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Critical Reception: Petroglyph/LucasArts' Star Wars: Empire At War

This week's Critical Reception takes a look at the latest installment in George Lucas' Star Wars universe, LucasArts-published/Petroglyph-developed Star Wars: E...
This week's Critical Reception takes a look at the latest installment in George Lucas' Star Wars universe, LucasArts-published/Petroglyph-developed Star Wars: Empire At War, a PC real-time strategy title that takes full advantage of the license, complete with Jedi, Imperial Star Destroyers, and the Death Star. Staying true to the IP, the game was reviewed as a good but not iconic RTS, according to aggregates from game compilation website GameTab.com, earning an average rating of 80% over all major game review sites. Though gaining major praise for being "excellent fan service, an innovative RTS title that takes a lot of what's to love from board games", according to a 1UP.com overview of the title, one of the game's few notable criticisms is that the ground battles are simply not as compelling as the rest of the package. GameSpot's Bob Colayco reasons the following: "The primary reason that the land battles don't seem as fun as the space battles, though, is that the maps are all kind of bland and feel very similar, whether you're fighting in an urban area, a rainy swamp planet, or on snowy tundra. The enemy artificial intelligence is also not very devious on land maps, aside from its use of long-range artillery units. It will generally send waves of troops headlong at you, and there isn't much you need to fight them off." Yahoo! Games' Mike Smith offers a similar line: "Ground battles are where you spend the most time, but end up being the weaker link. The AI will fight to the bitter end, and the large size of the maps combined with the slow pace of many troop types can make fights unnecessarily prolonged. Some planets include hostile civilians that'll do their best to hinder you, and end up more of a whack-a-mole exercise instead of the dramatic, massed fights that are typical of the movies. Weak is relative, though; these battles aren't quite as good as the rest of the game, but not actually bad." Meanwhile, 1UP's Patrick Joynt explains his thoughts behind Empire At War's shortcomings succinctly: "To make the game more accessible to Star Wars fans, the RTS elements -- while innovative and fun -- lack the depth that can define genre greats." However, for particular fans of Lucas' series and strategy games alike, this could still be a notable title to consider, as Yahoo!'s Smith points out that "the history of Star Wars strategy games isn't bursting with gaming goodness...", going on to note that the game is chock full of even obscure elements and units from Star Wars: "As for the range of spacecraft and ground units, if you saw it in the original trilogy, you'll most likely see it in Empire at War. From speeder bikes to Death Stars, it's all here, and implemented with considerable sensitivity to its source." With the vast legions of Star Wars fans out there and the opportunity to stage massive fleet battles between Rebel and Empire forces, Empire at War seems posed for significant success, as 1UP's Joynt states: "It's worth it for fans of Star Wars to see their dreams unfurl in pyrotechnic, high-tech 3D glory." GameSpot's Colayco similarly raves: "Combined with a presentation that is as epic as the films that inspired the game and a slick, dual-layered strategy design, Empire at War is easily recommendable to any strategy fan, especially those who are fond of George Lucas' space classic."

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