Review by Evil Insane
"The Force is strong with this one… Damn cheesy taglines"
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away
Star Wars is great. We all love it, don't we? There's something about being a Jedi that makes us all want to get a lightsaber and start having crazy battles with our Force powers and stuff. Yes. Well, this game is not about Jedi, nor is it about lightsabers.
Star Wars has moved across a lot of genres as far as games are concerned. We've had platformers, action, adventure, beat-em-ups, shoot-em-ups, flight sims, racing, RPGs and RTSs. The last genre, Real-Time Strategy games, is one of the least-tread as far as Star Wars related games go. So far, we've had one game, Galactic Battlegrounds, and its expansion, the Clone Campaigns. Although the games weren't bad, they were basically Age of Empires with AT-AT's. So, its refreshing to see an original Star Wars RTS come out in the shape of Empire at War.
Basically, Empire at War takes place between Episodes III and IV. Darth Vader has risen to power and Darth Sidious has become the Emperor of the giant, Galactic Empire. With the Jedi slain, the two Dark Lords of the Sith, with their massive planet-destroying ship, the Death Star, control the entire Galaxy with an Iron Fist. A small uprising against the Galactic Empire, known collectively as the Rebel Alliance. They, led by Mon Mothma, have been silently turning the planets to their cause and building a small but sizable army against the Imperials through espionage and tactical battles.
You take control of either sides the mighty Empire or the fledgling Rebels and take over the galaxy, bit by bit.
The gameplay adds a nice spin to traditional RTSs. Basically, you have two views, the Galactic View and the Battle View. The Galactic View is your base of operations. Here, galactic days pass, each day adding more money from the planets in your power. The more planets you own, the more money you receive, and, the more units you can house. Each planet can be built on, allowing you to create more units or receive more money. When you have built enough units, you can send them into a planet to start a battle.
Battles take two distinct forms. There's the Space Battle and Land Battle. A Space Battle takes place above the planet, and is needed to allow your forces to invade the planet by destroying any blockades the enemy has put up to protect themselves. Space battles are great fun, sneaking around clouds of gas and dust as well as asteroid fields to engage your enemies.
The game uses an ingenious form of creating units. Instead of making a base and training an army to launch upon the enemy, you create an army within the Galactic View and send them in your convoy to the planet you wish to attack. From this pool of units, you can call in reinforcements to aid you in battle. In a Space Battle, you can call in reinforcements to any area where there are no nearby enemies or nebulas to annoy you. In space, however, you have a population cap to stop you simply sending in all your forces for an easy win, so you have to be tactical as to how many ships you bring in, and what type they are. The wrong type can mean instant death.
The space battles are epic, allowing you to launch wave upon wave of TIE fighters, Star Destroyers, X-Wings, Y-Wings and all manner of other ships at your disposal towards your enemy. You can even have ships, like the Star Destroyers, that house smaller squadrons of TIEs to attack the enemy. All ships have shields and hull health, the former of which will recharge over time. You can even target different parts of larger ships, such as the engines, torpedo launchers, laser cannons etc. to give you a better chance at destroying them.
Once you pass the Space Battle (or even bypass it altogether by raiding the planet) you switch to a Land Battle. Land Battles, like Space Battles, allow you to call in reinforcements to a battle. However, you can't just send in troops anywhere. Only specifically selected areas, known as Reinforcement Points can used. The Reinforcement Points have two uses: They, obviously, allow you to send more units into battle, and they also increase your population cap. Each reinforcement point increases your population cap by a certain amount, generally five or ten, allowing you to bring in more troops.
Thus, as well as assaulting the enemy, you must be aware of how many reinforcement points you own. The enemy, of course, can also use them as well, and taking control of all of them within a field is vital to any battles success.
This adds an incredibly tactical element to the game, meaning it's more than just sending in an army into a base and hoping for the best, there's more strategy involved and makes you feel more involved than simply ordering a few troops to walk somewhere.
The graphics are a mixed bag. When you're looking at the different characters from the normal over-head view, they look nice enough, all 3-D and they move realistically enough, generally meeting your requirements. When you zoom in, however, they start to lose their charm, as they have a tiny amount of polygons each and look like badly-constructed Lego characters. This is just the troops however, all the rest of the units, especially the spaceships, look awesome, particularly in Cinematic mode when a battle can be seen in a cinematic fashion, making the proceedings very exciting.
That said, even if the infantry are ugly, the game still squeezes in hundreds of them into a battle without a second of slowdown, which is remarkable. The planets in Galactic View all look very nice, rotating as normal, with their separate moons floating around them realistically.
When a battle takes place, and I mean a big one, not a small scrap between eighteen Storm Troopers, I mean a full scale war, with AT-ATs, troops, tanks, AT-STs, speeder bikes and Darth Vader running through the field, its beautiful to behold, with the lasers and the sparks and the explosions. Great.
The sound is, as usual, great. The music rules, changing from Star Wars ambience during the quiet recon, into a tense music when you're nearing an enemy's base, right into full theme as you start fighting them. All your favourites are there, including the opening theme, Imperial March and Duel of the Fates. The blasters, shots, lasers, explosions and screams all seem very real and authentic.
The only problem with the sound overall is the voices. Although most seem authentic, the Heroes sometimes seem very badly impersonated, especially Darth Vader. Lets face it, he hasn't been done well in any Star Wars game, so it's no disappointment, I'd just like to hear James Earl Jones again. Man is a legend.
The whole game is presented very nicely, all the menus are well laid out and the HUD gives you all the information you need about the battle at hand. The game also features a full help system to help you if you haven't played the game before and will drop hints about what units to use and when to activate their separate powers.
Most of the control is done by the mouse, such as selecting, moving, issuing orders and activating the different unit's special features, such as bombs or taking cover. The keyboard can be used to automatically move around the map or to assign different units into different groups for ease during a battle. All controls are completely customisable within the game options.
Extra features 7/10
The game itself has two main adventures: The campaign mode where you choose either the Galactic Empire or the Rebel alliance and slowly take over the planets; and the Galactic Conquest mode, where you select a map, each one differing in size from about ten planets to the mid-fifties and you play that. As well, there are random skirmish missions, multiplayer, create your own game and such. You will be playing this game for years.
Play Time 9/10
The campaign mode takes a good few hours to complete, about fifteen, and that's only with one of the two factions. Selecting the other group will bring you another fifteen hours of enjoyment. This is before you've even thought about playing the Galactic Conquest missions, so the whole game should last you ages all together.
You could easily play the missions again for the fun of it, or purposely take a different route by losing missions that you need to win, forcing the storyline to adapt. Although most of the replayability will come from multiplayer and random skirmishes.
Buy or rent? 10/10
Buy. A rent cannot possibly get you through this massive game, and its well worth buying cos it's Star Wars!
Overall, it's a fantastic game, made better by the fact that it has the Star Wars name on it. A definite game for any Strategy fan, it's new, slick and well put together.
Percentage:(The separate scores added together) 82%
Score out of ten: (Rounded to the nearest whole number) 8/10
GameFAQs score: (Not an average) 9/10
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 02/24/06
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