Review by KasketDarkfyre

"Epic in some ways, but average in others..."

In the midst of the great Star Wars franchise, we've seen several adaptations of the RTS games that attempt to bring to life the great battles of the movies and lore. Empire At War, the newest and possibly most interesting entry, gives the gamer and fans of the franchise a chance to take the roll of either the Empire or the Rebellion. Much of this title is based on an older, and lesser known title by the name of Rebellion. Although there is quite a bit to this title that will draw the fans of Star Wars, there are some annoyances within that will make some RTS fans critical.

Set during the time of the original movies {Episode IV, V, VI}, the premise of the game is to either control the galaxy with the iron fist of the Empire, or to free the deziens with the sheer will of the Rebellion. You will find several of the campaign battles to take place in many of the most familiar places such as Hoth, Endor, Corellia and many more. However, you won't find too much that re-inacts the events of the movies like Galactic Battlegrounds. With this in mind, many of the battles that are lackluster on the ground, actually come to life in the outer reaches of space.

Stay on Target...

Much of the gameplay that you're encounter here in Empire At War is your standard RTS fare in which you much control your faction and create units, counter-units and bases in order to win the day. There are several different vehicles and units to choose from in the form of AT-AT's, Stormtroopers, Rebel Commandos, and the lore units such as T4-B tanks and TIE Maulers. In the grand scheme though, the amount of attack/counter-attack units really doesn't play much into the strategy as it only takes several powerful units from each side to zerg your opponent and win the day.

Once you've selected your faction and begin to play, you'll find that it takes a bit of time to get used to scrolling to your planet, setting up the bases, collecting money and then building up a decent force. There are several different buildings that you can place on these planets, but all of them have a different building cap that you have to work with. For instance, if you have six slots on a planet, do you spend those precious spots creating mines to make money, or offensive buildings to build up your army for the next attack. It's a matter of risk versus reward, especially once the game is truly underway.

The space battles on the other hand, is really where all of the action in EAW shines and is where most Star Wars gamers will spend their time. As you fly into the different areas, the battles are intense, with most of the strategy being on whether or not you can flank your opponent and cut off the escape. As with the ground game however, you'll find that the same problem lies within in which you simply need enough of one type of ship in order to destroy everything in front of you with no problem. This is one of the few down-falls that I can find with EOW in the respect that it is a solid playing game, but those with no patience will not bother with more than build and zerg.

Another excellent feature to the game is that there are multiple styles of play as well as different ways that you can play the game. Want a short jaunt into EAW, pick a small map with only a few planets. Want to stay for the duration, choose the largest map and be prepared to sit for a few hours to complete your choice. One problem that I've found with the campaigns, is that if you aren't there for the real-time battles, and you choose to auto-resolve, regardless of what you have in that area, you'll generally lose.

With an AI like that, it is hard to try and micro-manage your gameplay in terms of building bases and defenses, especially late into the game. Your opponent is constantly attacking you and if you're not careful, you can end up losing important territories and gimping your attack force as well as your money pool. The auto-resolve is an interesting feature, but again, it seriously hampers your play because eight out of ten times, you'll lose the battle and end up having to fight for that planet all over again, expending your precious resources and time to do so.

That's no moon...

Possibly one of the best looking Star Wars RTS games to date, you have to look at the shine along with the tarnish in the different aspects of the game. The ground battles and units look a bit under the radar in terms of effects and movement and even the overall battles seem a bit lackluster compared to the epic scope of what they are supposed to represent. While the units move fluidly, there is a bit of want for something a little more than block characters {when you scroll the camera in} fighting across the map. Weather effects are also a bit dull, even though they can sometimes have an effect on your troops and how they fight.

Space battles on the other hand, are immense and visually appealing. For those of you who liked the epic space battles in the movies, you'll come to find that they are recreated {in a fashion} to the same fast paced dogfights that you remember. The smaller ships such as the TIE Fighters and the X-Wings move and look stiff, but the captial ships such as the Star Destroyers and the Mon Calamari Cruisers are full of detail abd life. As you fight your way through space and you destroy the enemy {or they destroy you} your captial ships explode in flames, break apart and fade away.

One last feature with the visuals is the movie camera. I've seen this particular type of camera used in a Star Trek game from a few years back and it was a nice bonus to have it here again. When you select the action camera, the view switches to a full flowing capture of the battles without the heads up display and switches according to the action going on. A problem with this mode is that the camera does not always run in the direction of the action and occasionally hangs up if the action becomes too intense. Regardless of your machine specs, I believe this to be something in the programming and not with the speed of your video card.

John Williams...where are you...?

One major aspect of the game that I found to be relatively disappointing was the soundtrack and the voice-overs to go along with it. Although most of the battles tend to be huge and there is alot of action going on, there really isn't much of a track to go with it. I found myself playing something off of my I-Pod while playing the game, simply because I couldn't take the lack of music along with the horrid voices. Something that I found was that the voices seem to be forced, or that they were read with contempt and coupling that with the fact that the registering voices when you switched units was enough to drive you mad when selecting multiple units. must learn control....

Like most RTS games, the control here is clunky and the keymap takes almost a degree in foreign literature to get used to. Although there is a button for nearly everything, there are dozens of functions that serve no purpose and not remembering what does what and when you need to push what you need to push can cost you a hard-fought battle. The camera zooming is rather nice with the space battles, but on the ground, the further away you get, the harder it is to see just what's going on. Selecting units is the standard fare of click and drag, but movement across the map takes a bit of getting used to. another part of space...

Empire At War is not a bad game for a Star Wars entry, though it doesn't necessarily top the charts as the best of all time. Those of you who enjoy the lore, and the theme, will fall in love with this title, regardless of the downfalls and short-comings that it has. While there is plenty to do and there are plenty of different ways to play the game, you'll find that the auto-resolve is enough to make you scream and the lack of a good soundtrack is almost enough to make you cry. For the RTS fans, this is something to do while waiting for the next big thing, and for the Star Wars fans, this is probably the pinnacle of the franchise RTS titles.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 12/11/06

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