Whip It: Stormrise

By Alec Meer on February 17th, 2009 at 11:45 pm.

Pawing through the dusty tomes of the RPS archive, it seems our selective history-making does not encompass a real-time strategy game going under the name of Stormrise. This is odd for two reasons. Firstly, because apocalypse-fiction RTSes tend to make us go ‘ooh’ and tremble slightly, like a baby deer in love. Secondly, because it’s made by the Creative Assembly – as in the Total War folks. How did we miss this one? It’s the hose again for us.

Bizarrely, it hasn’t had much profile, which could perhaps be prescribed to the fact that it’s coming out at a very similar time to CA’s own Empire: Total War, to Relic’s much-anticipated Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II (which I’ve been playing today, while my housemate played Warhammer Online in the next room. Truly, we are Geekflat) and also to Microsoft/Ensemble’s Halo Wars on that there three hundred and wotsit machine. It’s a silly month to be releasing any other RTS, in other words.

Stormrise is made for console as well as PC, and the immediate presumption is to lump it in with CA’s less accomplished Total Warrior titles. In fact, Stormrise is made by a different arm of the company – the Aussie branch, specifically – and it has very different ambitions.

To offer a control system that’s faster and more intuitive than in any previous RTS, for one. To play on a truly 3D map that incorporates ‘verticality’ (i.e. multiple terrain levels, such as subterranean tunnels and building rooftops) rather than simply a 2D playing field with a rotatable camera, for another.

I’m writing about Stormrise at length for other taskmasters (far kindlier ones than RPS – Jim’s just bought a new electro-flail, while John says he won’t give my Twiglets back until I write a new Worst Ninja instalment) so must be briefish here, but it is only True And Right to alert your attention to this ambitious future-war title. Enjoy some tasters of Stormrise’s videowatch, soundtracklisten and gameplay below.

Here’s the (tiresomely trademarked and Thus Capitalised) Whip Select system in action:

From what CA told me, this is supposed to become second nature after a while – almost a reflex nudge of the mouse/thumbstick in a certain direction to select whichever unit lies in more or less a matching direction in-game – and regardless of how far away from your current position it is. Clever, so long as it doesn’t fall prey to Wiimote-like vagary in practice. I should get it to try it firsthand very soon.

Here’s a general trailer, from in-game footage but using angles you don’t see in the game proper.

Yes, it’s very much Gears of War brown’n'grey, but it’s fairly spectacular-looking, and you wouldn’t guess it was based on the Medieval II engine.

And finally, a couple of developer diaries:

Could be an interesting one, no? It’s CA both going pop and trying something very new for them – a traditional-model RTS, with resources and base-building, but one with a genuinely novel control system and the potential to follow up on Homeworld’s true 3D play in a way very few other strategy games have bothered with. It’s due next month – can’t wait to give this’un a spin, and hopefully that sudden lurch from details to release isn’t a portent of doom.

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41 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge Kelron says:

    It does look interesting, but in fine PC-elitist tradition I’m going to worry that the PC version may be compromised by the focus on consoles. The control system looks to be a good way of handling RTS controls with a gamepad, but I’m not seeing an advantage over traditional mouse & keyboard control for PC users. Hopefully they don’t force us into using it, or there’s more to it than I can see in the video.

  2. Dain says:

    Does the whole whip select thing actually have any significance to us non console types?

    Lots of people are working very hard to bring RTS games to consoles aren’t they?

  3. malkav11 says:

    My main association with this game is Gamestop claiming it has an “all-new third person camera perspective, bringing an unprecedented level of immersion.” Conveniently ignoring things like, oh, Sacrifice and Battlezone that did that “all-new third person camera perspective” many years ago.

  4. Fumarole says:

    How long now before a Total War game ends up on a console? When it happens I really hope the PC version does not suffer for it.

  5. Colin says:

    People are working hard to bring RTS games to consoles because that’s one of the few gaming genres that still really stinks on non-computer formats, at least from a control perspective.

    Personally, I watched the gameplay video and was thinking “Hey look, more people who haven’t played Myth, or Ground Control, or even World in Conflict.” I’ll be interested to see how they do the multiple-levels-of-engagement thing: does it simply do ground the same way that GC, WiC, Myth et. al. do ground, can you control what floor a squad stops at / use building roofs to get around, or is it more of an Armies of Exigo style system where there are a few maps layered on top of each other and you can switch between them (Armies of Exigo, besides being a high-tech and fairly blatant clone of Warcraft 3, had a subterranean map attached to every normal map that you could dig down to and pop up in other places, it was kind of neat).

    Also, did anyone else notice the Frontiersman ResNode about 80% of the way through the video?

  6. The_B says:

    @Fumarole – I thought there was a Total War game coming to console. Well, not a Total War game as such, but one in the series. Or a spinoff. I forget…

    EDIT: Yup, Total Warrior it was called.

  7. Erlam says:

    Am I the only one who sees about fifty direct copies of Starcraft units/abilities?

  8. ACS says:

    Given that Starcraft (and for that matter, Warcraft) is a hair’s breadth from wholesale infringement of Games Workshop IP, I’m not inclined to care about whether anyone infringes on their putative IP.

  9. mandrill says:

    Once again the hype is leading us to dissapointment.
    Let us wade through the marketing speak present in the trailers and website blurb (not including this website I hasten to add) and see what is left.

    Whenever I read or hear the words ‘all new’, ‘innovative’ or ‘revolutionary’ in association with a new game I think to myself ‘OK which games heven’t the PR boys played’ or ‘I wonder how much these people get paid to lie to me’. This basically boils down to four words: The, believe, hype and don’t; arranged into a cliche of your choice.

    The simple fact is that RTS games are never going to take off on consoles unless they are dumbed down abominations like Red Alert 3 or its only slightly older sibling Tiberium Wars. This is because of the simple fact that console gamers have been fed on a diet of arcade racers, dumb platformers and variations of button mashing beat-em-ups and as a result have no capacity for strategic thought (I don my fireproof suit in preparation…)

    What we have here is a thrid person action game where your ‘person’ is an army, I am prepared to find this game to be quite dumb and less strategic than throwing bricks at the home of Ozzy Osborne. Is this me being an ‘RTS games don’t belong on consoles’ PC gaming snob? Probably, but I stand by it nonetheless. Yes it looks very pretty, yes the premise is interesting, but I find the focus on the console market offputting and frankly insulting, they may as well not release it on the PC.
    /rant

  10. Rich_P says:

    Once Halo Wars sells 5 million copies, expect publishers to jump all over themselves to design the next console RTS. Someone else said they expect Halo Wars to do to the RTS genre what Halo did to the FPS genre…

    Given what’s happened to my favorite games once they’ve gone multiplatform, I have my concerns. Since Ensemble is already gone, can I safely say I want Halo Wars to fail miserably? :D

    But from a business perspective, it makes total sense (harr) to target the consoles with RTS and MMO games.

  11. Nilocy says:

    @Erlam Nope, just you. And, you cant really say that SC started the cliche’s, they stole all their stuff from Warhammer 40k TTG.

    Anyhoo, that game does look very promising… I’m acctually looking forward to this very much now, after Halo Wars being built from the ground up, and it was pretty good, this could possibly be much better.

  12. Erlam says:

    I don’t mean in terms of looks, I mean actual abilities. Hell, their tank even has an arc cannon that has to go into siege mode to fire as an ‘artillery weapon.’; long-tendriled (via hair) invisible people with blade attacks; a VTOL twin-bladed helicopter/jet that shoots volleys of missiles at the ground…

    Seriously, those are awfully damn close. In fact, with the Jet, it’s a dead ringer.

  13. Erlam says:

    Also, keep in mind both WC and SC were made for GamesWorkshop, who (in traditional GW ‘oops’ fashion) did not want it.

    Look at it now.

  14. Dain says:

    “People are working hard to bring RTS games to consoles because that’s one of the few gaming genres that still really stinks on non-computer formats, at least from a control perspective.”

    Yeah, I assumed that… at the risk of sounding PC elitist etc etc etc… it’ll be a sad day when the multi-format RTSes start rolling off the production lines..

    I remember the days when I thought the FPS would aways be a PC exclusive thing.. how times have changed..

  15. James Tao says:

    “This is because of the simple fact that console gamers have been fed on a diet of arcade racers, dumb platformers and variations of button mashing beat-em-ups and as a result have no capacity for strategic thought.”

    As a console gamer who has a deep love for Age of Empires 2, Total War and a burgeoning interest in Europa Universalis, I call bullshit.

  16. DaoKaioshin says:

    this reminds me of advent rising’s flick targeting system

  17. Benny says:

    It looks interesting, if it had a sub £20 price tag i might pick it up but for a full price game i doubt it, empire total war will fill most of my time along with bits of DoW2. (do i hear shouts of too many RTS game releases at once? heh)

    The trailer reminds me alot Full Spectrum Warrior tho. Only scaled up size to an army and a faster pace of action. Anyway, if it’s fun and playable then who’s to complain, whether it has depth and replayability only time will tell.

  18. Noc says:

    Huh. Are we watching the same footage, Erlam? I didn’t catch any of that. (I ask not to be sarcastic, but because both of the dev videos seem to be the same thing? Something might be twitchy on my end.)

    If anything, it looked tremendously Dawn of War to me, with the square squads of infantry hustling about, and throwing the grenades, and the big stompy superunits fighting each other and the orbital strikes. (Subterranean strikes, maybe? It looked like it came from a cave, which that faction seems to be all about.)

    Hmm.

  19. ACS says:

    Also, keep in mind both WC and SC were made for GamesWorkshop, who (in traditional GW ‘oops’ fashion) did not want it.

    Both WC and SC were made with the expectation that Blizzard could secure Games Workshop IP. When they didn’t end up with the IP, they proceeded in bad faith — filed off the serial numbers and made the games anyway. That’s no way to do business, and I’ve got absolutely no sympathy for anyone who rips off Blizzard IP.

  20. Doc MacRae says:

    I don’t see why they’d bother with releasing this on PC. Heck, CA is probably my favorite mainstream developers but I don’t understand (beyond financial gain) why they flirt with consoles. The Total Warrior games were (from what I’ve heard) ok mashes of God of War and Dynasty Wars (or whatever you call it) that wasn’t individually as good as either and together weren’t all that hot. Not terrible, but not really good either. Never played them so I’m basing my judgement on what I’ve read but not comforting.

    Why wouldn’t I just play DoW2 (or even better, Empire) if I own a PC? Especially when both controls will probably be more intuitive and both probably eke out Stormrise in either setting or presentation?

  21. Tei says:

    It looks pretty, but with that perspective of the battlefield must be a Real-Time Tactical game RTT and not a RTS, Real-Time Strategic game.

  22. Okami says:

    Actually Spartan: Total Warrior is one of the best Hack&Slash games ever made, though I guess it suffered a bit from stupid people calling it a God of War rip-off. Which is decidedly unfair, since God of War (though one of my favorite games of all times) is at it’s heart a simple button mash affair, while Spartan had a really deep, skill based combat system.

    Of course the people who made Spartan will all burn in hell for including the world’s most atrocious and just plain unfair escort mission in their game.

    Viking could have been a great game but it suffered from a severe lack of polish in all areas and never managed to rise above mediocricy. The amount of stupid design decisions in this game is just mind blowing.

    Stormrise does look rather nice and if there’s anybody I’d trust to make a good console RTS, it’s CA. I’m a die hard strategy fan (though I’m not very good at strategy games) and the idea of a unique and good console RTS is making me very happy indeed.

  23. Ian says:

    I condone the confiscation of Twiglets until we get more The Worst Ninja.

  24. Gap Gen says:

    Yes, I can’t see the resemblance to Medieval. But then it doesn’t have people with foreign accents shouting “Mounted archers!” and it isn’t introduced by monks. But it would be awesome if it did.

    Also, if Games Workshop sued Blizzard, couldn’t Tolkein’s estate sue both of them for ripping them off? It’s not like orks, dwarves and elves haven’t been done before.

  25. Azhrarn says:

    “Also, if Games Workshop sued Blizzard, couldn’t Tolkein’s estate sue both of them for ripping them off? It’s not like orks, dwarves and elves haven’t been done before.”

    They won’t sue. GW originally commisioned WC I believe, and rejected it, Blizz then threw a few changes on and made billions. Blizzard later made SC which I believe GW did not commision, but blizz obviously took inspiration from the 40k universe. Just not enough to form a viable suit, or GW would have. They are EXTREMELY protective of their IP.
    If there was any way they could have sued the pants of blizzard and gotten away with it, they would have.

    The game looks interesting enough though and will hold judgement until I get my hands on a demo.

  26. danielcardigan says:

    Benny says: “It looks interesting, if it had a sub £20 price tag i might pick it up but for a full price game i doubt it, empire total war will fill most of my time along with bits of DoW2. (do i hear shouts of too many RTS game releases at once? heh)”

    It doesn’t seem THAT long ago that, online anyway, under twenty quid WAS the price of a full price PC game.

    Can I just say, Empire Total War is irking me with the variety of special editions available, ie different “exclusive” units from Game, Play and Amazon.

  27. drewski says:

    @ Doc MacRae

    As long as any developer sees mountains of cash piling up from blockbuster console game sales whilst PC gaming is buried under a pile of The Sims and (wait for it…) piracy, they’re going to try and get a hold of that market.

    And I’m not saying PC gaming is dead or dying – it’s changing, but that’s OK – but developers have to make money.

  28. kuddles says:

    I actually think this game is probably the most likely to work. Most other devs have taken the approach of making a traditional RTS and shoehorning it into a console, whereas this game seems to be considering the console’s controller from the ground up.

    It’s such a shame that the console version of World in Conflict was cancelled. I got a lot of people who don’t get PC games hyped up for it, and it’s the most obvious RTS where so little needs to be lost in the transition.

  29. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Pays off to be a Gametrailer junkie, I guess, since I have known about this game for quite some time, now.

    Interesting, to be sure.

  30. Nelson says:

    I don’t see how the whip controls are all that inventive: when you double click on any unit in Total War you “whip” right to it. So, basically CA just made an analog stick do this. Big whoop! That said, I think all RTS games should feature this whipping ability. It is better than using a mouse or arrow keys to find units on a large map.

  31. Gap Gen says:

    Yeah, it’s mainly innovative for consoles, it looks like. Halo Wars also claims to have the most intuitive interface. I guess we’ll see which is better.

    Actually, I don’t like the look of Halo Wars. All the screenshots I’ve seen just have soldiers lining up in the open, firing at each other at ridiculously close range. No cover dynamic, no squad tactics.

  32. Turin Turambar says:

    It seems so, so generic. Both the visuals and the little gameplay you can see.

  33. SwiftRanger says:

    This seriously needs some live action FMVs, KKnD1 style (that other post-apocalyptic Australian RTS).

    Even Stormrise’s setting seems very KKnD-like, bring back the mutes!

  34. Premium User Badge amishmonster says:

    Gap Gen: “Yes, I can’t see the resemblance to Medieval. But then it doesn’t have people with foreign accents shouting “Mounted archers!” and it isn’t introduced by monks. But it would be awesome if it did.”

    A Canticle For Leibowitz RTS, anyone? I’m in.

  35. CZx2 says:

    “To play on a truly 3D map that incorporates ‘verticality’ (i.e. multiple terrain levels, such as subterranean tunnels and building rooftops)”

    Check out Metal Fatigue (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metal_Fatigue). It released back in 2000 and allowed you to build structures and control your units on land, underground and up in the sky on mountain tops.

    It’s a great a RTS that isn’t too well known.

  36. Doc MacRae says:

    @ drewski:
    I guess, but I can’t imagine CA made a lot of money on the Total Warrior games, and Stormrise is likely to be outgunned by Halo Wars’ massive premade fanbase. Just seems like an odd move for them timing-wise, especially since Empire is probably going to be a blockbuster.

    I’m happy at least that they keep their console team and their Total War team separate, which CA reps are quick to point out when us PC fanatics start getting antsy. So a failure on the consoles is unlikely to bring down their whole studio.

    @ amishmonster
    I dunno man, I don’t know if I could get behind such a trivialization of the whole story unless it was really well made and still supported the themes of the book.

    Heretic. :P

  37. Tei says:

    Sins released also on this months, I remenber it as a good thing, as there was *nothing* playable back then… after the XMax period, ther whas “The Nothing”. I suppose (crazy theory follows) the beancounters detected this, so all future RTS games where re-schedule to release this month, just to repeat the sucess of Sins.

  38. Erlam says:

    “Huh. Are we watching the same footage, Erlam? I didn’t catch any of that. (I ask not to be sarcastic, but because both of the dev videos seem to be the same thing? Something might be twitchy on my end.)”

    I was looking at the website unit descriptions, sorry for being unclear.

    I’m not saying Blizzard didn’t rip off units, I’m saying that most of the ones stolen aren’t even rip-offs, and are not just the same in looks, but ABILITIES and WEAPONS.

    I just figured there’d be more creativity involved, as you only have two sides, and there’s a focus on ‘vertical action’ or whatever, that new types of units would come out. There’s no dedicated mortar unit, or whatever. There’s just every RTS cliche ever made.

  39. jackflash says:

    Bleh, console trash. I’ll stick with Empire.

  40. Premium User Badge amishmonster says:

    @Doc MacRae: Oh, fully agreed. Still, post-apocalyptic monks made it leap to mind immediately. I long for the day when we start getting some decent game adaptations of good books, though.

  41. MrFake says:

    Or, y’know, they could just integrate mouse support into the consoles. Why is that still not an option? Considering they’ve had USB, keyboard, and even bluetooth support, we’re living in a time when people hook their PCs to their giganto-TVs to play, and even doll up their OS’s to look and feel like consoles; this is just silly.

    Innovation like this is nice to see, but it always feels like the cool new control gimmick that we all wish would catch on ends up drying out the game proper (Endwar). And, of course, there’s the threat of dumbing down the PC version for the consoles (lots of examples).