Review: Stormrise

I can't say that I'm a hater of games. On the contrary, I happen to love games of almost any kind. I just have some likes and dislikes just like any other hairless mutation of a monkey we call "Human". That being said, Stormrise is a newly released RTS game developed by "The Creative Assembly" and published by the ever so loved yet sadly still dying "SEGA" company. The game was advertized via the internet, and was advertized quite well I must say. The sales pitch was that this game allows you to fight in the front lines with your troops as you lead them into an epic futuristic battle for humanity. Developers also promised that this game would make you experience an RTS game never seen before, stating that "Stormrise is the first truly 3D, next-gen RTS that, via the 3rd person camera perspective, putting you directly into the action." They also promised that "No other RTS game combines this level of immersion and emotional intensity with the scale and depth of a strategy game." I was already excited about this game, what with the coming of Tom Clancy's End War that changed my experience of RTS gaming. I figured this game might surely be worthy of competition. Alas, after watching an amazing and compelling introduction and finally being brought to the tutorial stage, I soon found out that I had purchased a game with nothing more than a great big stiffy for itself.

Stormrise is an RTS game set up in a distant future where you play the role of "Commander Geary", a soldier who was put into Cryostasis after a seemingly Apocalyptic global disaster that almost destroyed Earth. People who were less fortunate were left to die in the ruined cities of the world. Some who survive the destruction mutated into beings called "the Sai" and are now declaring war on the humans for what they did to them. You, as the hero, happen to be woken by the Echelon forces (the seemingly last remnants of humanity) some time after the war had already begun, and are now given the responsibility of leading your forces to victory.

Now that we have the story out of the way, lets get down to the game itself. Though the game seems to have a compelling storyline, I can't seem to get any further into it due to the fact that more of the story is revealed as you play, and because gameplay was so incredibly bad I ended up dropping my controller, ejecting the game from my system and fighting the urge to chuck $50.00 worth of CD out the window. Yes I regret to say that I was deceived into buying a game that doesn't live up to its praise.

If it's your first time playing Stormrise, the game will not take you to a title screen or main menu. Instead, Stormrise will do you the favor of launching you right into the game. I thought this was very convenient because I'm the kind of guy that likes to cut through the red tape and get right to the point. Once done with the introduction movie that somewhat brings you up to speed with current events, you're brought to a tutorial stage which introduces you to the controls. This is where I started to loose hope in its gameplay value.

When I first started playing the game, I was reminded of Full Spectrum Warrior where the third person camera is fixated on the selected squad and the squad commander. This was a nice touch to the RTS experience because it puts you right in the fight, and with the random commentary you hear from your troops, it almost adds to the realistic vision of war. As you begin to learn the controls, you also learn that you can send some units, like Enforcers, behind cover, and other units such as Infiltrators onto higher platforms to utilize the effectiveness of their sniper rifles. The interactive environment did seem rather nice, but it was only until later in the game when I found out that cover doesn't make a difference in your unit's survival. No, I found out that an Enforcer squad gets slaughtered in the same manor as if it were standing out in the open. There didn't seem to be an significant defensive gain in having your troops hide behind cover and it seemed the only defensive ability they had was using their Riot Shields much like the ones used in Command & Conquer Red Alert 3. At least in Stormrise, your Enforcers have the common sense to shoot back even with their shields drawn. The only issue with using the shields is that once you pull them out, you can't give that unit a move order, otherwise they'll put the shields away and make themselves vulnerable again.

Another Issue I encountered was Unit Selection System. In most conventional RTS games, you're allowed a free roaming camera with a birds eye view of the battlefield that can often be pivoted, rotated and zoomed to the players needs in order to view the battlefield and his units. Because you're view is limited to only following your selected unit, it looked as though it would be rather difficult to select another unit that might be outside your view range. "Not so fast!" said the tutorial level as it introduced me to the new "Whip Select" feature that allows you to select individual units via the icons they have hovering over their squads, making them visible to you throughout the battlefield where ever they may be. That was reassuring for a moment, but once the fighting started I found it a bit difficult to get used to constantly having to switch between individual units just to give them a move order, and at times it gets rather frustrating not being able to select multiple units at once so that you can give them all the same move order.

What makes this experience worse is that Stormrise doesn't have a Unit Cap, so there’s no restrictions on making as many units as you want. This invites the old-style Command & Conquer strategy of swarming your enemies into submission, but after deploying ten or fifteen units on the field, it becomes very difficult to whip select through the cluster-fuck of icons that are displayed on your screen and actually be able to select the unit you want to command.

Here's a perfect example: On the first mission (yes, the first level of the game after the tutorial) after I had created a warp portal to deploy my troops into battle, I decided that strength in numbers would be a good plan, and so I proceeded to max out my production cap of ten Enforcer Squads and began strategically spreading them out in defensive positions. After all that was finally done, the Sai attacked. I saw that my Enforcer Squads were dying rather quickly so I tried Whip Selecting to my hero character who was in a powerful mech-suit that was capable of standing up to the few Sai Raiders that were slaughtering my men, but instead of selecting my hero character, the whip select tool selected the long lost forgotten Enforcer squad that was on the other side of the map, and because the only way to select your units was to use your whip select tool I eventually grew furious with the game and almost immediately after fifteen minutes of playing turned off my system and picked up a book for once in my game infested life.

After I cooled off and had a nice snack or two, I decided to give the game another chance. At this point the only thing that was aggravating me was the unit selection process and how it was so bothersome because it was unorganized and almost impossible to work with. After looking through the control settings and finding out that you can group units together, I decided to try and play through a quick skirmish to see if this would help my Gameplay Experience. Sadly it didn't help enough. The grouping system only allows you to group 3 units together, and you can't choose which units to group together either. No sir, the grouping system only takes your selected unit, and groups them with two other units adjacent to them. Now this may help reduce the clutter of unit icons on your screen, but after a while you find yourself back at square one after creating ten to twenty groups. Trying to navigate these groups is even harder due to the fact that almost every map in this game was created with confined and cramped environments, which is a shame because if There's one thing I liked from this whole game, it would be the amount of details, textures and graphics that went into it. Unfortunately though this isn't a beauty pageant it's a GAME REVIEW, for a VIDEO GAME that's supposed to generate FUN but instead causes FRUSTRAION and SELF DESTRUCTION.
I think, however, there is an easy solution for this unit selection problem:

1.) Add in a Unit cap


2.) have a "Unit Card" selection laid out on the HUD so that it would be easier to pick out the units you wish to command much like in Tom Clancy's End Warendwarss

On that note, for gods sake "Creative Assembly"! I know you were trying to be original but you've made the game look so much like Tom Clancy's End War that you might as well have used the HUD elements from the game as well! Then and only then can I honestly say that you could have made something worthy of RTS console gaming!

In playing this game, I felt that the Game developers wanted to make a stunning and thrilling RTS game, which is fine because they did very well in making a gripping story, but they just couldn't seem to grasp the RTS Factor. That saddens me because it had all the right ingredients. It was just missing two specific factors that would make it a great RTS game: Strategy and Gameplay. I wouldn't say the game was a complete waste, but when you get right down to it, it just didn't live up to its potential.

Stromrise in my experience receives a 2 out of 10.

Score: 2 -- Bad (2's may have potential, but it is furiously devoured by glitches, design flaws or a plethora or other issues. If you squint and look hard enough, you may find a tiny morsel of fun left on the carcass.)