The hardcore strategy genre has seen a number of all-encompassing, ‘grand’ wargames. Whilst there are a few that get it right (Pride of Nations) there are others that fail to balance the interlocking aspects and create broken games where exploitation of rules makes it difficult to enjoy (the vast majority). It is somewhat comforting to go to a game like Storm: Frontline Nation, which endeavours to focus entirely on the battle aspect of the genre, relegating the complex diplomatic, colonial, technologic, economic and national building elements that feature so strongly in its competitors to the background, replacing them with rudimentary mechanics.
|‘Hey, stop pointing at me!’|
Thus, Storm: Frontline Nation is a game that returns to military strategy roots, offering a combination of world view strategy and small scale tactical warfare during modern day Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. It begins from the year 2012 and offers you the ability to control any of the nations (so most modern powerhouses) in these continents, and even manages to fit the USA in as an invading force in northern Egypt.
First of all, a battle-centric strategy game is going to appeal to those who want to get into the genre for the first time, or those with a short attention span. As a result, it requires a good, simple, practical tutorial. Sadly, the game is woefully under-represented in this area. The tutorial is akin to sitting in a series of small lectures, and features a list of options, creating a rather dull video encyclopedia of all functions in the game. Whilst going through the tutorial does prepare you for everything the game offers, it is long and tedious. A more hands-on approach could have served the developers better.
The build of the game utilises the typical land, naval and air troops, featuring a typical wargame mechanic. What distinguishes good titles from poor in this category is the range of units available and realistic personalised/national flavour (specific units). This game has a rather simplified selection but covers all the major aspects (congruent with the creation of a simplified, easy to play game), although fails to mark nations in specifics.
The gameplay focus is on the military aspect of world domination, featuring a world view that allows you to position troops and a specific battle mode where you can utilise your troops in skirmishes. The game mechanic in the skirmish fights, where one can realistically impact on their troop’s lives and utilise them to optimum levels, is highly enjoyable. Further to this, the game offers constant and reasonable goals and this always provides a challenge, both defensively and offensively. Interestingly, it also allows you to set your own goals at times. Combining this with a relatively easy learning curve, the game does provide a good example of how to make a war game accessible. The nature of the game means it is definitely more fun as a multiplayer game.
|Hexes. Mana for wargame junkies|
There are a number of flaws in the game however, where bugs need considerable ironing out. Loading times are ridiculously long. Fortification is sometimes disregarded (which can be frustrating) and helicopters have unreasonable strength against ground troops; whilst not broken, as anti-air can counter it, this game mechanic needs some repair. The music is irritating, and I found myself having to mute it. In addition, even at the most ‘difficult’ modes the AI is somewhat lacking, although with little sophistication in economy and development this is to be expected. Additionally, for a game that starts from 2012, it offers a remarkably unimaginative view of the future; indeed, it is questionable whether this game is closer to 1945.
Essentially, this is a simplified battle game and should be played as such. It is quick to play and easy to get into as a turned based battle game. Whilst I prefer the all-encompassing variety of grand wargame, I can completely understand the appeal in this, especially as a first step or introduction for new people to the genre or those with little patience for the more in-depth varieties.
– Owen S