War Tapes Silent Storm12 Nov 2014 0
Welcome to War Tapes, the first in (hopefully) a series of pieces of games that you might have missed over the last 15 years or so. We?ll be looking at games that should run on most computers, and we?ll be looking at things that?ll require you to engage your brain a little bit, too.
We?re starting with a game The Wargamer?s got a bit of history with. It was awarded our ?E3 2003 Best of Show? shortly before its release. Let?s get started.
What?s Silent Storm?
Silent Storm (S2) is a WW2 turn based tactics (TBT) game by Russian developer Nival Interactive. You lead an elite team of commandos through a Europe torn apart by war. The interesting thing for me is that you?ve got the choice to play as the Allies or the Axis. The two sides have unique stories offering an alternate path through the plot in addition to a different armoury of authentic weapons and to a selection of male and female characters with their own unique models, voices and backstories.
There was a glut of great TBT games around this time, but smart design choices set Silent Storm ahead of the curve. Your operatives had their own classes and skill trees, meaning they could be specialised in different ways to suit your play style. The classes are very much ?what it says on the tin? types; Grenadiers will toss grenades and Snipers will invariably snipe. As they get more skilled they might pick up abilities like a resistance to explosives or the ability to shoot through walls. The classes and skill tree concept adds some substantial depth.
The game starts out as a daring WW2 Spy Fiction, and this is really when it?s at its strongest. As I crept through the midway point of my first playthrough my team were a fluid machine, blowing through enemy checkpoints and story missions alike like an interactive version of Where Eagles Dare.
But then it all gets problematic.
The latter half of the game introduces mechanized units called Panzerkliens that are near invulnerable to the small arms fire you?ve used on everything up to this point. It wasn?t too well received. It?s one of the few missteps in the game, but it?s a big one. A mod to remove the Panzerkliens is often recommended, although it replaces them with well armed goons and their appearance instead of the walking tanks can make the story a little (more) nonsensical.
It?s a mixed bag then. Both campaigns are really strong until the excursion into Dieselpunk shortly after the midway point while the games many systems come together to make a strategy game that?s engaging and full of unscripted hilarity, a personal favourite of mine being the way characters can take a hail of bullets with nothing but a stoic grunt until the one that kills them, which will hit them with a force that pirouettes them backwards, limbs flailing.
How Does it Fare Now?
It?s actually been a couple of years since I?ve played 2003?s Silent Storm. The last time the game caught me with its steel fisted grip I played it for a solid two week stretch, trying to juggle having a personal life and guiding my operatives through battle after harrowing battle.
This time I found it a little harder to get into. The systems still integrated well but the characters felt like they were moving a little too slowly, the user interface is a little cluttered. If you?ve spoilt yourself with recent TBT?s XCOM and Xenonauts it?s going to feel slightly clumsy. I persevered and pushed through and I really did enjoy the open half of the game: Your squad operate like a well oiled machine, snipers pin soldiers down with hollywood-esque silenced sniper fire while other snipers pick their way through remains of the buildings your grenadiers have just levelled. When it goes well, it goes very well.
Shame about those Panzerkleins really. While I had had the benefit of already knowing a few builds capable of killing the dreaded scourge, they still manage to suck the joy from the rest of the game for me. Obviously, your mileage may vary but I struggle to enjoy the game at all once the lumbering monsters start blasting holes in stuff.
The problem with looking at older games is that just a few years later technical options can easily date a purchase. Silent Storm was released in 2003, and in addition to a selection of resolutions standard for the time (maxing out at 1280 x 960) there?s an option for texture and lighting quality. This is joined by an ominous ?quality? option that seems to control everything not covered by the above and some basic antialiasing. It?s aged surprisingly well for the art style, and it holds up to vigorous field testing. I didn?t encounter many noticeable issues, although I have seen reports of Nvidea cards encountering slowdown with regards to shadows.
Mods, Tips and Purchasing
I played this game without any mods, but in the past I?ve used FastMod which doubles the speed of animations and in turn doubling the pace of the game. You can get rid of those PanzerKliens with No-Panzerklein Modification (S2) or make the game a little tougher with Difficulty Level Changes. I?ve had all of these running at different times, but I don?t feel any of them are essential.
I haven?t tested but have heard great things about Oddball?s Mod which takes away some of the science fiction weapons, changes some uniforms and alters some weapon behaviour. I?ve installed it but didn?t have time to fully play around, so while it comes highly recommended, your mileage may vary.
You can pick it up from Steam where it?s on sale this week, or GOG.com if DRM-free is more your scene. Both sites sell it in a ?gold? package which bundles it in with its sequel, Silent Storm Sentinels.
Ed: we carried a review back in 2004; read it here.