Hammer and Sickle Preview
By: Andy Levine

A while back Silent Storm, a turn-based tactical strategy game from Nival Interactive, stormed the markets with its revolutionary gameplay style. Hammer and Sickle takes place in 1949 amidst all of the tension in Europe. Loaded with an impressive physics engine, enhanced appearance, and improved RPG elements, Hammer and Sickle is sure to be one of the best games to hit the PC this year.

From the beginning of the campaign, the character can first be developed from one of six classes. The Scout is an elusive stealth worker who also excels in hand-to-hand combat. Snipers are weak in close areas, but they are clearly the best choice for long range attacks. The soldier isn’t quite as evasive as one might hope, but his overpowering skill with guns makes up for his sloppy spy work. Grenadiers prefer to use the heavier weaponry available in all situations. Engineers are adept at mechanical skills, such as disarming devices, while the Medics can heal both themselves and their allies. After this, the character’s attributes, such as strength and intelligence, can be varied to further customize his strengths and weaknesses. Lastly, the hero’s appearance can be selected from some preset designs. On the battlefield, the troops will gain experience that can be used to update certain attributes. Overall, you can expect a much more in-depth customization than in Hammer and Sickle’s preview, Silent Storm.

The mechanics and controls haven’t varied too much since, so fans of Silent Storm will feel right at home. Each character in a squad has a set number of AP that they can use to perform any actions, whether it involves firing a gun, ducking for cover, or picking up a corpse. Each member also has a fully manageable inventory, so of course you can expect to have to drop some of your belongings along the way. The entire battle doesn’t revolve solely around who has the most firepower, but instead the winner will always be the side who has the environment work for them. Collapsing buildings by means of grenades and heavy explosives will surely leave anybody on the inside in an awkward position while your squad would remain unscathed. Maintaining a squad full of combatants with diverse skills will allow for success in a multitude of environments, but occasionally going on a rampage and savagely beating a group of people is not out of the question. Gamers will have much to rejoice about once it’s finally go time.

To further add to the RPG elements in Hammer and Sickle, the hero’s daily actions and mannerisms will always affect something in the future. For instance, in one of the earlier missions I encountered a young boy and his mother. If I chose to help the young boy stop a train carrying explosives, he could have helped my weapon situation while his mother could have helped forge documents. However, after a heated argument with the boy that escalated very quickly, I had no choice but to kill him and his mother. With every action there are sure to be consequences, and killing that boy and his mother had its fair share of repercussions. The main hero has a behavior meter, and if he acts extremely out of hand, NATO authorities will interfere and a hell of a mess will ensue. If the forger was still living, she would be able to supply me with a new ID so the authorities wouldn’t be watching my every move. Hundreds of incidents like these will occur, so it’s best to be on the lookout for allies instead of rivals. Throughout the entire campaign, an assortment of these RPG elements help make Hammer and Sickle as enjoyable as Silent Storm.

While I was expecting the game to be as solid as ever, I was a little skeptical as to how the presentation quality of Hammer and Sickle would fare against some of today’s latest titles. The surrounding environment is simply gorgeous—trees swaying in the breeze bring a fresh breath of air to war-torn Europe. The texture details are rich and smooth, making the environment come to life. The processes of night and day are crucial for gameplay stratagem, and the proper lighting effects help complement the time of day. The character and weapon models are some of the best around, and the corresponding animations are also up to par by today’s standards. The sound effects mimic guns from the World War II era, and the background music is also fitting. The narrations are still spoken in Russian for now, but the actors sound fierce and dramatic, so we can expect nothing less from the English version. For a game that involves a whole load of strategy to be successful, it also needs the proper graphics and audio engine to back it up, and Hammer and Sickle certainly has these.

In conclusion, Hammer and Sickle is going to make an excellent sequel to the hit title Silent Storm. With its unique blend of RPG and turn-based strategy elements, Hammer and Sickle’s intuitive gameplay will definitely make this highly anticipated title a must play.