The world has always needed more Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games.
STAR WARS™ Empire At War is a game released in February 2006. Initially an original by Petroglyph, in recent years it has switched hands because of Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm. Now that Disney owns it, it is now on release in Steam as STAR WARS™ Empire At War: Gold Pack, and includes all of the official DLCs of the original game, such as STAR WARS™ Empire At War: Forces of Corruption, and official map packs.
Before I start with the article proper, I’d like to say first of all that Petroglyph did an amazing job on this one, and Disney made a very good deal for the gamers when it created the Gold Pack.
Anyway, let’s move on.
The game isn’t your typical strategy game. Although like others, it has a Skirmish mode and a Campaign mode, this one has a Galactic Conquest mode, where the player must conquer the entire galaxy (or liberate it, as the case may be).
How would the player do this? They have to pull together some money from their planets, build space ships, and at some point (at a lot of points, actually), invade planets directly.
I’m not talking point and click invasions here. I’m talking while you actually see people shooting at each other.
The user interface
Interface-wise, it’s simple enough. When employed properly, it’s very intuitive, but if you’re sloppy (or if you didn’t read the tutorial), it’s no fun at all.
Constructing buildings from space, making spaceships from the ground
The player shouldn’t have much trouble with this, but not everyone is an RTS-savvy player, so it might not be to everybody’s taste.
The space battles
What’s Star Wars without lasers, right? We’d get laser-totting space ships to fly as the player progresses. Entire fleets can be commanded to blow stuff up in zero gravity. Expect blaster fire, explosions, and the signature George Lucas laser sound effects.
Beautifying this game is the original BattleCam, which, with the simple touch of the spacebar, would zoom into the battle as if it were a movie. It adds to the finesse of the game. Kind of distracting sometimes, but hey, it’s totally worth it.
BattleCam: Nebulon-B Frigate running to mama
TIE Fighters being told to fight a Rebel Alliance space station
The player will need to make the enemy ships explode (of course), but outside of this, there are also space stations to get rid of. Destroying them is central to any invasion, and without doing so, a land battle cannot start so easily.
You just gotta love how loyal this game is to the original movies.
BattleCam: A Rebel Alliance space station getting blown to bits
Invading the planets themselves
You’ve blown up the space station, and you’ve blown up the space ships. But don’t ever think you can capture a planet without landing on the ground. The player now has to land their forces (which they produced beforehand) on the planet surface, and fight the enemy defenses.
I’m talking Red Alert 2 style battles here, with Star Wars realism and concepts, and the ever-glorious BattleCam.
BattleCam: Stormtroopers ambushed by civilians (what a turn of events…)
There are also heroes from the movies in the game, some of whom are capable of doing pretty much the same amount of vintage angst as their 70s counterparts. For example, the player can use the bounty hunter Boba Fett to aid Imperial Stormtroopers in battle.
Boba Fett with all the sassy interface
The end-goal of land invasions is to remove the enemy military force from the planet. From laser bunkers, to soldiers on bikes, to floating tanks, everything needs to go. If not, you don’t get your planet at all.
When it gets rough
Don’t expect sunshine and buttercups in a Star Wars game. It gets hard as time goes. The enemy also gets tougher. Spaceship research can change the tide of battle. Better troops also make for better invasions.
BattleCam: Mid-game Corellian spaceships can use missiles that bypass shields
BattleCam: Space stations can be upgraded to become bigger, and with more guns
I really enjoyed this game. Although I had my share of explosions and Darth Vader breathing sounds killing my Rebellion troopers, I have to say, it’s not exactly perfect. Gameplay, it’s better than your ordinary RTS, but for a 2006 game, it feels a little rushed (you can remember that Elder Scrolls: Oblivion was made at exactly the same quarter).
But 2006 was not a time for visuals. It was a time for great gameplay, while the last two years has been a time of the likes of Final Fantasy XV and The Witcher III’s graphics.
One day, there will come a time when superb graphics and superb gameplay will go hand-in-hand.
* Metamudkip invades planets using only hero characters.