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Star Wars Empire at War Review

Published February 28, 2006 in PC Games
By Ryan Parsons | Images property of LucasArts
Star Wars: Empire at War Star Wars: Empire at War
When we first previewed Star Wars: Empire at War we compared it to one of LucasArts earlier games-- Star Wars: Rebellion. Unknown to us was that Empire at War is Rebellion or at least what Rebellion should have been.

Taking the best elements from Rebellion, Empire at War tweaks and polishes the RTS element by allowing battles in both space conflict and ground conflict. However, it is the little things that make this star shine.

Star Wars: Empire at War

Star Wars: Empire at War puts the power to command an entire war for the Star Wars galaxy in the hands of players, giving them the freedom to determine how they lay the game within the completely scalable and accessible gameplay. Set a few years before the events of Episode IV: A New Hope, LucasArts' new PC game lets players wage war on ground and in space, as well as experience the creation of the rebel alliance, the strengthening of the empire and the beginnings of the galactic civil war.

Since I am one of those few gamers that actually finished Star Wars: Rebellion, Empire at War's gameplay interface couldn't have been easier to pick up.

The first major element to Empire at War is the player's ability to dominate a galaxy filled with numbers of planets that are both familiar and foreign. From my gameplay experience, it looks like LucasArts has thrown out the multiple galaxy front found in Rebellion and now shows all planets on a single map (as long as they are within range).

The player's mission is simple-- build defenses, production structures, fleets and armies on occupied planets in order to create a force large enough to strike at other planets that are not under your army's rule (Alliance or Imperial). The more planets you hold, the larger your production credits at the end of every day.

Production in Empire at War is one of the huge advancements over Rebellion. Rebellion required a player to lay down multiple 'Mining Facilities' on each planet in order to create enough money for production as well as the required points to keep fleets running. Empire at War takes a different, simpler, approach. Instead of forcing the player to create multiple 'Mining Facilities', which take up spots on each planet, occupying a planet alone increases ones production points at the end of each day. Each planet is worth a number of production points. When that planet is captured, the total production points received each day goes up by that number. Though planets alone will not be enough to fund massive fleets, they are enough to help a player get the ball rolling without needing to take up building zones with too many 'Mining Facilties.' Some planets are worth a ton when captured, so keep a look out for those.

Star Wars: Empire at War Star Wars: Empire at War

Besides the economic component, one of the greatest achievements in Empire at War is the real-time strategy gameplay in space and on the ground. Personally, I found the space battles to be a lot more fun to play than the ground battles; but you may find it the other way around. Instead of having pretty poor graphics and unit design like Rebellion, Empire at War gives each unit its own advantages and, more importantly, hardpoints. Any ship that is frigate size or larger will come with hardpoints that include turbo lasers, laser cannon, shields, engines, torpedo bay, missile bay and a hangar. Taking out these hardpoints first can help cripple a fleet long before you are required to take out the ships themselves.

Because of these hardpoints, having small fighters such as Y-Wings and Tie Bombers is clutch. Torpedoes and missiles have the ability to bypass the shields and strike the hardpoints underneath. A Star Destroyer can be a nasty problem or an easy target depending on whether you have Y-Wings in your fleet or not. When encountering an enemy fleet, send your bombers to take out the shield generators, hangers and turbo lasers first. Once this is done your main cruisers can join the battle and attack the defenseless warships.

Because of hardpoints, the unit balancing is very important in Star Wars: Empire at War. Having a fleet full of big Assault Frigates alone will never guarantee victory. Every fleet needs a mix of units in order to survive (especially fighters). My only complaint for the RTS aspect of the game is that I wish LucasArts provided a few additional units. Hopefully later updates can add a couple new cruisers, fighters and land units.

Empire at War's hero abilities also make a difference in gameplay. Each side is given quite a few heroes that each offer their own advantages and skills. Some will lower prices on production while others can head on down to the battlefield and create one hell of a ruckus.

Star Wars: Empire at War is a must for any avid Star Wars fan looking to re-live the story by controlling the Star Wars galaxy first hand as either the newly-formed alliance or the growing Empire.


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Ryan Parsons
Sources: Images property of LucasArts

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