Genre : Strategy
Developer: Nival Interactive
Release Date: January 20, 2004
Buy 'SILENT STORM': PC
In the game Silent Storm its 1943, as I load up and start to play it feels like 1994. Why do you ask? Silent Storm brings back some of that good old turn based loving that I felt with X-Com, UFO Defense. You haven't played X-Com? X-Com made its debut on 12/31/1993 and had people talking about it for the next year. You couldn't be into games and not hear about X-Com. Countless stories of people sleeping 2 hours a night for weeks just to get at the game and play some more were rampant in newsgroups. You know in the gaming world something is rocking if you're hearing the 'no sleep' stories. X-Com brought two genres together, turn based strategy and resource management into one incredibly addictive blend. Once into it, you couldn't drag yourself from it. Silent Storm brings back some of that same feeling with a mixture of turn based tactics and role-playing elements.
As many of you know, role-playing games and turn-based strategy games tend to have a longer learning curve than your average first person shooter. However, find me someone that played X-Com through and I'll show you a gamer that has that box bronzed and enshrined above their mantle. Unfortunately, tactical turn-based games can turn many a gamer off before they really have an opportunity to experience how great it can be. Nival Interactive, a Russian game development company, seems to have tried to tackle some of this possible disinterest by adding elements that appeal to more gamers, great graphics and a world war II theme. At the core of the game though, there is a tactical, turn-based strategy game that stands on the shoulders of great games in the same genre like Fallout Tactics and X-Com. It also tries to differentiate itself enough with some features like destructible environments, full camera control, a great 3d engine with 3d characters and environments and some role-playing elements. As you get on with your first few missions in Silent Storm, you start to see that there is something special here.
Load the game for the first time and you get a decent video introducing you to the game. The voice acting starts to stand out here as a little thin. Unfortunately as the game carries on the voice acting doesn't get any better. You then have the option to select a tutorial or go into the campaigns. If you're new to turn based strategy you definitely want to take the tutorial. You will get some help as you start your first campaign if you want to jump right in. However, as with most tactical games, you will find yourself in some frustrating situations soon if you are not familiar with all of the controls. There are handy little tricks built into this game like being able to see different levels of a building and some great options for movement. There are also various options in how you shoot your weapon, aimed shot, burst shot etc… I love a good tutorial and this one covers just about everything you will need to know. Well, except how difficult you're going to find some of the tactical situations you are stranded in during the game.
The game play revolves around selecting your squad and maneuvering yourself out of various preset conditions on each map. You have a few different movement options for your individual squad members as you work through the game. You can crouch, lay prone, stand or run. These will come in handy based on the location of your enemies and the types of weapons they are shooting at you. If you change positions you may go from being able to see your enemy to not seeing them at all. Sound also plays a role in the game. You will see a little ear icon over the enemy characters that are within hearing range. When you are in an area with no enemies or you have just mopped all enemies in a given area up, you will go to real time mode. In real time mode you can interact with all of your characters and move them about as you wish. The moment enemy contact is made the game goes back to turn-based mode. As you are engaging enemies in turn-based mode, your normal turn can be interrupted by an enemy's detection of you.
This can actually happen on both sides. Either side can interrupt each other. If you come into contact with a previously unseen enemy during your turn the enemy will have a chance to act. This can catch you off guard as your carefully taking your normal turn with each character. Suddenly during your turn, you are detected and one of your soldiers is wounded or down. The length of movement and amount you are able to engage during a turn is measured by Action Points (AP) and Vitality Points (VP). Each action costs a certain amount of APs; the more complex the action, the more APs will be spent. Almost everything will cost you APs during your turn including, reloading your weapon, firing your weapon and of course movement. Fortunately working in your inventory will not cost you anything. Vitality points determine your health and how much damage you can take. VPs also affect how much a character can do. If they are significantly wounded they will work less efficiently. If your VPs go to zero you will faint and go unconscious. You do have the option of carrying a soldier who has fainted and is unconscious out of the game zone to recover. This can be done after only after your mission is complete. If your main character or hero unit faints the mission is lost. You will find having a medic in the group of great significance during many missions as your wounded soldiers will continue to lose valuable VPs after they are wounded seriously. Each of your units can apply medical treatment but the medic can heal more serious wounds faster.
Some complexity was built into the fighting system that really reminds you of a role playing game experience. You have a certain probability that your attack will hit the enemy. This is determined by things like where the enemy stands, the type of weapon used, your shooting position (if you are lying down it's usually a more accurate shot) the type of firing mode you select, your characters shooting skills and other things. As you can see, quite a few factors determine your ability to hit an enemy with your chosen weapon. This adds quite a bit of complexity and fun to the regular melee exchanges. A nice touch that Nival added in is showing the percentage chance to hit as you aim at various enemies. Should I use this rifle that requires more APs or should I throw a grenade? If you throw that grenade, are you a grenadier? If not, you will have some penalties invoked. My hero of choice was a soldier and he tried to throw a grenade very early on. It was if Shaq was trying to make a free throw from half court. It was such a bad toss the enemies should have double over in laughter. Speaking of your hero, your choices are an engineer, a medic, the soldier, the grenadier, a sniper or a scout. Each unit of course has specialties and bonuses as well as some liabilities. You can select from 40 different mercenaries in 6 different professions
After you have chosen your hero you will eventually end up at your base. At your base you can choose to go to the armory, the file room, the hospital and eventually the hangar. At these locations you take care of wounded, grab the ammo and equipment you need for each unit and find out about your missions. You can also choose which agents you want to come along with you. A diverse team is usually the best option. As your units level up you can select various abilities in your professional tree. Did I say the game had some role playing to it or what? After all Nival Interactive, the developer of Silent Storm, did create the Etherlords games. You can really see some of the role-playing background coming through in Silent Storm. As you progress through the game your units will level and you will be able to select various abilities in the ability tree. The goal is to continue leveling and adding abilities till you get to the top of your chosen profession. Each unit type has its own profession so the ability tree will look different for each of your mercenaries. The tree reminds me a little of Diablo II. You access certain abilities by unlocking some of the base abilities below it. This added dimension really gave the game some extra involvement for me. However I'm a sucker for leveling up a character.
You can select from 10 different abilities in all. Some of these include: abilities that affect the character's actions (APs), abilities that affect the characters chance to inflict critical hits, abilities that affect the character's experience growth and skill improvement and, abilities that affect the character's medical knowledge. As your character progresses through the game they also develop a bio and some awards. These can be seen in your characters profile sheet.
Combat is pretty rewarding and sometimes just downright difficult. You will find yourself doing some missions a few times and trying new strategies to make your way through. The environment is destructible so you can blow up just about anything. This, along with the graphics that are just top notch, make for a fun romp. As you're lining your units up facing challenges you will find new areas opening up just because they were blown open. As you fight you also will see how important the unit's stance and weapon choice is. This can make for a pretty intense fight that can often take quite a long time. The simple fact is, a good turn based game with this many options can keep you up for a long, long time just to finish one scenario. This of course is also affected by the difficulty you select. You will also notice as you play that positional damage comes into play. Exactly where you shoot someone can determine how critical of a hit has been made. Some of the AI was a little clumsy at times, especially on the enemy's part. And, sometimes the AI can be quite swift and intelligent to the point of being downright frustrating. As I moved in on a soldier with a gun, I wounded him. He proceeded to back out of sight, deeper into the building that he was shooting me from. He began by shooting me through the glass of the building. These are very nice touches and really add to the whole experience. Sounds of shattering glass and bullets spraying are all done very well. The only sound complaint I could see was the voice acting.
All in all you will find that Silent Storm has much to offer. If you're willing to put in the time and really learn the controls of the game, you will be rewarded with a lot of fun. Like any turn-based strategy game, there is a learning curve that hovers somewhere in the two hour range. Once you start to feel like you have some control over what is going on, it can be quite addictive. Nival Interactive has come up with quite a fine game here that is both challenging and rewarding. I would have preferred to have seen some more historically accurate scenarios. Historically accurate WWII games are the flavor of the day so it seems forgivable that Nival has tried to do something off the beaten path with the story. With a combination of destructible environments, a great 3d engine, role-playing elements and challenging turn-based fighting, Silent Storm comes up a winner.
Score : 8.0/10
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