NetStorm: Islands At War

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NetStorm: Islands At War
NetStorm Cover.jpg
Developer(s)Titanic Entertainment
Producer(s)Jonathan Knight
Jason Kay
Designer(s)Tony Bratton
Ken Demarest
Steven Moore
Artist(s)Beverly Garland
Composer(s)Mark Morgan
ReleaseNovember 13, 1997[1]
Genre(s)Real-time strategy
Mode(s)Single player, Multiplayer

NetStorm: Islands At War is a real-time strategy Windows game, developed by Titanic Entertainment and published by Activision in 1997. Although a single-player campaign and tutorial missions are included, Netstorm is chiefly designed for online play, allowing for games of up to eight players.


A High Priest being sacrificed on an Altar

The gameplay itself is relatively simple but quite innovative for its time, as few moving units are used, in contrast to other real-time strategy games, such as Command & Conquer. The battle area consists of a number of islands, each one controlled by an individual player. Each player has a priest unit which the enemy must capture and sacrifice using their own priest.

Players’ resources are increased by collecting power in the form of ‘storm crystals’, which can be used to build new units. The player starts the game with a limited number of units available; upon sacrificing an enemy priest, the player gains knowledge of new more powerful units for use in future battles.

There are several classes of units, including offensive units, defensive units and transport units. Only transport units can move; they are mainly used to collect the storm crystal from the "storm geysers" that appear randomly around the map.

Both the offensive and defensive units are static in that once placed cannot be moved. Each offensive unit has an area or line of fire in which it can attack and destroy enemy units. Defensive units serve to provide cover to other offensive units while they make their attack.

Bridges are a key part of the game and are used to advance your position and gain access to other areas of the battlefield. Units can be constructed at the terminal points of the bridges, and further bridges can then be built from the placed unit.

The ultimate objective is to use offensive units to immobilize the enemy priests by damaging them. After this, they can be captured by a transport unit and taken to a sacrificial altar, where they are sacrificed in exchange for knowledge of more powerful units. The game ends when all enemy priests are killed or players declare a draw. Throughout the game players are free to choose to ally with other players for mutual benefit, in which case a co-operative victory is possible.


NetStorm takes place in the world of Nimbus, a planet whose crust has been sent floating off into the atmosphere by the never-ending battles between the four god-like beings called "The Furies", representing Sun, Wind, Rain and Thunder. The people now live on small floating islands, each with its own high priest; their only link to their patron Fury. The islands battle each other in order to capture and sacrifice the priests of their enemies to their own Fury so they may gain knowledge and power.


A demo of the game was originally released by Activision on September 15, 1997, but a flaw allowed users to convert it into a full-version download. This in combination with the close launch date of the popular Age of Empires and lack of promotion by Activision meant game sales were poor.

In December 1997, fans discovered an unsupported built-in editor function within the game that allowed new custom content single-player campaigns to be created. A fan-based community centred on playing the game and designing new content emerged based at a fansite named "Island Sanctuary".

Unfortunately, the game contained a number of bugs that many players exploited, including the ability to knock other players out of online games (called "nuking") and to give themselves unlimited credits within the game. On February 4, 1998 Activision released a patch fixing many of the problems.

Activision maintained the official servers for a number of years, but the constant server crashing made player numbers diminish and the servers were closed down on May 28, 2002. Shortly after, fans of the game set up unofficial servers to keep Netstorm alive and the current server uptime is good. Additional unofficial patches have now been released which add several new options, allowing for more varied games.

Netstorm is considered abandonware by some.


Next Generation reviewed the game, rating it four stars out of five, and stated that "Netstorm is not only something different in a crowded market, but it's also well thought through and fun as hell to play. Kudos to Titanic for bucking the trend, even if it's only a little."[2]

NetStorm was a commercial flop, with sales of 13,500 copies in the United States by April 1999, according to PC Data. Activision's Peter Karpas remarked at the time that "NetStorm suffered from poor timing. It came out before Internet gaming had really broken through, other than for Doom and Quake. This made it a difficult sell."[4]

Fan-made remakes[edit]

Fan-made projects based on Netstorm: Islands At War in modern engines started to be developed.


  1. ^ Jebens, Harley (November 13, 1997). "NetStorm Due". GameSpot. Archived from the original on June 10, 2000. Retrieved December 6, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Finals". Next Generation. No. 40. Imagine Media. April 1998. p. 109.
  3. ^ Sullivan, Keith (March 1998). "NetStorm: Islands at War". PC Gamer US. Archived from the original on March 4, 2000.
  4. ^ Saltzman, Marc (June 4, 1999). "The Top 10 Games That No One Bought". CNET Gamecenter. Archived from the original on June 16, 2000.

External links[edit]