Release Date: TBA
It isn't often that galactic combat is truly displayed on an actually galactic level. Generally, a player involved in said galactic combat only participates in single battles, leaving the overall planning and strategy for the war effort as a detail taken care of behind the scenes. LucasArts plans on changing that with their upcoming title, the ambitious Star Wars: Empire at War. This isn't the first time that LucasArts has gotten their feet wet with an RTS (or with a galactic combat game either) – many of you may remember, or may be trying hard not to remember, Rebellion, a horrible title released a few years back. Fortunately, Empire at War looks nothing like Rebellion, combining army management, logistics, and real time strategy in a tasty way, spiced up with the ambrosia that only Star Wars can bring.
At the start of a game of Empire at War, you have a galactic map filled with planets (almost all of which will be familiar to the Star Wars fans out there), with control of the planets divided among the Empire and the Rebellion. Whichever side you choose to play as, your overall goal will be to take over the galaxy and wrest control of all the planets to your side. Controlling the planets is key to winning as well, since there is no actual resource gathering in the game, just a set amount of resources coming in based upon how much of the galaxy you control. You control which planets to hit and with what units, basically creating your own missions on the galactic map. Once your fleet arrives, the game switches over into an RTS mode, where you have direct control over your troops. How you want to attack or defend is up to you.
You may decide to send a couple of Star Destroyers and a squadron of TIE Fighters to wipe out a Rebellion fleet over Tatooine, and afterwards land ground forces to seize control of the planet, perhaps sending some Stormtroopers, a few AT-ATs, and maybe even a hero unit like Darth Vader. Both the space and the ground battles would be fought as an RTS game, using what looks a lot like a standard RTS interface. With your fleet victorious and overhead, you could even call down a squadron of TIE Bombers for some tactical bombing runs. If taking over the planet doesn't sound exciting, you could even send the Death Star after it and simply blow it up. Nothing says fun like destroying entire planets of your enemies. It did always seem kind of lame in the movies that the Death Star never got to do its thing against the Rebellion – with Empire at War, its destructive power can be within your grasp.
The game sounds ambitious, and it certainly is. If done right, this could almost spawn a new subgenre of games. Usually a problem with a game done on a scale as large as this one is a lack of accessibility; the game becomes so complex that it becomes more frustrating than anything else. However, LucasArts is taking great care to keep the game accessible even though it takes place on such a vast stage as the entire galaxy. The game engine is designed to handle anything from small skirmishes to huge battles between gigantic armies.
This game has slick graphics and looks, tastes, and feels like genuine Star Wars, with all of the technical wizardry you'd expect from a LucasArts title. Space fights even have a cinematic camera mode, which does its best to simulate a movie-like view of the combat, highly entertaining once you feel assured of victory and are down to the point of just cleaning up stragglers.
This new offering from LucasArts may be bold and ambitious, but it could also be amazing. I'm holding high hopes for this one, because I believe that LucasArts can pull it off and make it live up to the expectations.
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