Maelstrom Preview

There are few RTS games coming out these days which warrant attention. The strategy game market is convoluted, and many gamers stick with proven franchises rather than spend their hard-earned money on one of the new RTS games coming out each week. Even when a solid game is released, it does little to add to the genre and more likely than not it succeeds because of licensing or a unique-looking environment. That being said, this September be prepared to spend some of your elusive income on a little title by Russian developer K-D Labs known as Maelstrom.

One of the most important things a game needs to stand out before its peers is a good storyline; Maelstrom has that. Penned by renowned British writer James Swallow (whose credits include Warhammer, Dr. Who, The Butterfly Effect novel, the Battlestar Galactica video game, 2000AD, and the Sundowners series), the tale takes place during an apocalyptic time on earth when an event known as Maelstrom hits. Earth plunges into chaos, civilization is on the brink of annihilation and the environment is destroyed. The Ascension-who happened to be the world,s most powerful corporation before the apocalypse-takes control of the situation, and under the leadership of Arlan Khan builds an army to rule the world and guide them back to prosperity. The Ascension,s version of prosperity, that is.

Of course, no force like that would go unopposed, especially in a video game. The Remnants (composed of former military personnel, police, firemen and other average Joe,s)stand up against The Ascension, and for many people they are the last line of defense. Led by former US Naval of James Buchanan and his friend Marcus O,Neil, no other force left on earth has the guts to oppose Arlan and The Ascension. But off of earth…

That brings us to the last of the factions, the Hai-Genti. The Hai-Genti are from a place we earthlings call Proxima Centauri (it,s a different star system). Their culture is thousands of years older than mankind,s, but remarkably similar. For example, they too had their world,s ecology destroyed by a cataclysmic event, forcing them to find a new place to settle down.

With all of that explained, the setting for Maelstrom is complete. Gamers will play through missions acting as each of the three factions, further progressing the story and ultimately finding out just who comes out on top. When the game begins, the first faction you,ll play as will be The Remnants; they happen to be most similar to standard RTS play. Using mostly modern (our modern, at least) technology, they,ll act as the middle ground between The Ascension and the Hai-Genti. Think of them as the classic rebel force (not the best technology, but they get the job done).

After playing as The Remnants, it,s time to take a shot at The Ascension and the Hai-Genti. The Hai-Genti play a lot like the Zergs from Starcraft. Basically, they,re all biologically-based and have no vehicles to speak of. To win with the Hai-Genti you,re going to need to amass an army of epic sizes-they are a hive-based faction, after all. The Hai-Genti buildings also need to be built on water (which I,ll touch upon a little later) so that adds another unique gameplay element, not to mention a challenge, to playing their side.

Lastly, there,s The Ascension. By far my most loved faction in the game (I,m a bad guy at heart, I suppose), The Ascension combines RTS gameplay and Transformer-like units. When you play as The Ascension, you,ll find that your planes, tanks and automobiles can transform into combat mechs, and your mechs can transform into your buildings. This adds a huge duality to their gameplay, and a huge mobility to their bases. Anyone who has played as the Terrans in Starcraft or the Eldar in Dawn of War knows the advantages a free-moving base can give a player. Throw Transformers into that mix, and you have something awesome.

As mentioned earlier, water plays a huge role for the Hai-Genti. In fact, the environment plays a huge role in the gameplay overall. The single most impressive feature of Maelstrom is the fully destructible (and malleable) environment. I don,t mean destructible like “blow up a tree and it will fall down and disappear.” I mean destructible like “dig a hole in the dirt, build a wall out of rocks and the ground, or trap your enemies in a giant landslide.” The environment will play the largest factor in many victories and defeats in Maelstrom. One cool trick you can pull off is creating a crater in the ground, filling it with water, and then freezing it when enemies are trying to wade through it. Boom-instant Remnant ice-cubes.

The Hai-Genti will have the most fun with the environment, as their faction will have several units able to psychically wreak havoc on the weather. Tornadoes, meteor storms, floods-all of them will be possible to utilize against your opponents. Unlike other games with natural disasters, Maelstrom looks like it,s actually going to use them in a way which will make enhance gameplay and combat rather than cause more problems than they solve (like in Red Alert 2).

There is one more feature of Maelstrom which is something I,m really excited about: the level of graphics. Despite all of these things happening on the screen, K-D still manages to keep the graphics at a stellar level. Not only do they look good, but there,s even an option to zoom in on a specific unit and control the game from their point of view, much like Sacrifice.

In all, Maelstrom is shaping up to be an incredible game. With an awesome storyline, cool factions and an amazing environmental manipulation engine, it,s going to be hard for the other RTS games coming out this year to top it. Look for Maelstrom to hit stores at the end of September, and look for a hands-on preview here at GamerNode in the coming weeks.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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