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Silent Storm PC CD-ROM

Published by JoWooD
Developed by Nival Interactive
Released: 31st October 2003
Price: £29.99

Turn-based strategy games are often overlooked these days in favour of the more immediate RTS games. There are a couple of reasons for this of course. Most gamers simply do not want to learn the intricacies of a 'complex' turn-based game where a sound strategy is required in order to do well in the game. RTS usually doesn't need such a thoughtful approach and basic strategies such as 'rushing' often wins the day with little fuss. Another reason for the lack of popularity of Turn-based strategy games is that, with few exceptions, there aren't that many good ones about and they usually don't take the genre forward in anyway. Well get ready for a shocker because Nival Interactive have created an absolute cracker of a turn-based strategy game that will make even the most serious RTS gamer want to give it a whirl.

Silent Storm, like a lot of turn-based games, is set in WWII. The game allows you to control a small squad of elite commandos through a variety of challenging missions. The game has two campaigns, one for the Axis and one for the Allies. On beginning the campaign you're asked to pick a character to be the central hero of your campaign. You can either choose a pre-made male or female character or create your own custom character. Prior to starting a mission you'll be able to choose your team members and equip them as well as possible. These missions include a variety of objectives such as finding important information, freeing a prisoner and rescuing important personnel. Some missions are triggered by events that can occur adding incentive to play through again.

The combat system is more or less classic turn-based gaming. You have an allocation of action points and performing tasks such as shooting or moving or picking objects up etc., will use up those points. Enemies can interrupt though so you have to be careful at all times. When aiming you are always shown in text the likelihood of being successful with your shot. Your characters/units also have a certain amount of hit points to represent their health too. Sometimes you won't see an enemy but you will 'hear' them. Don't worry though this is shown visually and deaf gamers will be at no disadvantage. When an enemy is heard you will be able to fire in the general direction that you've heard the sound from. Definitely a nice touch.

Each of your units have their own special abilities and attributes. In fact it's more like a RPG in this respect and as your units earn experience and you can allocate different attributes to them such as 'Look for free' (which allows the unit to look around during combat without the loss of action points) and 'Vanguard' (which allows the unit to always attack first). Each one of your units has depth and a history of each unit is available. The game begins with using a single character but after the first mission you get the chance to take up to five along with you and it's always a wise choice to have an appropriate mix of classes (which include the likes of grenadier, scout, sniper, medic, engineer, soldier etc.) to give you a decent chance of success. With 75 authentic WWII weapons and around 40 soldiers from different nationalities it's fair to say that the game could be played through many times in a variety of ways.

Whilst the game overall is just superb two elements stand out as being truly award worthy. The enemy AI is top notch and they will duck for cover and really make your life hell if you don't use the correct strategy. The game comes with three difficulties but even on the easiest of these you can still expect a challenge. The second aspect of the game that will leave you gobsmacked is the damage physics within the game. These range from stray bullets kicking up soil from the grass or breaking rails on a wooden fence to whole buildings being blown up. I've had an enemy shoot through a window at me and the window shattered. I've even had an enemy aim at an inflammable container which blew up and destroyed most of the building instead of aiming directly at me. It takes your breath away and is stunning to witness. The fact that the AI takes advantage of these excellent damage physics is also first class. It's all to common for a game to feature new innovations and for the AI just to ignore them but this is not the case with Silent Storm.

Graphically this ones a beauty. The game is in full 3D and looks superb. It's unbelievable to think that a game from the turn-based strategy genre supports Anti-Aliasing and Anisotropic Filtering but Silent Storm does and it looks superb. The game will need an absolute top of the line PC though to be able to turn all the graphical details up to full but thankfully you can turn off whatever you want if your PC is struggling a little. With the impressive physics model that this game has, huge explosions and the resulting debris needs to be shown as well as possible and Nival have truly succeeded here too.

Usually when reviewing a strategy game I come to the point where I talk about subtitles and always say that the unit confirmations (the speech that a unit gives when issuing it with an order) are not subtitled. Thankfully I don't have to say that this time as everything, (with the exception of the introduction which has a small amount of unsubtitled speech but this has no relevance) the tutorial, the cutscenes, mission objectives etc., in Silent Storm are subtitled. It has to be the most deaf gamer friendly strategy game of all time, it really is superb. Even the enemy speech is fully subtitled and the speech is placed on a black background for maximum clarity. A truly superb effort from Nival Interactive. The game comes with an 87 page manual which again is very impressive and answers any questions you might have.

What can I say about Silent Storm? It's one of the best turn-based strategy games of all time. The enemy AI is impressive, the graphics are impressive and the damage physics within the game are the best I've seen in a strategy game. In fact I must give an apology to Nival Interactive because this game is so deep and involving there are probably aspects of the game I haven't covered in this review. An example of this is the game editor that enables you to create your own custom games which is an excellent addition but one I haven't covered at all. All I can say is that this game deserves to sell fantastically well and in my book it's an instant classic. Without a shadow of a doubt it's the best strategy game I've seen this year and is a must for all who love such titles.

Overall Game Rating: 9.5/10
Be prepared to be impressed because Silent Storm is simply a magic game. The individual components of the game such as the graphics and damage physics are all top drawer stuff but the overall experience is just superb and on another level from virtually every other title in the genre. For me even Jagged Alliance 2 and X-COM have been surpassed by Silent Storm.

Deaf Gamers comment:
Absolutely fine for deaf gamers. A truly impressive effort from Nival Interactive.