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Video Game / CyberStorm

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CyberStorm is a series of Turn-Based Strategy games for the PC, based on the Starsiege universe. The first game, Missionforce: CyberStorm, was released in 1996. The second, CyberStorm 2: Corporate Wars was released in 1998.

In Missionforce: CyberStorm, players take on the role of a Non-Entity General in Unitech Corporation, joining the ongoing Robot War against a race of mechanical beings known as Cybrids. The player builds and customizes their own force of both Walking Tanks and their bioderm pilots, selecting from a wide range of weapons, equipment, and pilot ability. Using these tools, the player participates in randomly-generated skirmishes against the Cybrids to earn money and promotions, eventually outfitting his or her forces well enough to destroy the main Cybrid command centers in three different star systems.

CyberStorm 2: Corporate Wars is set even further in the future. Cybrids are still encountered in isolation, but have ceased to be a major threat. This time, the player supports one of eight corporations' efforts in a new star system. In addition to outfitting forces and fighting strategic battles, the player now directs base defense, research, mining outposts, and eventually, assaults against the other seven corporations in order to force them permanently from the star system.

Although not amazingly popular, the first game received good reviews, while the second was thought to be a victim of Sequelitis. Both games offer solid turn-based strategy gameplay on a wide variety of unique planets and moons.

CyberStorm is a 16-bit game, but if you're looking to play on 64-bit Windows with the original CD, grab the player-made patch here. It was also released on in 2019 in a form already compatible with modern computers.

The CyberStorm series contains the following tropes:

  • The Ace: The genetic donors for Tola, Kaesar, and several other bioderms. The help file has a background on each bioderm's donor; most are HERC commanders or pilots who pulled off something epic. Should you destroy all three Cybrid command centers, your skills as a commander make you prime bioderm donor material as well. Unitech treats it as an honor, but a lot of the flavor text up to that point treats it as In-Universe Squick.
  • A Commander Is You: Each corporation in the second game has different talents and limitations.
  • Armored Coffins: Ordinarily, a bioderm will never survive the destruction of its HERC. The sequel adds optional ejector seats as part of the life support system, which are definitely a good idea as they trigger automatically when the HERC is destroyed.
  • Artificial Human: Most bioderms, though their higher thought capabilities are limited. You can have them grown, which is apparently very quick, have them trained, and recycle them. The cheapest one looks like an overgrown fetus. Not to be confused with the bioderms of Starsiege, who have natural origins but were cyborged.
  • Bad Boss: Bioderms have limited lifespans. HERCs can be outfitted with self-destruct devices. Although HERCs are expensive, ordering your pilots to blow themselves up is perfectly fine.
  • Boring, but Practical: As you gain access to heavier HERCs, there is little reason to go back to the lighter chassis that can't take as much damage or mount heavier weapons, so your force is likely to be mostly Demons by the end of the first system, and mostly Reapers or Juggernauts by the end of the second system. However, Demons can retain usefulness for their ability to mount four ELF Mortars, making them great for indirect fire support as long as they have a wall of Reapers or Juggernauts to hide behind.
  • Brain in a Jar: Mentor, one of the unique Bioderms.
  • Building Is Welding: Some HERCs are shown being worked on. Naturally, you can see the mechanics welding them.
  • Chunky Salsa Rule: Damage to life support (that is, the cockpit) is rare, but has unhappy results for the pilot. On top of that, most planets have hostile atmospheres.
  • Critical Existence Failure:
    • In both games, damage to the chassis and the bioderm's health has no consequence until they reach zero, in which case the chassis' destruction causes the HERC to literally fall apart, and bioderm health... is fairly obvious.
    • Special mention goes to Mentor in the original game. Unlike all other bioderms, who undergo poison damage to both their Stability and Health in the event that their toxicity exceeds their maximum limit, if Mentor's toxicity reaches it's max, the poor thing drowns and dies instantly, even if right before overdosing on Jackup, it was at perfect health and stability. Also to note, unlike all other bioderms who show symptoms of genetic instability when their stability stat is getting dangerously low, the only physical sign Mentor has of falling apart is the color of the gel containing his brain until suddenly it desolves and sprays all over the jar.
  • Death World: There are a handful of Earth-like planets with water and lush plantlife, but most of them are anything but. Even if a bioderm manages to survive having a massive hole blown into the cockpit, the toxic or airless atmospheres will soon kill them. The final system has planets with atmospheres so corrosive that anything less than 100%-operational life support will kill the pilot in around three turns.
  • Deflector Shields: Firing missiles and cannons at a shielded opponent will do only a pitiful amount of Scratch Damage. Lasers, plasma cannons, and EMPs can knock out shields easily, but are weak against armor. Particle weapons — with many added in the second game — are equally mediocre against both. Shields can be adjusted during battle to cover a certain side better than the others, possibly so much that the opposite side's shield is paper thin.
  • Developer's Foresight: Your primary objective in Reconnaissance missions is to get close to the center of a Cybrid base, at which point you are free to leave and collect your bonus. There are actually three different reactions you can get from Mission Control. First is by doing the recon. Second is by destroying all walking Cybrids and then doing the recon. Third is by wiping the map clean of Cybrids without ever approaching the base, which produces a rather amusing response pointing out that you just destroyed everything instead of following your actual orders. In any case, you are given credit as the recon was meant to be in preparation for a future assault anyway.
  • Dump Stat:
    • It's generally best to specialize each HERC in one or two weapon types and match a pilot skilled in just those weapons. A generalist like Tola is wasted in anything except a Juggernaut loaded with its unique cannons or advanced tech. Corporate Wars encourages this further with customized bioderms that can have 1 skill in whatever you don't need.
    • You can have a very successful campaign and never touch plasma weapons (power hog, sharp damage dropoff at range), ELF (weak, power hog, requires hugging range — with the exception of ELF Mortar), or advanced tech (bioderms with good skill in it are generally expensive, covers a lot of disparate roles). Tola is a great bioderm, but for a fraction of the price you could get Kyoko (good value in an unarmed scout), Xian (great with cannons or ELF Mortar), or Jarvis (great with energy and missiles). Those bioderms are poor when outside their primary roles, but it doesn't matter one bit since those low skills never get tested.
  • Fog of War: Enabled by default, and an option in multiplayer or with cheats. The Shadow and Sensei have advanced sensors to play spotter for your heavier HERCs.
  • Gang Up on the Human: Half-averted in the sequel. The corporations do fight amongst themselves, and even wipe each other out. Near the endgame, with three or four corporations remaining, they tend to see you as the biggest threat and ally against you.
  • Geo Effects: Terrain is surprisingly relevant considering the game was released in 1998. As expected, bad terrain takes more energy to cross. Some hexes have straight bonuses to defense (such as a boulder to hide behind) or penalties to offense (exposed minerals that interfere with the targeting computer). Firing from high to low ground grants an accuracy bonus. Even more important is the fact that hilly terrain and the HERCs themselves can partially or fully obstruct line of sight; even a partial obstruction can significantly decrease accuracy.
  • Human Popsicle: Not for time travel, but your unlinked bioderms are kept in cryogenic stasis between missions, which prevents them from aging. As you are allowed to have more bioderms than HERCs, this allows you to swap them out as appropriate, or to keep a balance between older veterans and newly created 'derms.
  • Human Resources: bioderms, and possibly natural humans, can be recycled for a quick profit. This is done in the same vats where they get routine medical treatments, which has lead to some problems.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: Individual missions can be failed without issue, but if you have no HERCs and lack the funds to purchase any replacement at all, you'll be strapped to a beacon and set out as bait for Cybrids.
  • It's Up to You: In the first game, you seem to be the only competent commander in Unitech (there are fewer commanders standing at each successive promotion cutscene). In the second, you appear to be the Supreme Commander of your chosen corporation, despite beginning at a low rank like Ensign.
  • Made of Iron: The HERC Carrier cannot be destroyed by any amount of firepower. However, the pilots will leave the area if they suffer too much damage, which denies its sensor coverage, ballistic resupply, use as cover, and leaves your own units stranded until all opposition has been destroyed.
  • Magikarp Power: Several bioderms first appear to be grossly overpriced for their low skills. The value is in their learning curve, a stat only mentioned in the help files. Corporate Wars makes this more obvious with a "learning" stat, and your custom bioderms can have it low or high as you wish.
  • Master of None:
    • The Remora HERC combines fairly good speed with light energy weapons, light cannons, and light missiles, but lacks enhanced sensors and has the unique downside of holding only one internal module. While pretty decent at taking out other light opponents, it can't be upgraded far enough to do anything else. It soon becomes obsolete in the campaign, although it could be useful for kamikaze tactics against enemy scouts in multiplayer.
    • The Sensei is a medium HERC that apparently means to combine the Shadow's advanced sensor array with the Remora's firepower. The end result is a HERC that's terribly overpriced, too slow to scout, too weak to damage anything except light opponents, and too fragile to withstand incoming firepower. It may be a decent choice in multiplayer as the Shadow is quite vulnerable to Scratch Damage from missiles, whereas the AI doesn't usually exploit this fact.
  • Nanomachines: The field repair systems are said to work by using these, with the nanomachines becoming part of the damaged subsystem.
  • Off-Model: During the promotion interlude that introduces the Demon HERC (Squad Leader), the Demons shown are missing their two lower arms.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: Just in case you were under the mistaken impression that the Cybrids are a threat to civilians or something, Unitech makes it repeatedly clear that their only goals are profit and political power. The Cybrids just happen to crawling around a bunch of ore-rich planets.
  • People Jars: The vats where bioderms are grown, maintained, and recycled while still alive. It's like an immoral, compact hospital.
  • Player Mooks: The bioderms. Some are unique in the sense that they are one-of-a-kind and given to you at certain promotion levels. The rest are clones, and all of them can and will die — either in combat, or from old age.
  • Scratch Damage:
    • Most cannons and missiles have a value for penetrating damage, which is damage dealt to armor even while the target's shields are up. The damage is so low as to only be a concern for the lightest scouts. The micromissile is the only ballistic weapon with zero penetrating damage.
    • Bioderms lose stability from any damage to their HERC's armor, no matter how small that damage is. In the first game, this almost is a non-issue due to command bioderms (which restore stability to themselves and those nearby each turn) and the placidex stimulant (which restores stability and increases toxin level). It can be a bigger issue in Corporate Wars because placidex is no longer available.
  • Subsystem Damage: Each HERC has over a dozen subsystems, all of which can have integrity anywhere from 100% (undamaged) to 0% (blown off; unrepairable in the field). A HERC is only destroyed with the loss of its chassis or reactor.
  • Suicide Attack: The Self-Detonator pod is effectively this. Activating it causes the HERC to well... explode in a Kamakazi attack to do massive damage to, if not destroy anything caught in the blast. However, this is defied in the first game if you try to have Tarsus self-destruct, as he has gained a sense of self-preservation and will disable the self-detonator on you, preventing you using it.
  • Super Soldiers: Pilots of natural origins eventually became too slow. Bioderms — vat-grown, biologically modified cyborgs — replaced them. Their lifespan is ten years at best; Or maybe that's just when they stop being useful.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: One bioderm, Tarsus, apparently got a brief jolt of self-preservation, refusing to enter a vat, and destroying the base in the process. And then they give him to you.
  • Units Not to Scale: The HERC Carrier is far too small considering that it serves as the transport for your entire force and apparently carries an unlimited supply of reserve missiles and cannons.
  • Walking Tank: Kind of a big deal. The HERCs are basically battlemechs.
  • We Have Reserves: The bioderms, being easily cloned and purchased, are treated as expendable (proportional to their market value, of course). A more interesting example is you, the player character. While your value to the corporation increases with your success, at the beginning, you are just one of hundreds of new commanders, and they outright tell you that your lives are worth less to them than the HERCs you command.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Seems to be averted, with natural humans being treated as the property of Unitech just as much as the artificial ones, though they may have entered this arrangement voluntarily while bioderms are Born into Slavery.
  • With This Herring:
    • In the first game, the only help you get are the Shadow and Remora you start with, and periodic unique bioderms that may or may not be better than the usual stock. You have to earn every credit yourself.
    • Averted in the sequel. The player is in complete command of mining, research, and customized bioderms. In addition, your corporation gives you generous credit infusions and unique bioderms for gaining ranks and defeating enemy corporations.
  • You Have Failed Me: If you screw up really badly (lose all your HERCs and don't have any money to buy more), you'll be abandoned on a lifeless moon, along with with a beacon that broadcasts your position to the Cybrids.
  • You Have Researched Breathing: A minor example in Corporate Wars — there is no justification given as to why these eight advanced corporations need to "research" the same weapons that were long available in the original game and only denied to the player on basis of rank. They are working with isolated outposts, so it might be a matter of building out the infrastructure to fabricate advanced weapons rather than research.