Posted by Sammy Barker
Stormrise pitches a moderately engrossing sci-fi plot involving a race of human survivors known as The Echelon
As human survivors of a failed climate control experiment, they go up against the Sai, an evil tentacle bearing race. The game doesn't exactly do a strong enough job of explaining its premise, but the characters develop enough to create some semblance of interest.
Stormrise has a fairly lengthy single player campaign, coupled with a decent multiplayer affair and skirmish mode.
Stormrise's complexity is a double-edged sword. Fans of the RTS genre will certainly find both the patience and prior knowledge to really enjoy the game. And there is seriously lots in here to make for a satisfying experience. A wide range of units to command and an excellent node-chain based gameplay mechanic makes online and single player battles excitingly tactical affairs. That said, those new to the genre will be totally lost due to a lack of direction and explanation. As an incredibly hardcore affair with a deep learning curve, it would have been nice if new players could have had the option to switch on some form of help system.
Stormrise uses map verticality to great effect. As mentioned prior, the beauty of the gameplay lies in its node-chain mechanic. Controlling nodes allows the player access to new materials and units. Due to excellent map design, obtaining these nodes will force you to guide your units all over the environment, at times venturing into sewers and rooftops. It's the protection of these obtained nodes that is the key to success, and thus will have you using both the maps verticality and design to your advantage in order to take control.
It's not just in each map's focus on vertical exploration that Stormrise is innovative, but also in its controls. Stormrise implements a new system for managing units called "Whip-Select"; a mechanic which intends to speed up the switch between unit types. It works via the right analogue stick, the movement of which allows you to select unit type icons and subsequently skip around the map. In practice it actually works rather well but sadly presents accuracy issues when units are clumped together.
Something which is often overlooked in strategy games is the way your commanding units look. Because of Stormrise's pseudo-futuristic setting, Creative Assembly have really been given the license to get creative here. While references to the dystopian-cliche rulebook have been made, both troops and mechanical units have a consistent and interesting look to them.
As mentioned earlier, Stormrise may provide a hurdle too large for new players due to its complex learning curve and inability to communicate help. Patience and perseverance will eventually be rewarded, but the initial period of isolation is not particularly endearing.
While an innovative and clever way of tackling the problem of bringing an RTS to the Playstation, whip-select doesn't always work efficiently. When there are a number of units on screen it can be difficult to precisely select units. This is due to a clump of icons cluttering the HUD. The whip-select mechanic also means you can only group three units at a time, making moving forward a repetitive affair of back-and-forth until all the units are in position.
Depending on the particular unit selected, the game's camera is fixed behind and can only be rotated 360 degrees. This makes it quite difficult to see exactly what is going on around the map, particularly due to verticality obscuring vision. It's a clever method of replacing the genre's traditional "fog" method but frustrating none the less.
Stormrise is dark. Like, really, really dark. Packing a varied palette of grey, beige and brown, it honours its subject matter with a rather dirty looking experience. Put it this way, you're not going to have a crowd of people huddled around your TV.
Stormrise is heavy on innovation but weak on execution. An incredibly complex strategy game that will leave enthusiasts rabid over its intricate nature and everybody else at the bottom of a very steep hill named "Mount Learning Curve".