Star Wars: Empire at War – Forces of Corruption basically picks up where Star Wars: Empire at War left off, just after the "A New Hope" storyline ended. The Empire and Rebellion are picking up the pieces from their battles and trying to gain superiority over the other. This presents an opportune time for the expansion's new, third faction. Tyber Zann, formerly a Jabba the Hutt partner, decides that it's the best time for him to make his move to power. First Zann settles the score with some of Jabba's minions, after which he decides to steal some of the Emperor's favorite things.
Some may think it a bit taboo to add another faction to such a legendary story that pits two classic opponents against one another. The original game had the Empire and Rebels, which were drastically different in abilities; Zann's faction adds some new flavor and story elements, and makes it so that existing SW:EAW players will need to change their strategies accordingly.
Without the ball and chain of the movie storyline, Forces of Corruption is given enough slack to come up with an original story. It's not exactly the same feel as the Galactic Civil War that we're so used to, but it still feels right at home in the Star Wars universe. There are little tidbits throughout the game that hit on key notes from "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi," but they're tossed off rather casually, which makes it seem as if our beloved movies aren't very important at all. You do get to scavenge the wreckage of the Death Star, and other missions tie in with the original story a bit, but not nearly enough to satisfy the geek contingent (myself included).
The Consortium, Zann's gang of thugs, plays quite differently than the other two factions. They're a criminal organization that doesn't mind who controls a planet or has bases on them, so long as they get their cut of the cash. One of the new units, the Defiler, can go to planets and spread all sorts of corruption. Corrupted worlds are the backbone of Zann's attack plans and work just like captured planets for the other factions. His fleets can bribe their way past corrupted planets and sneak right by entire enemy armadas. Zann can also visit corrupted planets and buy both Imperial and Rebel technology on the black market. He can send in saboteurs to take out important buildings, as well as see a planet's ground forces and buildings through the Fog of War, which allows him to plan accordingly.
One new improvement that Forces of Corruption brings is in the land battles. Maps are much, much larger, which gives players more maneuverability within their battlefields. Size isn't the only thing that's changed about the maps, though; changes to the terrain brain new challenges, such as deadly rivers of lava and riotous locals who can attack you. You'll need to babysit your troops even more in this game because just pointing them to a location can be dangerous. There are also plenty of build pads around, but this also localizes the combat, as building pads closest to enemy bases is a crucial step if you want to conquer it.
As with every expansion, Forces of Corruption brings in a bunch of new units. In addition to the whole new Consortium faction, the Rebels and Empire both mustered up some new units, from heavy troop transports and mobile defense units for the Rebels, to Dark Troopers with multiple phases for the Empire. The Empire ended up getting a lot more units than the others (about 13, compared to the Rebel's eight). The Dark Troopers are a nice addition; these guys are tough and can hold their own against your average ground troop of eight members. They've also got some serious firepower and a nice health bar to boot, and although they're spawned singly, they can be upgraded through three phases.
Along with the new units come new heroes. Other than the aforementioned Zann, there are Luke Skywalker, Yoda, and Garm Bel Iblis for the Rebels and only Rom Mohc for the Empire. It's great to see that the developers listened and gave us the Skywalker hero unit that's outside of his X-Wing.
Most of the Consortium's units are wandering vagabonds looking for some quick cash, including Force Witches riding Rancors, destroyer droids, human mercenaries, and even Ewok handlers. More unit types also add some variety to space battles. B-Wings, Buzz Droids, and fleets of Tie Defenders are among the new units, and they can bring along some new challenges. The Consortium also gets some cool abilities here, like cloaking, shield leeching, and even asteroid navigation. In addition to new units, there are also new super weapons – you can use the Death Star to fire on Capital Ships now.
The Forces of Corruption expansion fixes a lot of the problems in the original Star Wars: Empire at War, although it's still not flawless. The frame rate problem has been mostly fixed; it can still drop low during battle, but it occurs a lot less frequently. While still a solid RTS, the campaign ends rather abruptly, and although it's more coherent than SW:EAW and has a better storyline, it leaves quite a few plot holes unresolved. Perhaps that's the developers not-so-subtly leaving the door open for a new expansion….
Star Wars: Empire at War – Forces of Corruption is a solid expansion. Like most expansion packs, it adds more of what made the original title successful, and then piles a few more goodies on top. The Consortium changes the way the game is played and adds a bunch of replay value. Even if you're not a fan of the Consortium, the Empire and Rebels both have new units and remain a lot of fun to play. Providing a whole new storyline as well as fixes to the original game, Forces of Corruption adds a great new element to the Star Wars saga.
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