Innovation is a funny old thing. Take Maelstrom. One glance at its list of features would be enough to have even the most hardened of cynics polishing a Classic Award in anticipation. But while it may be an RTS brimming with clever ideas, it fails to fulfil its potential on so many levels.
Set in the near future when corporations have all but overthrown the governments of the world, it's your mission - as the 'Remnants' of humanity and its armed forces - to thwart the armies of Tesco and Asda before they forcibly build express supermarkets on every nuked street corner. At least, that's roughly the gist of it...
Later on, an alien race turns up, which is when things really start to get interesting, but by that point, it's a case of too little, a little too late.
Masquerading as an impoverished man's Ground Control II, Maelstrom - like a
child prodigy who turns to booze at the age of 12 - throws away much of its potential on a collection of misjudged and sub-standard choices. These include an infuriatingly clumsy interface, along with poor camera controls compounded by a lack of building transparency - often leaving your troops out of sight at key moments.
Couple this with brain-jarringly annoying incidental troop dialogue, and one of the most bizarre third-person shooter sections we've ever seen, in which you control a hero unit and fire what can only be described as a pea shooter at enemies who never miss their target. All of which is criminal when you consider just how much potential this game has.
However, after a tedious start, you do slowly start to uncover a multitude of quality features, including many great terrain and weather-altering options, which imbue the game with a solid spine of originality. There's also a myriad of superbly diverse vehicles, destructible surroundings (admittedly with somewhat exaggerated physics), quality day/night cycles and some top-notch hero abilities.
Maelstrom is certainly interesting, but it just lacks that magic spark needed to transform a collection of ingenious ideas into a thrilling RTS experience. Innovative? Certainly. Thrilling and essential? Not quite.
Ambitious but flawed
- Plenty of innovation
- Huge unit and faction diversity
- Great use of terrain and elements
- Atrocious interface
- Laughable third-person shooter features
- Too many missions feel overly flat