Star Wars Empire at War Review
Outside of Star Trek it’s hard to think of another Sci-Fi franchise that is as suited to strategy gaming as is Star Wars. And yet you can count on one hand the number of Star Wars strategy games that have been released in the past decade, none of which captured much of the spirit and scope of the Star Wars saga. Luckily for Star Wars fans the epic conflict finally gets a fittingly epic strategy game in Empire at War.
|A Mon Calamari cruiser takes some damage.|
Empire at War can be played in several different modes. The game comes with a Rebel and an Imperial campaign that each follows the storyline of the classic trilogy. You’ll have the opportunity to take command of the battles in the films as well as others that took place “off-screen” or between the movies. There is also an open-ended campaign that can be played on galactic maps of varying size – the more planets in the game, the longer it will take to play. This mode does not follow a script, leaving you to command your forces as you see fit with no other goals other than total victory. Lastly you can set-up skirmishes and forgo the game’s strategic element entirely. The skirmishes can be land-based or space-based and set to use any of the planetary or space maps found in the campaign games.
In the campaign modes, the game’s strategic map of the galaxy is used to build, muster, and deploy your forces. The economic side of the game is kept simple so that you do not need to spend a lot of time worrying about your income. Each planet that you own will generate income for you and you can increase your income by building mining facilities on planets or by controlling planets that lie along galactic trade routes. Research is kept simple as well – The Empire can perform research on advanced units and the Rebels advance their research by sending C3-PO and R2-D2 to Imperial planets to steal technology. Bonuses such as improved armor are gained by controlling planets, each of which provides a unique bonus of some kind to its owner.
Unit construction is divided between space units and ground forces, with the ground forces that you can build at a planet dependent on the structures that you have in place there. Since each planet has a finite number of ground structure slots, you’ll need to make some choices between unit production, income generation, and defense at each of your planets. All structures share a single build queue per world and newly constructed forces are placed in a shared pool where they can be left as defenders or deployed to fleets for movement to other worlds. Although unit production is kept streamlined and simplified on each world, managing production across your planets is one of the more frustrating aspects of the game. The reason for this is that the game is completely devoid of any kind of status or summary screens, so the only way to know which facilities are at which planets and what is currently being produced is to zoom in on each planet individually or keep track of everything in your head.