Review – Stormrise

Imagine you are fighting in a war. You are within a small group of soldiers but you control all of the soldiers on the battlefield. It is time to issue commands.

“Corporal Dunnan, do you see the soldiers over there?” you ask.

“The Infiltrators, behind the-” Dunnan starts.

“No, no, no. Not those infiltrators, the ones over there,” you point. Pointing is actually the only way you can issue commands, because your army is not very sophisticated, which is surprising since you are operating within a fancy mechanical robot body-thing.

“Oh,” Dunnan says, “the ones by the refinery.”

“Not in front of the refinery-”

“Oh kinda to the side of it,” he says.

“Yes, yes,” you reply, “Tell them to go over there,” you say, pointing.

“Okay,” Dunnan starts, “Unit 392, proceed to the balcony of the second floor-”

“No, no, no!” You say, pointing vigorously, “over there! Over there!”

I know from experience that this is an inefficient way to run an army. I had this experience while playing Stormrise, the new RTS from The Creative Assembly. The makers of Stormrise are all blah blah blah about how their game is the first truly 3D RTS, and they are equally blah about their “whip” system, which is what i was trying to describe with my little dialogue there.

Similar to Battalion Wars for the Gamecube/Wii, Stormrise is an RTS in which the player controls an army by switching between units, looking at the map through their perspective, and then issuing commands. Unlike Battalion Wars, in which the player selects units from – essentially – a list, Stormrise makes you select units by “whipping” (or pointing) to them based on their location relative to yours. This inevitably causes the player to “whip” to the wrong unit all the time. It is also pretty hard to tell them where to go. Kinda like the dialog above. The Creative Assembly then adds to the frustration by forcing you to replay hour long levels when one of your VIP units dies.

All of this is too bad, because aside from these obnoxious and easily fixable flaws, the game is enjoyable. The levels are some of the best-designed that I’ve played in the genre, possibly because the game uses three-dimensionality in a way that is compelling and fun.

If you think your controller has been taking it easy, and needs a good toss around the room (in a fit of frustration and anger) to let him/her know what’s up, then this is the game for you. If instead, you – like me – sometimes play games in order find one solitary thing that you will not necessarily fail at, then pick something else.

On a side note (because I am bad at segues), was it really necessary to make every unit in this game say shit like “on the move” and “moving out” and what-not when you move said unit? It just starts to seem like overkill when the designers feel the need to come up with three different variations of this for each unit, and you get obnoxious stuff like “going mobile.” I assume that RTS developers think that if there is no audio cue the player might not be aware that his soldiers have received his order. What designers forget is that the player probably has eyes and can see his units move.

It would have been better if The Creative Assembly had included some more casual “affirmative”s and “orders received”s in there, but it still wouldn’t be much better. In the future, let’s spend less money on voice actors saying unnecessary bullshit and more money on developing awesome pointing systems. OK?

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15 years ago

That control system sounds awful. You think the designers drank their own Kool Aid and were just familair enough with their own controls to make it work and forgot that new players don’t have hundreds of hours of experience and might find it frustrating?

Here’s a whip system that works: Building the Pyramids: Hebrew Slave Edition for the Wii. Select your overseer, find the nearest hebrew slave, and start whipping with the nunchuck controller until you get a Sphinx, a pyramid, a dead hebrew or 10 plagues. Fun AND educational! Available in Q4 2009.

Spyder Mayhem
Spyder Mayhem
15 years ago

I am also looking forward to “Dead Horse”, in which the player points at and beats a dead horse in an attempt to manufacture an unending stream of Lolcatz posters and YTMND sites about Jean-Luc Picard. Whipping a powerful enough combo stream causes Rickrolling to occur, but look out! Make sure you change which dead horse you are whipping before the fad becomes uncool again or you’ll loose all e-cred!