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Whip It: Stormrise

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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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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