Conquering the galaxy!

So you've decided to join the Empire, or the Rebellion, have you? Been to the Academy? Learned to pilot a starship? If not, then this game will help you do it in the Star Wars universe at just the click of your mouse!

Star Wars: Empire at War attempts to give you a strategic overview of the Star Wars universe, allowing you to unleash your megalomaniac tendancies, and help your chosen faction to win. There hasn't really been a good history of strategy games in the SW universe, despite some great simulation games. Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds was rather formulaic, and while it did use the Age of Empires engine, it felt - like playing AoE really. Force Commander, while looking hopeful, actually turned out to be pretty much dreafdul. So it is with some trepidation that I think many people approached this game. And to a certain extent, their fears were relieved.

In this game you take the role of the strategic or tactical commander, directing forces to conquer planets, assault garrisons, and generally make sure that you take over the universe. To do this you need money. To get money you conquer planets. It's as simple as that. And the more money you have, the more you can advance, the better ships and weapons you can build. Once you've captured a planet, you must build both ground and space defences. On the ground that may be a barracks and a light factory. In space it's a space station of varying sizes. You need bigger space stations to build bigger ships, and you need bigger factories to build bigger tanks. Basically it's that simple. Obviously you want to take into consideration what sort of forces will be opposing you and build accordingly, but it's pretty much just a matter of building up your forces and attacking.

The best part of this game by far is the space battles that you will participate in above planets - apparently they don't happen while anyone is on-route anywhere as they're all in hyperspace. These will either involve, in the conquest of the galaxy game, defending a planet you control, or attacking one your opponent does. In a skirmish game you can play against your friends and things work slightly differently, but essentially it's the same.

So it's here in space that things look awesome. There is nothing so wonderful as seeing a ponderous Imperial Star Destroyer chugging across the screen surrounded by fighters, slugging it out with a bunch of smaller Rebel ships. Or having a fleet of 10 Star Destroyers whaling on Home 1, Admiral Ackbar's flagship. The animation of the ships is awesome, the way they interact, even the explosions. All just wonderful. In many ways I would take the game if this is all that was offered.

It's not though, as there is also the part where you send your troops down to the planet to fight it out on the ground. Unfortunately, this simply isn't as stunning. All the usual things are there - AT-ATs, AT-STs, Stormtroopers, Snow Speeders, etc. But it just doesn't seem as sweet. The graphics are okay, but not great. The AI will pretty much just come at you the same way. It's not that exciting. Most of the time I end up auto resolving my gound attacks, unless it's some battle that I absolutely have to fight because it's part of the plot of the game.

Overall, a game I definitely enjoyed, and will play again. For me, it was all about space and not ground. That's just how it worked out. It certainly made it worthwhile though.