You'll need to maintain a supply link between the nodes you control as they're all part of a grid displayed on the tactical map. If the enemy manages to cut one off, you'll lose all the associated resources and benefits.
This element was key to solving another problem which Creative Assembly foresaw. In most RTS games, there comes a point when your victory is a certainty and the enemy is on the run. Or, more annoyingly, vice-versa. It's at this point that the tension often flows out of the conflict. Once most commanders are beaten, they'll either fall back for a last stand, or - in CA's words - "hide a unit in a wood" to frustrate the victor.
The supply line rule means that a strike force can sneak behind enemy lines and assault the root of the supply network. Cutting the artery of resources helps to re-establish parity, and staging areas can be gained in the process. It's a simple premise, and will require only a basic strategic plan to overcome, but offers a last gasp to otherwise conquered generals.
Creative Assembly is also attempting to cater for the stroppy. There's nothing much more annoying than settling down for a large multiplayer game (Stormrise's will accommodate up to eight players) only for someone to drop out halfway, ending the game for everyone. The addition of drop-in, drop-out multiplayer means that when someone tries to take their ball home, or has to leave for an entirely justifiable reason, like Bargain Hunt, all that player's resources are redistributed amongst the other participants, and the game continues.
It makes sense for a game which has a multiplayer focus, and that certainly applies to Stormrise. During the presentation, the single-player campaign is described as "an extended tutorial" designed to familiarise players with the units and control system. A few maps will be available for multiplayer, but there will be a large number of multiplayer exclusives too.
Ah yes, the maps. If there's one thing that gets Bhopti more excited than Whip Select, it's the maps - or more specifically, something they're calling "verticality". All of Stormrise's maps are fully 3D environments. That doesn't mean just 3D models or the ability to use aircraft. These are full-on 3D environments, much like the deathmatch arenas you find in first-person shooters. There are building interiors, underground passages, bridges, subways, ruins, vantage points... And because of the way the camera and unit selection works, this has a huge tactical impact.
There's no fog of war in Stormrise, everything is done on line of sight. If you can flick to a unit and look at an area, you'll see any and all enemy forces gathered there. Take an aerial unit for a quick recce and much of the level will be revealed to you very quickly, as will enemy positions. However, if those forces are behind buildings, under flyovers or exploring one of the game's many large underground areas, you simply won't see them.
Should your air unit fly over a building full of troops, they'll stay hidden. That vulnerable group of soldiers out in the open might be protected by battalions of hidden troops, just waiting for the ambush. There will be no shortage of places to hide, either, with some levels as big below ground as they are above. Popping up behind enemy lines as you emerge from a storm drain or underground car-park which your foe has failed to notice should be immensely satisfying. The potential for sniper nests, ambushes and sneak attacks is huge.
Pathfinding for the environments seems solid. The addition of "indirect orders", where a unit in visual contact can be directed with a 'click and drag' of the X button, allows for relatively easy manoeuvring and the creation of cross-fires. It does have limitations, however. Moving a unit around a building is tricky; you can't see around the corner so it has to done in stages, peeking around each bend.
If you leave an area with no nodes or troops, the process must be repeated when you want to return. Learning to recognise all of the relatively small icons players will be flicking through via the Whip system looked tricky, too. Distinguishing between different half-centimetre high white shapes in the heat of battle might just kill some of the immediacy the system is intended to impart.
A great deal rests on that control system, as is always the case with console RTS games. If it's not good enough, the other clever ideas in Stormrise could amount to nothing. But for now, let's just applaud the innovation that's on display here and hope the execution matches the vision.
Stormrise is scheduled for release on PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 at the end of March.