by William Thompson
previewed on PC
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
The Star Wars juggernaut has come to an end on the big screen, but that doesn't mean it has ended on the small (or in some cases, large) gaming screen. On the contrary, it seems that there has been an increase in the number of Star Wars games released recently, with titles such as Battlefront 2 and Lego Star Wars. The next game due to hit the shelves is Star Wars: Empire At War. Empire At War is a real-time strategy game set in the Star Wars universe in the time between Episode 3 and Episode 4.
Rule the galaxy as father and son...
Well, maybe not as father and son, but the aim of the game, as you could probably guess, is to capture different planets and to rule the galaxy. All the well-known landscapes from the Star War movies seem to have been included in Empire at War. Games can involve the desert planet Tatooine, the ice planet Hoth, the forest moon of Endor and the watery Naboo. Each planet has its own terrain and weather features as well as differing local populations. The weather and terrain has an affect on the performance of units, so it will be imperative to adapt ones strategies for each location.
Empire or Rebellion?
Do you want to relive the Death Star scene where Luke fires the proton torpedoes into the Death Star, or do you want Darth Vader to get that final shot off to put an end to the Rebellion once and for all? That, well the choice between being 'the good guys' or 'the baddies' is one of the tough decisions you'll need to make. Each 'side' has its own Hero characters that will gradually become available during the course of the game. The Empire has Hero characters such as Darth Vader, Boba Fett and Emperor Palpatine, whilst the Rebels have the mighty Chewbacca, Han Solo and the fishy-looking Admiral Ackbar. As with the planets, the Hero characters will have their own special abilities.
Fire at will Commander
Not only are all the best characters involved in the game, but also the best weapons. As the game is based on the ground and in space, there are a host of weapons for each scenario.
Land battles can involve stormtroopers, scout walkers, AT-ATs and tie tanks, whilst space combat can include Tie Fighters, Star Destroyers and even the dreaded Death Star. Again, each unit will be affected both by the terrain conditions and their own abilities. For example, the Death Star is all-powerful, but it is also so slow that it would be a sitting duck without some defensive protection.
That's no moon, it's a space station...
If Obi-wan had been playing this game, he and the rest of the crew on the Millennium Falcon would have known it was a space station in the first place. As mentioned previously, the game is based on the Star Wars universe in the time between Episode 3 and Episode 4. And from the cinematic cut-scenes, you could almost imagine you're actually watching Episode 3.5.
The cinematic cut scenes are just amazing - typical of LucasArts games - giving you the feeling that you could be sitting in your favourite cinema watching another instalment in the Star Wars saga. Knowing that the recent Star Wars movies contained a heap of computer based animation, it is not hard to imagine that some of that knowledge of computer graphics could be transported across to a computer game. And it seems that this could well be the case in Empire at War.
The graphics used in the gameplay are not to be sneezed at either. It is easy to pick out you favourite character from on the battlefield, and the Star Wars galaxy has been captured in great detail, from the trees to the effect of rain or snow on the landscape.
The Force is strong in this one
The sound effects are great and give you the full feel of the Star Wars universe, but the voices of the characters, such as Darth Vader, still require a bit more attention before the release. But with the attention given to all the other details of the game by the programmers, I'm sure that these will not be forgotten either.
From all that is available on the game to date, it seems that Star Wars fans, as well as RTS and gaming fans in general, are in for a treat. It will have single and multi-player modes and it brings in all elements of Star Wars battles, on the ground and in space, and has everyone's favourite characters and weapons.
Keep your eye out for this one.