If you were to mix the ideas of the Wright brothers with those of Heath Robinson, you might well end up with one of the aircraft from Silmarils' latest release Storm Master. This quite game is mainly a test of strategic ability, but the occasional bit of arcade action is included and there's even some supernatural administration that has to be done as well.
Your play the newly elected leader of a wartime government from the island of Eolia (a magical country on the planet Urgaa). Neighbouring island Sharkaania has threatened to invade for centuries, but until the recent discovery of flight they have been unable to do so. This is because a huge seam-monster, called Goorza, inhabits the channel of water which separates the two states. The only way across is to fly...
You can choose between five different scenarios that are each set at different times during the war. This allows you to give the advantage to yourself, or be thrown in at the deep end with the challenge of turning the tide of a war that is not going your way. The lead up to this options screen takes the form of an atmospheric intro, showing the Storm Master invoking a howling wind, to propel one of the aforementioned craft into the sky. Very impressive. Stuff!
The magnificent seven
It's a very strange place is Urgaa, with some very strange people, seven of whom sit on your own ruling council. They are the main governors of Eolia, who each administrate a separate area of the society, and are known as the Ecclesiast, the Master Miller, the High Constable, the Joker, the Leonardo, the Inquisitor and the Commander. Clicking on them produces a sub-screen where further options are possible, some of these lead to further option screens and so on, making the game parameters enormous.
The Ecclesiast is the most important member of the council, since the title of 'Storm Master' belongs to him. Through prayer to the god Eolu, he is able to gain limited control of the winds, which can be used to increase the yield of windmills or wreak havoc upon the enemy by the unleashing of a cyclone.
You actually play a part in this ceremony by using the mouse to conduct various rituals which have to be performed in a certain order. It's good fun but incredibly difficult, and gets quite frustrating when you receive only a light breeze for your efforts instead of the raging hurricane that you had been expecting.
Clicking the mouse around the ceremonial chamber causes some great little animations and the temple backdrop itself (like the other backdrops in the game) is also of very high quality.
The Leonardo is your head of science and research. He is also a very important member of your council since it's through him that you must design and build the aircraft to take your army into combat. With his help you can also invest money into the education system of Eolia.
His sub-screen provides access to some of the most attractive graphics in the game: the ship design screens. There you can experiment with different components to create, crew and test one of four types of weird, boat-like flying machines, that are shown on the drawing board in some impressive da Vinci-
For your inventions maiden flight another screen appears where it either flies through the air with the greatest of ease or crashes to the ground in a ball of flame. Brilliant! If you manage to launch an air-raid and then get attacked by enemy aircraft, you are treated to a relatively fast 3D section that gives you a view from the... er... prow of your plane so that you can dogfight to the death.
The whole of the high council are incredibly touchy, and sometimes leave if you neglect them, so it;s best to rotate between them. Since the strategy element of the game concerns the maintaining of food supplies and good living conditions, as well as the construction of an airforce, it's important to keep them at your side. The sub-sections of the game which control this process, are all attractive and easy to use, making the game a joy to play once you get the basic idea.
The combinations of strategic and arcade gameplay put Storm Master in a class by itself, with excellent graphics and sound simply being the icing on a huge cake that you must get a slice of. Today!