Genre: Turn Based Strategy
Developer: Nival Interactive
Release Date: TBA
Pre-order 'SILENT STORM': PC
Silent Storm, in its simplest description, is a squad level, turn based, tactical strategy game with RPG elements set in a slightly alternate World War II setting, and features a well done 3D graphics engine. There are over 75 authentic and experimental weapons from the World War II era, along with dozens of various items and pieces of equipment from that time period. The game allows the player to play as either the Axis or the Allied, and each side has their own separate campaign. The main plot of both campaigns is centered around a small scale infiltration of German Nazis into England. The Nazis plans are to deploy one of their infamous secret weapons upon England, and the British, for their part, simply want the Germans to leave, preferably dead first.
As good as all of that might sound however, it doesn’t come close to describing everything this game offers. Hold on to your hats gamers, I have a live one here.
The first thing you need to know about Silent Storm is the graphics, which are highly detailed and well done. Everything is done in beautiful 3D, yet manages to capture much of the color and sharpness of sprite based graphics at times. From what I have seen to this point, Silent Storm takes 3D graphics a few steps forward with this engine. All of the usual accoutrements are present here, from subtle, dynamic lighting, nicely done textures and animation, to awesome weather effects. And if that wasn’t enough, the game features a camera system that allows the player to zoom, rotate, adjust the pitch, and essentially contort the screen to any angle they might prefer. This system is at once extremely sophisticated, yet so well implemented and easy to use that I found myself flying around with it in no time. The graphics engine in this game is going to stand out as being one of the better engines, at least to this point in our gaming history.
The next issue one will notice with Silent Storm is the extreme amount of action, depth, and subtle nuance you notice when you play it. As I mentioned, Silent Storm is squad based, but what I didn’t mention was that the player can create that squad entirely from scratch of they like, much like an RPG. They can choose from a host of base characters, each of whom represent a variety of nationalities, genders, and personalities, or they can combine these various characteristics into their own creations. There are the standard class types, such as machine gunners, scouts, and medics, but you may also create your own class as well. This aspect of the game really adds to the overall depth and fascination with the game. I have said many times before that when gamers get to play a game with characters they created themselves, it really makes the game much more enjoyable, and that is truly the case here.
Silent Storm is played in missions. When you first start out a mission, the game is almost played in real time. But once the bullets start flying, the action switches to an extremely well done turn based mode, and generally stays that way throughout the remainder of the mission. When in turn based, each character in your squad has several action points that they can use to perform a dizzying array of different tasks. Everything from walking and crawling, lock picking, setting booby traps, using a weapon, or simply snooping around. There are so many different actions available to the player that I couldn’t get into all of them here if I wanted to.
To add yet another level of strategy to the game, as well as a fair degree of personalization, the characters in your squad earn points from time to time that they can apply to a variety of different skills the game offers, depending on their class. Skills range from things like weapon familiarity and enemy recognition to more specific abilities, like carrying wounded bodies more efficiently and improving medical skills. It needs to be said here that, because there are so many different types of skills, this aspect of the game, combined with the initial character creation, is going to allow for some truly diverse character development, making the game even more fun to play.
But still, it’s in the details. Combat in Silent Storm is often times an all out bullet fest, and extremely fun to play through. The turn based system this game employs allows for a lot of flexibility within combat, including a well implemented system of opportunity fire. For those who aren’t familiar with turn based, opportunity fire occurs when the enemy is having their turn, and one of them happens to alert one of your characters to their presence. If that character has a suitable amount of action points left, they can interrupt the enemies turn and perform and action of their own, such as attacking or moving. Although this system is not new, I have never seen it implemented so well within a game. The fact is, there is so much opportunity fire and side switching going on with turns that the game almost feels like real time, although it is obviously not. The system is extremely well done, and is truly a lot of fun to play with.
Silent Storm has an amazing level of nuance to it that really captivates the player. Characters in the game are highly animated, not only during movement and firing, but also when performing specific tasks, and even when dying. Enemies slump over stairs or railings when they get shot, and even fall from heights. Whenever a tense enemy moment comes along, the camera zooms in for an extreme close up on the action, showing off the games amazing graphics even further. There is a lot of chitter chatter going on between your characters and the enemy, which really adds to the tension. Your characters adjust their positions and fidget around during the enemies turn, instead of just sitting there looking generic. Virtually everything in the game world is destructible; not only containers and specific items, but whole floors and even entire buildings can be leveled in a dizzying display of smoke, fire, and chaos. Individual bullet holes riddle the area when someone fires off some rounds. The game features a physics system that is simply unbelievable, with bullets piercing through thin walls, and even passing through one enemy and going into another!
The game also appears to have a diverse set of environments to play in. Everything from ruins, small towns, and winter environments, to even more specific locales. The missions also feel just right, usually giving you a few objectives, and limiting the map to the more manageable sizes. In my opinion, many turn based games of the past failed in this regard, requiring the player to traipse across vast hugeness to complete a mission, ten steps at a time. Everything feels just right, and none of the missions got old before I finished them.
Another good note with this game is that, despite the amazing depth and clarity of the graphics, it doesn’t appear that Silent Storm is going to require too much in the way of hardware to perform acceptably. With the beta, I did experience some abnormalities in the graphics at the lower system settings. Because betas are rarely optimized, I changed all of the settings to the highest level of detail, including dynamic lighting. I am happy to report that with my P4 1.5 768 MB RAM and GeoForce 4, the only adjustment I had to make was to reduce the resolution down to 16 bit, which I consider livable. At 1028x768x16 and all the other settings maxed out, Silent Storm ran fine with the above system configuration, and that was with a beta. It is likely there will be improvement in this area with the retail version, and do keep in mind that developers of these types of games often release patches down the road that can greatly improve the games performance on lower end systems. In any event, the graphics run fine, even if they stay the way they are.
I could go on and on with this game. We have a real doozy on our hands here. Silent Storm is deep, good looking, and fun to play. It is even a great cure if, like me, you happen to be suffering from a Rise of Nations addiction. It won’t totally cure you, but it does help. The game has a real Jagged Alliance 2 feeling to it, and if you can picture that game with robust 3D graphics and fully deployable camera then you at least have a good idea of what Silent Storm is all about. Toss in a little XCOM for good measure. It’s not the complete picture, but you’re on the right track. A demo of the game was just released a couple of days ago and it is of the upper echelon variety, complete with a tutorial and a few missions. If you have any interest in this game at all then I would strongly encourage you to check that demo out. I’m sure it is available here at the site. If not, yap at Rainier. He’s the one in charge of this rodeo.
I realize that I have only seen a beta and a demo, but I am here to tell you gamers that Silent Storm is going to be a classic. This isn’t corporate, fan boy hype I’m spewing here people. I’m not making any money for doing this. No rate exchanges going on. Shoot, the two beta CD’s they sent me didn’t even come in a jewel case. No, this is pure speak, for the love of the game. If you’re into strategy, tactics, World War II history and weapons, turn based, or simply love great games, then plan on scooping up Silent Storm here in another couple of weeks. It’s simply going to be a must have.
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