Late last night, on a Mac not far, far away, Star Wars: Galactic Backgrounds offered a new hope for real-time strategy (RTS) games. Set firmly in the Star Wars universe, it delivers pitched battles on an intense scale, with nearly every vehicle and character from all five Star Wars movies able to slug it out in famed Star Wars locations. The force is strong in this one.
Galactic Battlegrounds is a strategic feast. It features six races to side with, including the Rebel Alliance, Empire, Naboo, Gungans, Trade Federation, and even Wookies. It also has one of the most diverse collection of characters and units ever to grace an RTS – over 300 feature, including mighty AT-AT Walkers, speeder bikes, X-wings, Tie-fighters, bounty hunters, Jedi knights, Stormtroopers, and battle droids. You also get to deploy characters ranging from Han Solo to Chewbacca.
The game is standard RTS fare, but with the added Star Wars twist. There are six, single-player campaigns, each based on plotlines from the movies – highlights include taking over the planet Naboo when playing the Trade Federation, and the Empire’s attack on the Rebel Alliance that’s straight out of the opening of The Empire Strikes Back. If you’ve ever wanted to control Imperial AT-AT Walkers as Snow Speeders zip above your massed Stormtrooper army, then look no further.
Players tend to start with a few R2 droid units, then gather resources and construct bases complete with laser-defence grids and Jedi training camps, then charge the enemy camp while waving lightsabres and yelling Wookie war cries. However, missions do vary, with different objectives – such as infiltrate a base, or capture a commander.
Graphically, this is a decent effort. The character animation is instantly recognizable, and the different landscapes range from outer space to icy planet surfaces. The sound track is top-notch, as you’d expect from a Star Wars inspired game – lots of John Williams scored music, plus character voice-overs from the movies, and the laser pistol sounds spot on.
Additionally, there are hidden bonus missions – such as attacking Cloud City – and a skirmish mode, where you can side with a race and take on up to five other computer opponents. The artificial intelligence is at Yoda level, with the game adopting to your style, and enemies falling back to regroup if you overrun them.
Multiplayer modes, available through GameRanger and TCP/IP, include all the above, as well as game styles such as Death Match, Capture The Commander, and Monument Race.
The only dark side to affect the game is the lack of decent cut-scene movies – instead we’re treated to some static artwork to introduce missions and campaigns.
Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds is a great game with more depth than Yoda’s philosophy. Great music, solid graphics, and an involved universe means you should feel the force with this one.