Rating

B+

Specific Ratings

GameplayA
GraphicsC
Learning CurveB
Replay ValueA
SoundC+

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Generally excellent and realistic combat mechanics
  • Every character class is useful in its own way
  • Good control interface
  • Completely destructible environments
Cons
  • Some mediocre voice acting
  • Enemy turns sometimes take too long

Silent Storm (PC)

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Summary

A very good installment in the rare turn-based strategy RPG genre

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Description


SETTING
The game takes place in World War 2 era Europe setting, with slight sci-fi overtones. Battle maps are not very exotic, but vary from small forest areas to small towns to huge multi-story factory complexes. They all have a 1940's era decor and feel.
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STORY
There are two story lines (Axis and Allies) in Silent Storm, and the story/map layout differs a little depending on which side you choose. They both cover the same ground and follow the same story, but tell it from different perspectives and in a different order. Regardless of which side you choose, you play as Special Operations officer trying to untangle what is behind the assassination of a high ranking general by someone who used an unknown energy weapon, which easily pierces even heavy armor. Needless to say, your superiors want to know the source of this unprecedented technology. The tangled plot is mostly told in a dry manner (reading intelligence reports) and some of the voice acting is fairly hideous, which doesn't help you get lost in the story. It's not a good game for getting lost in an enthralling story, but it still has a better plot than most other turn based strategy games.
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GAMEPLAY
General
Silent Storm is a turn based RPG where you control a party of up to six characters. You create your customized character when you begin a game, and then pick up to five more off a roster of 30 or so available soldiers. A soldier's abilities such as movement range, chance of staying hidden, and shooting accuracy, are controlled by their stats. Therefore, each battle map can be played in a tremendous number of different ways depending on the abilities and style of the party you've assembled. Your party travels between locations on a 2D map of Europe and, depending on what clues you retrieve during a mission, new locations become available. Throughout the game, random battles will appear on the 'world map' and you can choose to join them for extra experience and items or avoid them.

Combat
Strategic combat is what this game is all about, and that is where Silent Storm excels. It's filled with aspects that keep battles feeling authentic and well rounded, yet it doesn't suffer from excessive micro-management like some strategy games. Units have a number of action points available each turn (based on their stats) and you spend them to fire weapons, run, reload, change stance and such. Among the excellent aspects of the battle system are completely destructible environments, the ability to shoot through walls with high powered weapons, the ability to booby-trap doors, line of sight restrictions, decreased hit odds from partial cover, the ability to hear enemies you can't see, a massive selection of weapons, and much more. The interface gives you important information before you commit to actions (odds of hitting etc) so it works well to take a strategic approach to battles, and you can rarely win by running in with guns blazing. One notable 'omission' to Silent Storm's nearly spotless design is that a weapon's rate of fire and base accuracy are not reflected in its info blurp, but those can easily be figured with a quick test.

Missions
Missions objectives vary quite a bit and there's a lot of room to complete them in your own way- stealth, direct attack or whatever combination you choose. In general, you'll be sneaking or fighting your way through areas to collect intelligence reports or capture key enemies. In addition to the main missions, there are a lot of optional encounters to build experience or collect powerful weapons. Missions take place in square or rectangular play areas which vary in size from small to medium sized multi-level maps. You explore in real-time until a battle begins, then gameplay switches to turn based.

RPG elements
Each unit has a class like sniper, medic, or grenadier which decides their main proficiencies. It also gives the unit a unique set of available skills which can be learned with points earned from leveling up. Then there are a dozen or so stats that (just like in real life) increase as you practice related actions, but growth rate varies greatly depending on the unit's main class. All of these are well thought out and simple, yet fully functional.
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MUSIC and SOUNDS
There's not a lot of musical variety in the game, but what there is suits the mood well and helps you get into the game. The sounds effects are done quite well, and weapons all have their own unique noise which help you feel immersed, although some of the voice acting isn't very good.
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GRAPHICS
This game is from 2003, and the graphics are good for their era but they fall short compared to modern graphics. Everything is fully 3D and the camera can rotate or zoom. The human modeling isn't great; people sometimes look a bit stiff and puffy but not too bad. Environments are detailed and lightning effects are great in some places. Outdoor areas tend to be rather generic wooded areas. Overall it looks fine but nothing is spectacular.
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REPLAY
In addition to there being a lot of different possible unit configurations, there are two distinct plot lines depending on whether you play as Axis or Allies. Areas differ a little depending on which side you choose, but mainly the battle starting position and objectives change. There are also some rare optional encounters and weapons that you might not find the first time through. Overall, there are quite a few variables that could encourage replay and keep it interesting.
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COMPATABILITY and STABILITY
It runs great on my nVidia 9800GTXOC+, Win XP, dual-core PC. It doesn't support wide-screen resolutions but things don't look excessively 'squished' on wide-screen monitors. I had a couple crashes while moving in stealth mode during play, but applying the latest patch (v1.2) seems to have fixed the problem.

Recommended configuration (NOT minimum recommended):
PC, Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, DirectX 9.0 or higher
CPU 2200 MHz
512 MB RAM
nVidia GeForceFX / Radeon 9700 Pro or better
Mouse
Sound card
CD-ROM
3 GB of free hard drive space
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SUMMARY
I think that anyone who enjoys turn based strategy games will like Silent Storm. It excels in quite a few areas and doesn't have any serious flaws. Combat is well balanced, intuitive and encourages strategic play over charging in and killing anything that moves. Definitely a gem in the PC's turn-based strategy RPG genre.

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