Many games have tried to solve the elusive problem of bringing Real Time Strategy to console over the past few months. EndWar, with its voice command, was excellent. Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, although not perfect, was entertaining. Halo Wars was a little limited, but still not a bad effort. Stormrise…? Well, Stormrise is the latest addition to the RTS party and it seems to have brought the cheapest bottle of wine.
Creative Assembly, the devs behind the awesome Total War series on PC, has really dropped the ball with this one. Their answer to the console’s lack of keyboard and mouse is called the Whip Select system, and it works like so: the game is controlled from a raised over-the-shoulder perspective, so you can only see what your selected unit sees. You direct them by moving a cursor with the left stick and clicking on targets. Other units appear as symbols around the edge of the screen (according to where they’re standing) and you ‘whip to them’ by pointing in their direction with the right stick. Sounds simple? It ain’t.
In order to win a battle it comes down to having more men than the enemy. This means having lots of units on the field at once, which in turn means picking out the one you want to select, using Whip Select, is tricky. In the heat of battle you’ll often find yourself switching to a node (a spawn point, essentially) or a soldier standing miles away from the fight instead of the unit that’s getting shot at. By the time you’ve whipped to the right team, more often than not, it’s dead. Similarly, coordinating mass attacks is impossible because the game doesn’t teach you how to group units properly. So, you end up having to select one unit, order it, then whip to the next, order that, and so on. It gets really tedious.
Another potential enjoyment-ruining problem is that your men are stupid. During one level we trained a bunch of units at a node, and instead of awaiting orders they decided to rally on the other side of the map, which involved running past a rather lethal enemy turret. None made it alive, and we’d wasted valuable resources on a bunch of dead men. Thanks.
Things don’t get much better when it comes to the presentation either. Although the story is hearty sci-fi fare, and not the usual post-nuclear guff, the characters are the most detestable band of stereotypical douche bags we’ve ever seen. There’s a gruff commander with big shoulders and an unshaven chin, an irritating sidekick who just loves to party, a stern bitch sitting in your base handing out orders, and a mysterious girl who serves as an enemy/love interest. Yawn. The characters are almost as uninspired as the locations, which use more shades of gray than any other game from recent memory – or, at least, it seems that way.
Aside from the story, which is quite substantial thanks to the length of some of the missions, there’s a Skirmish mode where you can choose either faction for a quick battle, and an online mode. However, this all hinges on you actually spending money on Stormrise, and with more solid RTSes already out, we can’t recommend it.
Apr 1, 2009