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STAR WARS: Empire at War

Star Wars: Empire at War is the latest real-time strategy game based in the Star Wars Universe. Promising to put an end to the reputation of mediocrity that previous Star Wars RTSGs have shown, the newly formed Petroglyph Studios is certainly showing promise. So far the news and previews for this rising star from a galaxy far, far away has been nothing short of amazing.

Comprised mostly of developers from the former Westwood Studios, known for its work on the famous Command and Conquer series, Petroglyph is no stranger to the RTS genre. While Empire at War may be their first game officially, their employees average 10 years of experience in developing games.

So far, their work has complemented this experience. The new engine they’ve developed, known as Alamo, looks to present some of the best graphics in the genre to date. Allowing for specular lighting, soft shadows, and high-particle effects, this fully-3D engine reeks of hard work and dedication that looks to fully deliver the extensive detail we Star Wars fans have been craving.

In addition to the beautiful visuals the game has displayed, there also comes the prospect of a revolution in the way RTS games are played. Empire at War looks to incorporate both land and space battles - yes, full 3D space battles - into one game. And yes, there can be interaction between the two. Orbital bombardments against a planet can be called in if you have supremacy in space, likewise you can attack space installations with certain structures and units from the planet below. As far as we know, however, space and ground battles do not take place at the same time. Again, we’ll just have to wait and see how things work out to understand their reasons, though one can imagine it would be very difficult to manage two battlefields at once.

Set in the time of the Galactic Civil War, Empire at War will focus on two playable factions: the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance. Some people may not like the fact that there’s only two civilizations, but from a certain viewpoint it’s a very good thing. In previous RTSGs such as Galactic Battlegrounds, large numbers of civilizations made for very little diversity. However, in a game such as Age of Mythology, which had only 3 civilizations, the difference between the different factions were substantial.

The timeframe for Empire at War spans from the end of Episode III to Episode IV, allowing for units and aspects from both Star Wars trilogies. All our favourite ships and vehicles will now be at our fingertips. Everything from AT-ATs to Snowspeeders to Star Destroyers to X-Wings. Oh yes, and Death Stars, too.

Units such as footsoldiers, TIE fighters, and the like are built in squadrons, similar to some other RTS games such as Rome: Total War. More powerful and exotic units, however, such as capital ships, will be built in singles. Empire at War will also feature so-called Hero Units, which can be found or gained throughout the course of your campaign through either exploration, achievement, or possibly some other factors. Heroes are very powerful - but not all-powerful - units that can give special bonuses to players that have them.

What’s more, the entire concept of how resources are typically gathered has been scrapped. Rather than the traditional “build workers, build a base, build an army, beat enemy’s army, etc.” approach, Empire at War bases your income on the planets you control and how you manage them. Of course, some planets will offer significant advantages in technology, income, and strategic positions that make them beneficial to capture. As one can imagine, Dagobah won’t bring in very many credits.

Oh, did I forget to mention Dagobah? Yes, it will be - along with over 40 other Star Wars planets - be included in the game. From famous locales from the movies and other games, such as Coruscant, Tatooine, or Dantooine to little-known planets such as Thyferra, Empire at War will give the player a great deal of options as far as terrain goes. It will be interesting indeed to see how some of the never-before-seen planets will be depicted in the game.

Another neat feature that is worth mentioning is the use of shield generators in this game. Planetary shields can provide a literal physical barrier that your enemy must breach in order to be able to attack you. A vast improvement over Galactic Battlegrounds, to be sure, where hitpoints were essentially doubled. This undoubtedly will give a more Star Wars feel to the game. I know I can’t wait to attempt a reenaction of the Battle of Hoth!

Buildings are selected to be placed on planets, and each building type has a designated area on each specific planet. Each planet has its own limit to how many buildings and what type of buildings it can support, so players will have to think before just randomly placing their buildings everywhere. Technology can be gained by controlling certain planets and doing research, and each time a technological level is gained new buildings are available to be built. Details are still scarce, but this sounds like a variation of traditional RTSGs where tech levels are research giving access to different abilities. Except now there’s the flavorful twist of needing to conserve space on your planets and place your buildings strategically around the galaxy.

Unfortunately, there’s little known about the multiplayer aspect of the game at this point. However, what we do know certainly is encouraging. We’ve been told that there will be a two-player campaign mode, which certainly sounds exciting, as well as a skirmish mode for up to 8 players. We’ll keep you updated as the details come in.

All in all, Empire at War seems to be living up to its promise of rejuvenating the interest in Star Wars real-time strategy games and rebuilding the Star Wars name in the genre. With a mix of adapted features from across the genre, as well as some revolutionary and innovative new ideas, Petroglyph is certainly stirring excitement among Star Wars fans. Stick around and check back frequently for updates as we continue to get new information regarding this spectacular-looking game.