First Look: Stormworks: Build & Rescue

By Joe Robinson 07 Jun 2017 0

My first boat was small, simple, and seemed to possess the properties of a highly energetic beach ball. It was also dead in the water because the dev guiding me through the basics had neglected to inform me that you physically need to connect the engine to the steering wheel.

I mean really, what is this, an actual boat?

Yes, as it turns out. Stormworks: Build & Rescue doesn’t just want to take the Space Engineers/Kerbal Space Program idea and throw it somewhere in the North Sea – it demands precision in all things. Created by Sunfire Studios and supported by Green Man Gaming’s super-secret publishing arm, the premise is a simple yet has a lot of potential. You run a search & rescue outpost on a remote Scottish island: around you is mostly ocean, plus other islands, and you will need to build the vehicles you need in order tackle ever more complex missions. These can range from search & rescue, to logistics, to whatever else the developers can fit into the setting. Even missions of a similar type will have different set-ups. You could be sent to an oil-rig, or to try and fetch something underwater.

Like all good sandbox’s, there will be a creative and a career mode which are fairly self-explanatory. There will some logistical and financial pressures connected with the success (or otherwise) of your rescue efforts, and monthly reports to evaluate your effectiveness. Other islands and bases will be available to be unlocked and bought that can offer expanded hanger facilities, better launch pads and so on. The meat of this game though will be in the creation engine, and the overall physics of the world. Coming back to the boat I made – I’d put too much ballast on the sides and the vessel was extremely, so it bounced across the surface of the ocean.

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The main innovation for Stormworks over similar games is the logic system. It’s not enough to simply build a chassis with key components in sensible places – you have to connect everything up through the logic interface. The pilot seat will have several nodes that will need to link to everything from engines, to any part connected with steering, to various specialist equipment and functions. Want a cool light that you can turn on and off? That will need a logic connection. Does your helicopter have a winch? That will need a connection. If there’s no connection, the part won’t work and if it’s not connected to the right input, or in the right order, it STILL won’t work. You even have to make sure there are actual pipes connecting the engine to the propulsion parts! Where did I leave the engineering degree?

Jokes aside, this is a step above what most people will be used to. The game will ship with plenty of premade vehicles that will work perfectly well, but the community will probably provide the rest. Between them, you don’t have to get too deep into this highly complex lego-esque rabbit hole. I have some small concerns over how the game will teach the player how to interact with it though – it would be a shame for someone to have to rely solely on the creations of others. Dan Walters, the game’s creator, showed me a ridiculous helicopter build where the logic interface looked like an intricate spider’s web. Can they help players who aren’t natural engineers get to that point? Time will tell, but tool tips, a basic tutorial and good old fashioned trial and error will all be there to lend a hand.

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It’s still early days for Stormworks: the Early Access hasn’t even launched yet but the graphics leave a lot to be desired in many places, and some of the physics still need adjusting. So far though we’ve been very impressed. Like my first boat, the basic framework is there but plenty of room for improvement to get it up to the dizzying heights of complexity that can be reached. There are reports of multiplayer being a potential ‘thing’ – the helicopter Dan was showing me was actually created to test this out, as his creation had two seats; one navigator, one pilot.

It will be interesting to see how this fairs out in the wild: Kerbal Space Program reached mainstream attention through its charming portrayal of the very serious business of space travel, while Space Engineers tried to go after the Minecraft crowd who wanted something a bit more substantial. With Green Man’s help, Stormworks has the potential to capture a similar crowd. Crucially, unlike KeenSoftware’s offering, there’s an actual game to play with.

We’ll bring more in-depth coverage on Stormworks once it’s actually live. All we know is that it will launch onto Steam Early Access “later this year”, and that the EA period is due to last around one year.



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