Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Developer: Nival Interactive
Release Date: September 2004 (Europe)
So World War II is over. The Allies won, and the world is a safer place for it. Except that the real enemy, Thor’s Hammer, was not completely wiped out in the aftermath of WWII. It’s time to call in the Sentinels for some cleanup! Join up with this elite squad, make some cash and save the world. It’s all up to you!
This game is good, and coming from me, that says a lot by itself, as I tend to have very high standards in what I’m willing to give my stamp of approval. With the original Silent Storm released last year, Encore Software took X-Com: UFO Defense, Fallout, and Hitler and tossed them into a blender to create one hell of a smoothie. Silent Storm: Sentinels does for the original game what Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries did for Mechwarrior 2: it takes the best elements of the game and kicks them up a notch. It does this by adding in the concept of money. Whereas in Silent Storm, you were handed whatever squad members and equipment you needed back at base, this time around you’re going to have to work to earn additional members of your team and new guns and other toys. Believe me, they aren’t cheap, making the resource management portion of this game a delicate balancing act which is simultaneously challenging, rewarding, and fun.
The original game was good but had a lot of rough edges, I’d suggest checking our review of it right here for more information about the general gameplay so that I can spend my time telling you about what’s been improved in this expansion. Sentinels sands down a lot of rough edges, showing that the developers did pay attention to what was fun in the original game and what could use some tweaking.
Immediately when you start the game you are presented with the ability to create your own custom difficulty or select from preset ones such as easy, hard, and impossible. Now easy mode in Silent Storm was anything but, and here it is no different, but at least now you have the option of tweaking the various settings the developers use to determine difficulty (such as how much life and action points enemies have, or whether you can save in the middle of combat) in order to create a gameplay experience suitable for you. This allows the game to be fun and challenging for anyone from a tactical newbie to the jaded, seasoned veteran of armchair tactical mastery.
The game’s classes have not changed, as you still get to choose between soldier, grenadier, medic, engineer, sniper, and scout. However, this time around, your choice of the hero may be more important than before, since you can’t immediately start the game by fleshing out your squad with members of each class. You’ll be reliant on your main character to earn the cash to hire more and better squad members, so it’s a good idea to pick a class that you’re comfortable playing solo or in two- or three-man squads.
Missions have been improved as well. Nival wisely removed the clunky and annoying “clues” system, replacing it with a more goal-oriented objective-based mission system. You’re given a choice of missions back at HQ, and when you go to a mission location you’ll know what you need to do. The hard part is figuring out how to do it, and that’s how it should be. You’re no soldier in the army this time around either, since you get paid for completing missions, money which you can put to good use in hiring and outfitting your squad. You can also loot enemy bodies for their weapons and items which you can later sell for additional profit. Wisely, the game gives you a screen after the mission is over where you can see all the items that dropped and pick up any of the ones you want to keep for use or sale. This greatly reduces the annoyance of having to fill your inventory with useless sellables during the fighting or the need to walk around the map before leaving the mission area in order to collect all the loot.
Your base is both very different and very similar to what you had in Silent Storm. You have a HQ room where you can receive missions from the Sentinels commander and hire new personnel from the dossier file cabinet. This time, though, you’ll find new members come at a high price, ranging from anywhere between $2k and $50k, depending upon whether you want to hire level-one green troops or high-level battlefield powerhouses. Just like in the original, even the weakest soldier levels up over time to become great, so it’s up to you whether you want to take the time to train up a cheap, low-level rookie or pay more up front for a veteran.
The armory has not changed much. You still have a locker where you can store any items you don’t want to be carrying around, but they did improve the interface so that items in your locker are kept arranged in a neat little list that displays item names and quantities and is sortable by item type. Also in the armory is an Arms Dealer, an NPC that will buy any equipment you don’t need and will sell you weapons, ammo, medical supplies, and engineering tools – provided you’ve got the cash to pay him. He charges a lot more for stuff than he’ll pay you, as you may expect. I found that usually it was a better deal to just get new weapons and ammo from fallen foes during missions, using the Arms Dealer only as a last resort if you absolutely run out of some necessary supplies.
The medical area lets you heal up, but again, it’ll cost you. Depending on the severity of your wounds, getting medical treatment can cost up to $2k by itself, which isn’t chump change by any means. It definitely pays to not take too much damage during missions if you can help it, which rewards intelligent tactical play. You can still Rambo it if you want – just get used to paying large hospital bills.
The graphics and sound for this game are identical to Silent Storm. This isn’t a bad thing at all, since everything (aside from the atrocious voice acting) is top-notch. As gamers, however, we’ve long given up on expecting games to have good voice acting, since I’m sure hiring the janitor to come in and do a few sound bytes probably saves them some money. The environments and general artistic style work very well to add aesthetic value to a game system that already is a lot of fun, and it’s easy to start up the game and just get immersed in playing it.
This game can create some beautiful moments that make you just stand back and say, “That was cool!” In one instance, my hero was going down a staircase inside a building and ran into an enemy as he turned the corner. I used up all my action points trying to kill him (there was very little cover to be found nearby that would save him come the enemy’s turn), but was unable to finish him off. I had a sniper stationed outside, however, so I had her take a shot at the guy. The shot goes whizzing through the building wall (with a puff of dust as the bullet rips through) and catches the guy in the side, knocking him over the banister to tumble down to the ground below. Did I mention the physics system is awesome? What can I say? It was simply sweet.
This is a great expansion that does nothing but improve on what already was an excellent game. If you like Turn-based squad combat at all, you’re going to enjoy this game, and I think that just about anyone would have a ton of fun playing it. The learning curve may be a little steep if you’ve never played a game of this style before, but the tutorial is good at teaching you the basics and the ability to customize the difficulty should make this accessible to anyone. Unfortunately there still is no multiplayer, which is the one thing that would have put this game over the top. But, much like the classic X-Com, some games can be great even if it’s just you versus the computer. For reigniting my passion for the turn-based genre and keeping me playing into the wee hours of the morning, it deservingly gets the WP Editors' Choice Award.
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