March 24th, 2012 | By Alex Bokan
While Tropical Stormfront may not be a terrible game it certainly isn’t an especially good one either. The elements that seem to show true promise are ultimately overshadowed by poor controls, design and an overall mediocrity.
Tropical Stormfront is a military Real Time Strategy game, somewhat akin to the Command and Conquer series. The campaign will have you controlling one army trying to conquer the bases of the other. By controlling different outposts you gain the ability to create and build units, as well as earn additional funding.
The mediocrity struck me almost immediately. Upon loading the game I was greeted with a text-to-speech voice reciting the title. If that wasn’t enough, upon finishing the incredibly basic 2 minute tutorial you are rewarded with written pages of instruction that the developer seemingly didn’t bother including into the playable portion of the tutorial. All in all, the actual playable tutorial was unhelpful in comparison, so why even bother with it?
The game features a variety of units that can be divided into land, air, or sea based. Every unit is fairly balanced, insuring there is a counter-measure available for dealing with them. Trying to control a group of units to attack an opponent proved to be problematic. There were quite a few instances where the units were shooting in the opposite direction of the opponent. I understand if the developer meant for a system where not every shot actually hit the target, but that level of accuracy is deplorable. The problem seemed to be alleviated when controlling only one unit at a time but it’s hardly excusable.
There are two playable modes, campaign and skirmish. The campaign mode has fixed rules, opponents, and a historically interesting, though ultimately forgettable story told strictly through text. On the other hand, the skirmish mode lets you alter the options to your choosing. There is no multiplayer of any kind and no real importance to the campaign. Sure there’s the text-based ‘story’ but it feels like an excuse to have started the fight, without much significance to the player. The difficulty of the campaign can also be an issue, as you’ll be surviving for 15 minutes with ease on one level, only to be decimated within 2 minutes on the next. It’s simply unstable.
Although the visuals were never truly detailed, they still managed to capture a unique style. It was the use of bright colours in a military RTS, something you don’t see very often. Another upside is that the game allows you to zoom out and play at a distance. It`s to the point where I can`t remember a game allowing you to zoom out that far. It`s technically impressive and strategically useful. Overall the freedom of view and use of colours for the environments really gave the world some life. It really made the visuals stand out as the best parts of the game.
The sound was a different story. While the grand music was actually quite fitting for the style of game, the sound was a repetitive mess. There was absolutely no variety in any area of sound. When attacking, creating units, or even moving units, you were always greeted with the same sounds. It was particularly annoying when moving units, as you are constantly assaulted with a lifeless “OK”. Words simply do it no justice.
The most egregious problem that faces Tropical Stormfront is without a doubt the control scheme. The controls seems to be geared towards the iOS and Android versions because keyboard and mouse controls were simply atrocious when compared to other RTS games. Grouping units into a squad should be as easy as hitting control and a number. Instead, the game has you clicking one of nine buttons on the bottom of the screen, then clicking and dragging over units you want in a squad. There is a group button you can click after you have selected your units as well. The nine buttons on the bottom of the screen are clearly there for touch screen purposes, and the lack of hotkeys in a genre that survives on them is a shame.
Customization isn’t an option and information about units isn’t given in game. You basically have to guess what a unit is simply from the image. Loading and unload units from transports and bases can be a tedious process that should be as simple as 2-clicks. Overall the PC controls simply feel like an afterthought. I can understand their effectiveness on iOS and Android, especially since the platforms lack any real RTS games as of yet. On the PC however, the competitors have done it right for years, and Tropical Stormfront simply doesn’t.
Overall, Tropical Stormfront is a mediocre game. It is a PC RTS game bogged down by sloppy controls and repetitive sound effects. For all its balance and gameplay, it is still a single player RTS game. When judging it as such, it is important to at least make it a great experience. While the skirmish mode shows promise of what could have been a great multiplayer game, the campaign and controls were a misstep. While the iOS and Android versions have undoubtedly better controls, the PC version is an afterthought. The game itself has moments of true enjoyment though they are overshadowed by an overall lack of interest. With the lack of RTS games on the iOS and Android platforms, the necessity of Tropical Stormfront is obvious. On the PC where it lacks the multiplayer support, customization options, and deep narrative of other RTS games on the platform, its necessity is certainly questionable.
Tropical Stormfront retails for $9.99 for the PC, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. You can download the demo or purchase the game on their official website.