|Star Wars: Empire at War|
Release Date: Out Now
Players: 1-8 online
There are two types of Star Wars fan in the world: The ones who want to run about waving a lightsabre about, slashing infidels and whatnot. There are also those who want to command an Imperial fleet across the galaxy, order AT-ATs to stomp puny rebels and pretty much anything else that makes you seem as cool as Grand Moff Tarkin. Ever since I watched Empire back when I was a nipper I’ve been one of the latter fans and after some shaky starts we’re getting close to getting the game we want.
Empire at War is a middle ground between two Star Wars strategy games; one that focused too much on facts and figures (Star Wars: Supremacy) and one that cut out all strategic management sections and concentrated on 100% combat strategy. In EaW you get a little of everything in the strategy stakes, with the game split between planetary conquest, development and expansion (like the Total War titles) and real-time combat strategy both in space and on the planets.
The Sound and music of Star Wars is also present, from the excellent Imperial March to the scorching sounds of lasers. The polite British voice of an Imperial captain sounding off: “Star destroyer reporting, sir” makes me pull a big evil grin and want to torture the girl next door to obtain the location of the rebel base…
Rather than the turn-based outings of the Total War series, everything you do, from building cruisers to mining colonies, is on the clock and you can really feel it in the gameplay. Have the game set on anything but ‘easy’ and the computer will have your nuts if you’re not ready for them. The further you advance into space the harder it becomes as the computer starts assaulting several planets almost simultaneously, halting your preparation to take another planet but also stretching your forces thinly.
Unfortunately the land element isn’t so well executed. Land battles involve a set number of units (the ones you assault with and the troops occupying at the time) and apart from the defenders perhaps having a few buildings which have garrisoned troops, there’s no chance to bring in more troops. Furthermore, the attacking army has to drop its troops at certain locations on the map, with a limit to how many troops can be on the field at one time. To send in more troops some have to die first, or you need to take another drop point. On some planets the limit is stupidly low (three on Kessel, with only one other drop point around), leaving you with hardly anything to assault with.
This ties in with the Rebel’s huge shortfall when fighting space battles, something I found out when playing the game through the second time. The rebels have an abundance of small cruiser ships but when it comes to gunships and large cruisers (with garrisoned fighters) there’s really nothing until you get to the Mon Calamari Capital ships, right at the end of the technology spectrum. By this point the Imperials have four different types of large cruisers with fighter escorts and no matter how many smaller rebel ships you throw at them they keep coming. It wasn’t so bad having to recruit more soldiers as the Imperials as they cost nearly nothing (about 60 credits) but even the tiddliest of ships cost at least 1000 credits to replace and it tarnishes what is such a great Star Wars experience.
But I find it hard to think of this game without Star Wars being involved. It’s one of the best settings for games with the coolest characters and armies, and EaW lets you go nuts with them. It’s a shame that the sides are uneven on certain aspects and the complex sheen rubs off after a while - even for the fanboys, but it’s the best Star Wars Strategy game we’ve had yet and a step in the right direction toward the perfect SW game.
- Amazing space battles
- All authentic vehicles and troops
- Great sound and music
- Weak land battles
- Uneven armies
- May not hold lasting appeal