|Alt names||星球大战银河战场, Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds|
|Theme||Licensed Title, Real-Time, Sci-Fi / Futuristic, War|
|Perspective||Isometric, Bird’s-eye view, Free-roaming camera|
|Publisher||LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC|
|Developer||LucasArts Entertainment Company LLC|
Description of Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds
There was a time when every Star Wars PC game was eagerly anticipated, from X-Wing vs Tie Fighter to Dark Forces and Jedi Knight. But then came a string of mediocre and disappointing offspring like Force Commander and Phantom Menace and the suspicion arose that maybe LucasArts had lost its way. Fortunately, Galactic Battlegrounds sees them straying back towards the correct space-time continuum, albeit borrowing from others’ trappings. Ensemble Studios’ Age of Empires 2 engine provides the guts of the game, with the lovingly detailed Star Wars universe providing the mod. If you’re already familiar with AoE (and shame on you if you aren’t!), you’ll feel instantly at home – once the initial movie is out the way (a compilation sequence from all four Star Wars films) you’re then straight into the menu that lets you decide which nation you’re going to fight as. So you can either elect to be one of the good guys — the Rebel Alliance, the Wookiees, the Gungans or Royal Naboo — or the more menacing Galactic Empire and Trade Federation. If you need a quick crash course then head directly to the extensive tutorial where you play as a Wookiee (complete with Chewbacca as your commander) trying to oust Federation influence from a planet. The varied game modes include skirmish, single player campaigns, historical missions and multiplayer via LAN or Internet. The scale of each combat is huge with over 300 different units and structures and up to 200 being deployed by each side. As with Age of Empires, there are 4 resources to gather (food, carbon, ore and nova crystals) which are common to each side but the style of each civilisation is completely unique which is especially helpful when you’re in the thick of battle and wondering who’s friend or foe. Naturally each fighting force has its complementary strengths and weaknesses. The Wookiees can create Self Regeneration, Forest Vision and Wookiee Ingenuity together with the fearsome Berserker. The Rebel Alliance are superior in the air (including the mighty Airspeeder) and gain especially tough armour, whereas the Empire have pricier and slower building aircraft but can utilise the formidable AT-AT’s and the powerful Dark Trooper. The Gungans flourish underwater with a handy Shield Generator while the Naboo boast the Royal Crusader and the Federation have hordes of Destroyer Droids. Is it all balanced? On the whole, yes, because the tech trees clearly reveal each of the six nations have one expertise that the others can’t match but there is always a counter that can be researched and developed to neutralise the threat. Jedis, for example, appear to be nigh indestructible, except when faced by a determined bunch of murderous bounty hunters. The Rebels and the Empire may seem to have the air war sewn up, but some well-placed heavy anti-air units can quickly scythe through your squadrons. It’s the air power in particular that is a radical departure from the AoE model, as churning out zillions of pummels, hover tanks and ships is only worthwhile if you’re not having the hell bombed out of them by the opponent’s fighters. Another innovation is the introduction of power cores: your buildings will function without them but their efficiency will be vastly increased with them, and when your survival may depend on speeding up nova crystal production, these are invaluable. Animal nurseries are also new on the scene and provide a lengthy and consistent supply of food – in some missions, it pays to gather immediately all the banthas on the map to starve out your foes. Shield generators, too, are a unique product of the sci-fi environment that wasn’t available to the AoEworld and they can double the hit points of your units. The Jedis are an advancement of the medieval monks in that they also have a stealth facility, which enables them to remain invisible until they strike, unless you have a bounty hunter with a ‘decloaking’ capability. They do have the ability to convert other units and if they don’t want to be converted, then there’s always the good old light-sword-through-the-body trick. The other fun part of the game is that you can involve most of your favourite Star Wars heroes and villains in the action. Watching Darth Vader go berserk with his lightsabre as he lays into a control centre is almost worth the £35 alone and his voice is a fair imitation of James Earl Jones’ infamous heavy breathing. There is far more speech included than in any of the AoE strategies and they have been carefully crafted to suit the relative unit – from Wookiee grunts when acknowledging a command to metallic Borg-like utterances when droids order you to surrender. We’re so used to hearing the Star Wars soundtrack in the background of both the movies and the games that you tend to forget how well that score manages to capture the right mood for every occasion – and so it proves again. The same care has gone in to the sound effects for both weaponry and unit movements; the droids clank threateningly and the Beetle Troopers sound like they’re rubbing their heels together. Visually, the eye candy looks impressive (though hardly awe-inspiring) in both the recognisable maps like Hoth and Tatooine (14 locations in total) and the fine detail of the stylised units and buildings. There’s also the inevitable random map generator thrown in to allow you to design your own terrains either by using an existing map as a template or by starting from scratch. You also have the option to include whatever vehicles and buildings you fancy in a maximum 8 participants multiplayer match. The six campaigns, which are built around leading Star Wars ‘celebrities’, should tax seasoned RTS fans as well as be a good introduction to newcomers, as there are three skill levels to choose from. The true challenge comes from making crucial decisions about when to upgrade your technology levels, when to sacrifice resources for the sake of faster productivity, and what forces to take into battle while leaving sufficient defences back at the control centre. The only slight niggles are that the perennial pathfinder problem rears its ugly head once more, but this is a common fault with RTS games in general – it just becomes inflated when you have so many units to control. You might also think that after all the franchises that have been issued under the Star Wars banner, it would have been possible to move on from the decidedly dated 2D Age of Empires engine and try something a bit more ambitious. Of course, when this type of effort becomes Force Commander, suddenly a tried-and-tested engine doesn’t seem such a bad option. But minor carping aside, this is a welcome return to form from LucasArts after a disappointing patch.Galactic Battlegrounds offers exactly what the dedicated Star Wars follower and gamer wants: a way to re-enact the drama and excitement of Lucas’ vivacious universe and even deviate from course and create your own scenarios. Putting a trustworthy license behind an even more solid game mechanic sounds like a winning formula – and thankfully, there have been no surprises.
Review By GamesDomain
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