A unique classic of the freeware industry, Netstorm is a game that many old-timers have come to regard with fondness. Offering some very inventive new dimensions to the ever-popular Real Time Strategy genre, it has well earned its popularity and niche status. Netstorm’s graphics and gameplay were almost unparalleled in the freeware world in their time and remain to this day a pearl worth discovering. For those of us bent on war, assault and conquest within a beautifully tailored pixellated world, Netstorm offers a new and difficult challenge to newcomers, and a pleasant walk down Memory Lane for the rest.
In Netstorm, you fight on a series of islands floating in the sky. Wind, Rain and Thunder, the three Furies, wage an ever-present battle in the great stormclouds below as your people strive for an existance in the ever changing landscape of the islands. In each mission, whether offline or online, the ultimate target is keeping your priest safe while capturing the enemy high priest and sacrificing him on an altar, sinking him into the abyss below. In an offline mission, this will bring you success. Online, your sacrifice will be rewarded with further knowledge – new units you can build – by your chosen Fury. To achieve that end, you must build bridges constructed in your temple to the various other islands and floating Geysers, your source of energy (currency) within the game. A balance must be struck between securing the Geysers for your energy pool and waging the war that you must end with that energy. Those bridges follow clever tetris-like patterns – the construction of which you’d better be capable at if you intend to rule the skies of Netstorm.
Netstorm’s engine brought a new element to the RTS universe – almost entirely static unit warfare. Your mobile units are almost entirely non-combat units, meant only for the capture of the enemy priest or the collection of energy from Geysers. It uses a mostly standard top-view RTS interface. Due to the static nature of its system, you will find how and where you construct your bridges and weapons to be of pivotal importance – badly placed bridges can lead to few options in assault or defence. While getting some extra points for originality, the engine is in my opinion not as versatile as most due to its nature – tactics will often fail for no other reason than not getting the bridges you need fast enough.
4 out of 5 carrots.
Sound and music is something Netscape sorely lacks, in terms of music you are made to endure the constant sound of wind whining about the islands – while perhaps atmospheric, it quickly becomes tired and a detriment to the game. Any form of music, perhaps interspersed with wind in dull moments, would have served much better. As towards sound effects, it is standard – nothing that will grab your attention, but they serve their purpose.
2 out of 5 carrots.
Graphics are good for their time, and quite good enough for an RTS game of this nature – the simple way that bridge-building (and destruction) was handled is the only thing of particular notice. But I have no qualms with the game’s graphics, they function as they should and by no means hinder your playing pleasures.
4 out of 5 carrots.
Gameplay is average. The unique nature of the weaponry you can get access to is clever. Some constructions are of little power and great versatility while others are very powerful and not-so-versatile. It offers an original element of strategy – realising how to utilise the weakness of your enemy’s arsenal. A cannon shooting in straight lines is useless if you get a versatile Sun Disc Thrower in its blind spots, even being extremely more powerful. The biggest drawback to the gameplay is how reliant it is on good bridgebuilding skill, as well as the fact that clever as the engine may be – it has little longevity for most users. Once you’ve realised how everything works against everything else, it’s just a matter of reflexes, little tactical versatility remains – except perhaps to keep searching for someone better than you to beat online. All in all, it’s fun to play if you can handle the difficulty, but for most players will not have long-term potential.
Note: The level editor is not very newbie friendly, although apparantly usable. If you wish to create levels, see the NetstormHQ website for information on how to enable this feature properly.
3 out of 5 carrots.
In conclusion, Netstorm is a unique gaming experience every serious RTS player should give a try. Whether it’s right up your alley or strikes you as a strange twist of the classic RTS style, you can only know for sure if you give it a go. I offer only a word of caution to the wise: Playing this game of flying islands at war, you better not have your head in the clouds – stay alert, or you’ll quickly find yourself running out of energy or surrounded by enemy bridges. The heights are paved with daggers – and in Netstorm, bridges.
3 out of 5 carrots.
Review by: Albareth