Seeing StarCraft spiritual successor Stormgate in action takes me right back to the heady days of waking up early on weekends at University to watch the GSL, South Korea’s top-tier pro StarCraft II league. Yeah, I’m that guy. Coming from Frost Giant Studios, a team built of ex Blizzard veterans responsible for some of the best RTS games of all time, the Stormgate gameplay debut at the PC Gaming Show already has me eager to try it for myself.
We get to watch a 1v1 multiplayer match between Stormgate’s lead co-op designer Kevin ‘monk’ Dong and StarCraft II icon Dario ‘TLO’ Wünsch. If I wasn’t already in my element, TLO’s presence secured it – his unique strategies and enthusiastic demeanor have cemented him as one of my favorite RTS pros of all time. That’s without even mentioning show host Sean ‘Day’ Plott, himself one of the most prominent faces in StarCraft.
Today’s match only gives us a look at one faction, the ‘Human resistance,’ with the obvious comparison point being StarCraft’s Terran race. We see the two main resources in action: Luminite, the golden primary resource that is gathered up by the Humans’ B.O.B. worker units, and Therium, glowing green crystals that are deposited in specific refineries and used for more advanced construction and research.
Therium can actually spread and enrich as it’s left unmined, making it feel almost more akin to Command and Conquer Tiberium than the Vespene Gas geysers of StarCraft and showing that the team behind Stormgate isn’t merely chasing past glories but aims to evolve and grow the genre for a modern audience.
Of course, as exciting as resources are to any strategy fan worth their salt (mines), they’re merely a means to an end, so we get to see what you’ll be using them for. The Human resistance headquarters is the Command Post, and it’s responsible for pumping out those B.O.B workers.
You’ll be able to upgrade your HQ to unlock higher tier units as the match progresses, and it also has a cool defensive trick: overcharging nearby B.O.B. units to boost their attack and defense. As someone who’s always been more of a macro-first player, prioritizing my economy and expansions, this seems like a really useful tool to help fend off early rushes.
There’s all the other hallmarks you’d expect from a game that’s positioning itself as a spiritual StarCraft sequel: Habitats, built to increase your supply cap; Barracks and Mech Mays to produce units; Biokinetics and Machine Labs that let you research additional upgrades to boost their respective unit types; and defensive Sentry Turrets that can hold off assaults from both ground and air attackers.
The units themselves also feel familiar, though there’s some fun new ideas in here. S.C.O.U.T dogs with laser eyes do exactly what they say on the tin – they’re fast-moving and can sense enemies beyond the fog of war. They even have the ability to send out a howling ping that temporarily increases their range further, and will even pierce terrain such as forests that would otherwise block line of sight.
Your frontline soldiers are Lancers, blade-wielding units that actually most closely resemble StarCraft’s Protoss Zealots, and Exos, which are the more traditional Marine with a rifle. Their ‘Double Time’ upgrade gives the Exos a movement speed buff akin to StarCraft’s stim, but it’ll wear off if they shoot, though you do get a double-burst with that attack, giving them great rushdown potential.
Those units are supported by Medtechs that heal and repair nearby allies, and Evac transport ships that can be used to quickly move your ground units in and out of battle. I absolutely adore watching high-level StarCraft II pros micromanage their armies with Medivac dropships, so I can’t wait to see how the best Stormgate players make use of these options.
Finally, we get a look at Stormgate’s Siege Tank equivalent, the Atlas artillery mech, and the Vulcan, a mech with a gatling gun that ramps up in speed as it fires. Atlas bombardments let you lock down a zone, with the ability to upgrade them to leave patches of flame in their wake, although their explosives won’t discriminate between your units and the enemies, so you’ll have to be careful.
The Vulcan’s devastating gatling pierces through units, making it a perfect counter to any more swarm-based enemy compositions. It also has a jump jets upgrade that lets it reposition with ease, and will also burn away forested sections of the map in the process. While we don’t get to see the demonic ‘Infernal Host’ faction in action today, I’d imagine the Vulcan will prove invaluable against their hordes.
Frost Giant says that limited closed testing for Stormgate is set to begin in July 2023 – you can head to the Stormgate website to sign up for a chance to join in. Co-operative game modes are set to enter the testing period later this year, and you can wishlist Stormgate on Steam to keep up to date with it in the meantime.
For now, we’ve got plenty more of the best space games for that intergalactic sense of adventure, while those of you who feel a little overwhelmed by the real-time approach will find plenty to love among the best turn-based strategy games you can play in 2023.