Stratosphere: Conquest of the Skies
Stratosphere is a fairly unique game which includes some elements of real-time strategy as well as a bit of first-person shooter. You control a small island that floats in the air (they call it a fortress) and build things onto your fortress to add maneuverability, firepower and energy. To finance this building, you have to collect three different kinds of "floatstone" by finding them floating in the air (frequently near a mountain) and flying near them. Each item, such as a cannon or a thrust jet, requires certain amounts of floatstone to build and energy to operate. You can get all the details on each unit by checking out the Unit Library before the game starts. You can also pre-build a fortress in the Fortress Builder and use it in missions. You then go find enemy fortresses and blast them out of the sky. The storyline that goes along with the game is easily forgettable and has little to no bearing on the game itself.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
There is a 3D playing field, surrounded by a control interface. There is some element of flight simulation to the game, as you maneuver your fortress around, so having a good joystick is very helpful. You can move from the keyboard, but it feels awkward. Other controls such as firing cannons, controlling camera angle, and building units are mouse-based on the game interface, and the combination of one hand on the joystick to maneuver with one hand on the mouse to fire may take a while to get used to.
The playing field consists of 3D environments (basically just lots of mountains and valleys), so having a good 3D accelerator is essential. Other game graphics are good, but not stunning.
The synthesized music isn’t too bad. Other audio includes sound effects for battle -- not a lot of variety, but utilitarian.
Windows 95 or 98, P166, 32 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM drive, 2 MB VRAM, DirectX 5. The publisher also recommends a 3D accelerator and 4 MB of VRAM for optimal performance.
A guide in the CD case gives you the basics of the game. I’d recommend reading it to get the controls down, rather than going through the tutorial.
Stratosphere is interesting in that it is fairly unique and I think the concept is definitely good, but I was disappointed in much of the execution. The interface tutorial, for instance, is entirely non-interactive, and is boring and takes a long time to go through -- the press material touts an "interactive tutorial," but I think they’re referring to the "career" aspect of the game, where you start out with small missions and work your way up. The learning curve, because it is such an unusual game, is quite high and by the time you actually figure out how to play it, you may be so bored and frustrated with it, as I was, that you don’t want to play it anyway.
The other thing that I found disappointing was the high number of little bugs. Nothing major that affects gameplay too much, but a lot of spelling errors, typos and inconsistencies. Going to all the trouble of creating a game that’s this unique and then not paying attention to the details is quite unfortunate. The 3D environments also are kind of boring. Once you get past the first few levels of learning the game, it’s not too bad, if a little dry and mechanical. Multiplayer can be pretty fun, but the single-player scenarios don’t hold interest for long. I would recommend Stratosphere for people who like both RTS games and fighter-pilot flight simulation games (the maneuvering, once you get used to it, is well done). The whole thing feels a lot like a beta product, but I like the basic idea, so I would like to see a new version of it eventually that fixes the bugs and makes learning easier and faster. A truly interactive interface tutorial, for instance. Overall -- a good idea, kind of fun, but lacking in the details that would make it a great game.
Download Stratosphere: Conquest of the Skies
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP