quite a challenge – just not in the way you’ll want.

Review Scoring Details for

Gameplay: 7.9
A unique strategy game best suited for those craving unique strategy games.

Graphics: 8
Stormrise is a mostly impressive, up-close-and-personal RTS experience.

Sound: 6
Nothing memorable. The voice-overs are annoying (especially when reciting
unclear mission information) and the music… My speakers were on the whole time
but somehow I can’t recall a thing about it.

Difficulty: Medium
Cheap aspects aside, Stormrise provides a fair challenge.

Concept: 8.5
The execution may be flawed but the creative mechanics are the best since
Full Spectrum Warrior.

Multiplayer: 7.6
A little slow for multiplayer, Stormrise won’t enamor the masses the way
Halo Wars has. With eight-player battles, however, this mode is worth checking

Overall: 7.9
Stormrise delivers a unique experience that will be remembered. It may be too
frustrating (and occasionally too repetitive) to convert those that don’t play
strategy games. But it moves the genre ahead and is no doubt a step in the right