Stormrise is a Real Time Strategy game based in an apocalyptic future.
When the world was ravaged by humans, they deployed tactics to save it from the environmental crisis they had made. However, that only served to worsen the situation - firestorms ripped through the world, and the vast majority of the Earth was torn apart, with billions dying. A small fraction of the elite went underground and into a cryogenic sleep, ready to take back the world when the time was fit. Those remaining on the surface were left to die, yet somehow some survived, and mutated in order to survive. Time passed, and now the underground Echelon forces, led by Commander Geary, have left their slumber to take on the surface Sai army in a battle for Earth's remains.
After a cutscene depicting the back-story, you are landed in the tutorial. This gives explanations on movement around the battlefield, and movements between units. Doing something different to the norm, Stormrise has implemented a third person view from ground level, rather than the view from above that most RTS's have.
There aren't really that many controls - you can move the targeting cursor with the left stick and change units with the right, while A gives the order to move out. All units attack any enemy units they see automatically. You could theoretically play through the game using just these three controls, although it would be pretty hard. Some more button uses are introduced in the missions - Back loads a tactical overview and Left Trigger lets you assign certain extras, like Geary's flamethrower, to whichever unit you are currently controlling. The Right Bumper and Trigger zooms out and in respectively, for however long the button is held. Pressing X lets you issue an indirect order, which is an order given to a group you don't have selected directly.
Units have varying characteristics: Your main unit is the Commander, who comes in a big metal suit with big metal guns to match. The downsides are that they move slowly, and if one is killed in story mode then you lose the mission. The main "lesser" units are: Enforcers, the grunts of the Echelon army; Sentinels, who are defence groups with heavy machine guns; and Infiltrators, units designed more for high ground and a little stealth with their powerful sniper rifles.
You can also gain control node towers, which can do a number of things: teleporting in recruits is the main one, which is usually restricted to one or two master portals. They also generate energy which can be used to buy upgrades on the towers - the upgrades include weaponry, shielding and refinement, and have maximum caps at level three, although most towers will max at level two. Weaponry adds guns to your tower, which do more damage with each upgrade; Shielding protects the upgrades that have been installed, and refinement generates more energy for buying upgrades. A fully upgraded tower is a much bigger beast than it is with nothing, but it will still need guards to protect it.
Cover can also play a part in battle - you can hide your troops behind broken walls, behind pillars and, in certain situations, the shadows. Soldiers crouched behind cover will need to stand up to keep firing, and shadows only work on certain enemies though, so use of cover will only be a secondary handy extra in your battle plan.
This is a game clearly designed for more modern TVs; everything is a bit cramped on smaller, older ones, making the field a little difficult to view and writing hard to read. The game also tends to lag a bit with all the information being processed; a lot of the time you can see that you've wiped out a unit because the health bar disappears, but the enemies still run forward and your units still fire for a few seconds. There are detailed parts to the game, but some parts are a bit dull also - most of the terrain is either grey or dark red, and the only vivid colours are the intense red and blue icons that discriminate between friend and foe. For the most part, battles take place in ruined cities, with smashed roads and bridges opening up energy rifts. The sky has either the grainy red swirl of doom that is associated with apocalyptic catastrophes or an ashy cloud with the odd lightning bolt, whereas the ground floor is the usual grey of most tarmac roads, interspersed with cracks and strains of rift energy.
The sound is also a little lacking, with it usually being the sounds of gunfire and the occasional environmental sound. Sometimes there is a burst of battle music when you step into a battle out of calm, but that's about it. Your army will helpfully tell you when they spot enemy units though, and you are also informed whenever a unit is killed off or a tower upgrade is installed.
Sometimes the difficulty is rather uneven. After making it to the middle ground on Mission 3 on hard I was left facing endless numbers of Sai foes, with the battle lasting for hours. During this time, what little attempts I was able to make at forward progress were cruelly halted. The enemy AI can often outstrip that of your unit members - a few times I was slaughtered on an easy mode skirmish simply because my small number of men insisted on running around in circles while the enemy created massive armies to come and pummel mine.
If the story mode starts getting to you, or you just fancy a break, then there is both Skirmish and Multiplayer modes. Skirmish consists of you versus the computer AI on one of ten maps. You can choose whether to have a time limit or not, how much of an energy supply you start with, a difficulty setting for the computer and select up to seven AI teams to be against,. The objective is simple: wipe all traces of your enemies from the map. You start off with a master portal and a Commander, and there are several control nodes you can take over to generate supplies. The key to winning here is to get one or two control nodes fast as well as building an army that can withstand enemy attacks. However, the computer can handle this process much more efficiently than a player could, and will more than likely get an attack on you before you are ready for it, even on easy mode.
Multiplayer mode is just like Skirmish mode, except against real people. There is no option for local multiplayer, only online and through system link. This is a good thing though, as you will need all the screen you can get to keep an eye on what's happening, and cheating would be pretty easy anyway. In both of these modes it is also possible to choose the Sai team.
Although Stormrise is not a brilliant game, it is by no means bad. A few little issues are denting the game, which is a bit of a shame considering the jump it's made with the original ground third-person view, and it's a jump that is made well. If you are a fan of epic long battles, especially on the harder difficulties, then this is a game for you. The ground view may take a little getting used to, but with a little practice you can whip around the field with ease.
Stormrise (Reviewed on Xbox 360)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Stormrise is a Real Time Strategy game based in an apocalyptic future.