Return to the Roots of RTS in Tempest Rising

Tempest Rising Preview

If you’ve been gaming any length of time at all, you probably associate games with at least some special memories. For me, there are too many to count, but one of the happiest is spending long hours playing early RTS games like Command and Conquer. That game play loop of gathering resources, building, and fighting is classic fun. I was excited to check out Tempest Rising. It’s a new real-time strategy game that’s obviously and explicitly an homage to the greats of a bygone era.

Drawing of the Three

The beloved classics of the genre — Command and Conquer, StarCraft, etc — all were built on the idea of three asymmetric factions, each with unique units. In Tempest Rising, this fundamental mechanic comes in the form of the Global Defense Force — the “good guys” — and the opposing Tempest Dynasty. The third faction is more mysterious. It takes some time to be revealed. There are mysterious vines growing on the ruined landscape. What is their origin, we wonder? And what does it have to do with the global conflict? Answers come through the course of the two, 15-mission campaigns.

Command and Conquer featured melodramatic FMV cutscenes that remain classic cheese. While Tempest Rising holds onto the stoic mission briefings and narrative interludes, they’re CG now. And, surprisingly, they’re interactive, complete with dialogue choices. This helps you give missions some context.

In terms of story, the preview did little more than hint at the narrative to come. Still, it was obvious that the developer has paid attention to an element that fans fondly remember from C&C.

Boots on the Ground

Of course, RTS fans are there for the combat. In this regard, Tempest Rising does a great job of balancing old and new ideas and mechanics. It looks like a bleeding edge contemporary game, but plays like a classic.

The preview begins with taking a control of a small squad of vanilla infantry, before bolstering the force with drones, healing units and vehicles. As your force grows in complexity it moves down an enemy-filled path. Eventually, it’s time to put down roots, gather resources, and build structures like barracks and construction yards. Each mission adds new buildings and units. You’re never controlling massive armies, but this isn’t small squad-based combat either.

There are lots of small, quality-of-life features — like the easy ability to assign units to groups or make granular adjustments to the UI — that show attention to detail and player enjoyment. Beyond that, the controls were easy to manage and nothing felt awkward or overly complex.

Guns Go Boom

Tempest Rising’s Iceland looks fantastic, with a lot of detail in the environments, impressive water and ice (with little rivulets of melting water), and exciting explosions and other combat animations. Zoomed out, units are relatively easy to identify. Up close, unit animations are great. RTS games aren’t necessarily known for amazing audio, but I was excited by the punchy, visceral impact of the game’s gunfire and explosions.

Though obviously not every feature was playable in the preview, Tempest Rising will include all the modes you’d expect, like customized skirmishes and competitive ranked multiplayer.

Tempest Rising shows a ton of promise and fans of the genre classics have something special to look forward to. It’s the best of all possible worlds, with classic mechanics and sharp, modern visuals. There aren’t enough great RTS games, so I’m happy to add this one to my “keeping watching” list.

Thank you for keeping it locked on COGconnected.

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