S2: Silent Storm
The allies wonWWII through a combination of greater intelligence, vast material resources, methodical strategy and superior action points.
Yes, the fact that our elite troops could move further, fire more accurately (and more often) and throw grenades over greater distances within a 60-second period was a deciding factor in many a crucial encounter. Or at least it is in the many skirmishes of the entertaining, though ultimately disappointing, turn-based tactical workout Silent Storm.
Action Point Man
What we have is a WWII Laser Squad - X-COM with Tommy guns. Your troops have an allotment of 'action points' to expend each turn, when moving, firing etc, before the initiative then passes over to the enemy.
Forget any thoughts of bland environments and static combatants that the phrase 'turn-based' may conjure up. In this world, bodies crumple with quasi ragdoll physics, windows shatter, bullets pepper walls with holes, woodwork is shattered by grenade blasts and blood, and equipment litters the battle-scarred scene when it's all over - all under the glare of a rock-solid 3D engine.
The animations as your troops climb down through the hole you just blew in the floor, vault through the windows you just shattered or simply take aim and fire are fantastic, making this the best-looking game in its (battle)field. The fact that pretty much anything you see can be blown apart means your options are vast. You don't need doors if you've got enough dynamite to blast through those walls. You don't need stairs if your grenade has carved a hole in the floor to the cellar.
Storm In a Teacup
All of which is great, but now for the sour grapes. Unfortunately, Silent Storm doesn't quite have that sweet tactical balance that makes games of this genre so addictive, and neither does it have the strategic context that kept you up all night with the likes of X-COM and Jagged Alliance. The missions are too similar in construction. The enemy behaves too predictably, and is typically deployed in dribs and drabs across the map, meaning each mission turns into a bit of a dragnetstyle trawl until they're all dead. The same tactics tend to win out, and early excitement begins to give way to a feeling of frustrated disappointment around 10 missions in.
And similarly, what goes on between missions fails to captivate. Your squad of Allied or Axis specialists - snipers, engineers, medics and grenadiers - improves with experience and choosing which special ability to upgrade, and which new weapon to arm provides intrigue. But otherwise there's little strategic meat to frame the tactical bones, least of all in the bafflingly banal, random encounter-filled trips your squad makes on the way to each mission zone.
There's a great game lurking here, but we reckon it needs a reworking to get it right.
Download S2: Silent Storm
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
For a moment back there, it looked like the battle between real-time and turn-based strategy games had been conclusively won by the genre that knows no pause. Turn-based games retreated to the safety of the hardcore wargaming community while their real-time counterparts occupied the chart-topping high ground. But some genres refuse to lie down and die, and Silent Storm is the latest title with the balls to opt for more contemplative 'your go, my go' gameplay. And once you see it in action for yourself, you'll thank the stars it does.
Axis Of Evil
Here's the deal. You are the commander of a team of WWII Special Forces troopers on either the Axis or Allied side. Your squad of up to six hardnuts gets called into action across Europe, assigned missions ranging from completing enemy generals to capturing secret enemy weapons from research facilities.
Whatever the task, your lightning reactions are no good to you on this battlefield. It's only the sharpness of your tactical mind that separates you from meeting your god here. Picture the war-torn scene: you're in a rubble-strewn urban maze. You need to clear a house full of hun. Your snipers are taking pot shots at the windows from the cover of the bushes, while your two grenadiers with submachine guns are standing either side of the front door ready to pile in. One kicks the door down and the other charges in gun at the ready, only to be welcomed with a face full of 9mm. Wrong! Why didn't you shoot out the windows to the room next door and clamber through? Or chuck in some pineapples before making your move? Having the time to ponder your moves before you make them might be unusual in today's world of high-octane, fast-action gaming, but it sure makes for an engrossing experience.
Nuts And Bolts
The game is based around an action point system in the same way as such genre classics as X-Com, Jagged Alliance and Laser Squad. Every member of your squad gets to spend his allotment on whatever actions he likes before the turn passes to your opponent.
I What really makes Silent Storm stick out from the crowd though, is the contribution the game's engine makes to proceedings. Not only does it look fantastic, with brilliant animations and scenery that gets the hell blown out of it during the firefights, but the fact that holes can be blown through walls and floors means your tactical options are expanded astronomically.
The game camera is fixed at an isometric viewpoint, but you have plenty of freedom to zoom, rotate and tilt the view until the terrain has given up its every secret. While it won't end up in I the Louvre, the devil is in the detail in this engine, and what a well animated demon it is. Your troops vault walls, crawl under obstacles, holster and reload weapons, and gush blood when hit - all with total fluency.
But what most catches your eye is the way the environment interacts with the blood and thunder combat, providing an incredible amount of visceral excitement for a turn-based game. Bullets shatter glass, wreck piasterwork, and even blow sizeable holes through more flimsy walls. Lights get blown out, furniture shattered and vehicles wrecked. Grenade blasts rip holes in wooden floors and shatter windows in their vicinity. Fragments of shells ricochet round corners causing minor wounds, and after a protracted indoor firefight, buildings can end up looking like they've just been carpet bombed by a squadron of B-52s.
Between the bloodletting you'll find yourself ligging at HQ. Here you get to recruit squad members, check up on the latest intelligence, and then raid the armoury before heading out on your next job. Each squad member has a character class and the usual bunch of stats to distinguish them, whether they be medics, engineers or snipers. Kills accrue experience for your boys, eventually leading to levelling up and the acquisition of special abilities.
While it's faithful in the weapons, settings and equipment, Silent Storm is at heart a far-fetched swashbuckling adventure, with missions finding you and your die-hard posse surrounded behind enemy lines, or thwarting the bad guy just as he's about to make his getaway in his fiendish secret flying machine. Which, in other words, means it's fun.
As you can tell, we've got high hopes for this one, especially if the campaign structure can offer as much depth as the tactical firefights. The turn-based counterattack has commenced.
Arms And The Man
Lucky It's Turn-Based, As You'll Need Plenty Of Time Just To Decide What Weapon To Use
If you've dabbled in Medal of Honor and Battlefield 1942, you may think of yourself as a bit of an authority in WWII weapons. But, frankly, until you can identify the 12 or so hand grenades available in Silent Storm, let alone the frightening array of submachine guns, pistols, rifles and other shooting irons, you know nothing.
And as well as every form of portable firepower known to 1943 man, there are also fixed heavy weapon emplacements dotted around that you can get behind and turn against the enemy. And, much like in the aforementioned FPSs, the game has a habit of sending a well-timed squad of counter-attacking enemy troops charging right towards you once you do get your thumbs on the trigger of that emplaced heavy machinegun. Let them come!