Star Wars: Empire at War (PC) - There have been some truly awful Star Wars titles in the past but Star Wars: Empire at War goes some way to redressing the balance. In a nutshell, Empire at war offers you the opportunity to take strategic charge of the fight for the Star Wars galaxy whether in the heat of a battle or from the perspective of managing the strategic intricacies of your attempt to take hold of the galaxy. You are given to option to take charge of both sides in this civil war. Lead the rebels to the victory that we know they take or change history by leading Darth's minions to victory and crushing the rebel alliance.
Empire at War gives you control of almost every aspect of leading an army to war. From the strategic perspective of manoeuvring your troops in relation to your opponent or into battle, to directing land and space assaults. Both experiences are as important as the other. Lose a battle and you may lose a strategic outpost of the galaxy or a massive source of funds. Manoeuvre your army into the wrong areas and you leave yourself open to attack.
Funds play a key part in the development of your military power. Establishing trade routes, conquering new planets, establishing mining colonies and smuggling from your opponent all provide ways for you develop new structures, new weapons and improve your troop training. This is all controlled from the galaxy map, where you gain an overview of the worlds contained in the star wars universe and their allegiance or profitability. As you build up your military force you notice that certain units are only available to either the empire or the rebel alliance. Be it a Rebel Ion Cannon or an Empirical Star Destroyer.
Decide to annex a planet controlled by your opponent and you have let yourself in for a whole world of pain. You must first win the space battle and get past their fleet (or sneak past the defences) before a land battle commences which of course must also result in victory. Depending on your side of choice you will have differing strengths and weaknesses. The Empire have a strong capacity for production, whereas the Rebels come by useful information relating to the movements of the Empire a lot more readily than the Empire do about them. Bounty hunters and droids have to be dispatched at extra cost by the Empire to gather information on rebel movements. The massive Imperial armies are general countered by the stealth of the Rebel Alliance in sneaking past them rather than engaging them at every opportunity.
Leaving the management simulation side of the game aside and you get the action. The battles that by themselves won't make too much difference to fate of the galaxy, but if one victory turns into ten then the balance of power shifts too. The space battles pit TIE Fighters and X-Wings against Star Destroyers and Rebel Cruisers on a grand scale. This is all set to a background of the planet that you are fighting for and this gives the nearest experience to the actual movies you are likely to obtain. Different fighters have different strengths and their deployment is key. You can also divert power to propulsion, shields or weapons depending on whether you are retreating, attacking or taking a beating. The Empire also makes use of their infamous tractor beams to reel your ships and radar to uncover un-chartered sections of the galaxy.
You are likely to encounter all your favourites from the films, both in machines such as the Millenium Falcon to characters such as Han Solo, Darth Vader or Obi-Wan and the heroes on each side have a massive bearing on the outcomes of battles both space and land. However, the land battles are where they come into their own. They can turn battles almost singled handedly with their ability to decimate land troops using 'the force'. In a galactic sense, 'heroes' can also be used to smuggle funds out of enemy strongholds but if the opposition gets wind they may be slain by bounty hunters or the equivalent.
The structures that you have built on the galactic map will be present during the tactical land battles. They actually play a big role in the game, so you'll definitely need to defend/destroy shield generators or turbo laser cannons depending on whether you are on the offensive/defensive. Once you have taken out the shields you will be able to call in bombing strikes from any bombers you might have left up in space. Each map will include a number of build pads that you can capture with your infantry. Once captured, you can use them to construct healing stations for your vehicles or units or turrets to protect you from your enemies. Attack wisely and deploy your array human and mechanical troops to best of their strengths.
Unfortunately the map of the planets surface where the battles take place are pretty basic. Whilst, they are well tailored to the environment of the planet be it lava, ice or forest, trees or valley are annoying placed to funnel the action down a predictable route that results in your running head on into your enemy rather than catching them in a particularly cunning pincer movement.
The camera options in battle mode a pretty good. You can tilt and twist the camera to your hearts desire or employ the cinematic camera which is particularly impressive in space battles. Whilst the sound provides access to the entire library of effects and cues from the films thus creating an authentic feel.
To summarise, Empire at war is a good edition to the Star Wars gaming stable. If you are hoping for an enjoyable and authentic Star Wars outing with all your favourites just right in front of you, then you will not be disappointed. If you are looking for a solid strategy game that gives you artistic license to attack as you please in every scenario, then the repetitive nature of the fighting and linear way you are funnelled to your enemy will disappoint.
7.5 out of 10