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Star Wars: Empire at War Review
developer: Petroglyph Games
PIV 1000, 256MB RAM, 2.5GB HDD, 32MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Feb 16, 06 (released)
|» All About Star Wars: Empire at War on ActionTrip|
I'm one of the worst Star Wars geeks you can ever hope to meet (hence, the nauseatingly unoriginal nickname, Vader). Lately, I cannot get much sleep. I think I might be coming down with my chronic Star Wars fever. Whenever I doze off, I begin to sweat and start seeing these annoying green and red flashes when I close my eyes. Also, I keep hearing blasters, ion cannons and the recurring sound of approaching AT-ATs. Still, I had it coming. After installing the full version of Star Wars: Empire at War, I was prepared to face the consequences, the least of which is not being able to get some decent shuteye.
We all know that PC gaming in the past couple of months sucked big time and was as about as exciting as watching a behind-the-scenes documentary on Uwe Boll's House of the Dead. Fair enough, a lot of gamers are probably fed up with the inexhaustible Star Wars franchise. Still, you don't have to look at it from that perspective. Just approach the game as an intriguing real-time strategy in space, because that's what Empire at War is.
If you had a chance to play the demo, then you know what to expect. The one thing the demo fails to capture though, is the incredible vastness of the game. In the single-player campaign, there's a whole bunch of planets to conquer and plenty battles to go through both in space and on land.
Assuming you didn't get a chance to skim through the storyline, I'll run it by you once more. The game takes place some time between Episodes III and IV. The Jedi Council is no longer in power and the Empire is quickly capturing one star system after another. Of course, not all planets are giving in that easily. A small force of rebels has begun to spread its influence, in the hope of impeding the ruthless rule of the Emperor and his menacing minion Darth Vader. Essentially, you have a choice to go through the all-too-familiar Star Wars history or perhaps to change the course of events that have occurred in the movies.
Now, let's get down to the facts. Veteran gamers particularly those who are familiar with the old strategy Star Wars: Rebellion will have no trouble getting into the mechanics of Empire at War. However, I'm afraid the game might appear wee bit complicated to those of you who are unacquainted with Star Wars lore. That's why the development team incorporated pop-up screens, frequently used to offer accurate descriptions for units, structures, planetary energy capacity, planetary defenses etc. Also, it's advisable to go through the game tutorial if you want to know your way around a generally unfriendly universe.
Playing Star Wars: Empire at War is a challenge all the way. Your primary concern will be to get your mitts on as much income as possible to ensure a sizeable fleet, as well as enough manpower for planetary invasions. Gaining cash is only possible by conquering planets, which spares you the aggravation of having to cope with resource gathering and potential micromanaging. That's not to say there won't be any micromanaging. Every conquered star system needs a sufficient amount of attention in order to be useful. Once you take control of a planet, you'll need to establish suitable defenses both in orbit and on land.
The space battles are probably the finest and most addictive point of the game. It's all about reacting quickly and coming up with the right tactic throughout the course of the battle. It's, therefore, imperative that your fighters and ships attack different points on enemy cruisers in order to disable them. You'll need to call in reinforcements from time to time and it's also possible to build space turrets in real-time to gain more firepower on the fly. The tide of battle can easily change with the aid of powerful weapons like the ion cannons that can fire at enemy cruisers from the planet's surface.
Both land and space battles can be played in real-time, but if players desire they can use the Auto-resolve option (i.e. the game shows you an instant outcome of a conflict). You'll find this option to be a godsend at certain points of the single-player campaign. The enemy often transports troops and ships across various systems, hence there will be plenty of encounters that you're gonna want to resolve right away.
I've spent a lot of time playing as the Rebel Alliance, but I also went through a decent portion of the game playing as a respectable member of the Empire. Joining the Empire has numerous benefits. To begin with, you'll have technology and firepower at your side, which gives you a considerable advantage over the enemy. However, the Rebellion should not be underestimated, because they are very resourceful and capable of stealing technology and data from right under the Empire's nose. Enter characters like C3PO and R2-D2, who are, apparently, well-versed in the arts of snatching crucial Imperial data. Of course, they do tend to be at wrong place at the wrong time, but their inadvertent heroism may end up saving the galaxy. R2 can also hack into the Empire's defenses and turn their laser turrets against their own units. I found this to be a most useful addition during certain missions and it helped me turn the course of battle. Hero units play a vital role in the game and can aid you in many endeavors. Darth Vader, for example, is capable of stopping entire platoons with the handy force shockwave ability.
There are a lot of aspects that make this game a unique achievement amongst numerous mainstream strategies. The Star Wars backdrop makes for some cool elements, such as being able to use the distinctive abilities of certain hero characters.
8.4 Very Good
An engaging and complex real-time strategy, playing both as Empire and Rebellion, great audio;
Might be a tad overwhelming for beginners, interface issues, a few minor AI hitches, land battles could've looked prettier.