Empire at War

The Star Wars franchise has historically enjoyed some incredible success in the world of video and PC gaming. Among others, I’ve had a lot of fun playing games like Battlefront, Battlefront II, Knights of the Old Republic, and the Dark Forces first person shooter games (and I’m not normally much of an FPS guy…) I’ve even enjoyed a little of Star Wars Galaxies, a massively multiplayer RPG.

But the PC strategy genre, my favorite style of game, has been cursed with an unspectacular series of average to crummy Star Wars titles. Among the losers that I have slogged through during the last few years…
Force Commander – a failed effort at real-time strategy using an original game engine. The pathfinding was just horrible, and everything seemed awkward and imbalanced.
Galactic Battlegrounds – built off of the Age of Empires II RTS engine, this one was a little more engaging, but it ultimately felt more like a mod of AOE2 than Star Wars.
Star Wars Rebellion. This conquer-the-galaxy style game seemed to have lots of promise in its underlying mechanics – but it quickly became a confusing, carpal-tunnel inducing click-fest. Also, the graphics weren’t that engaging. My hand and wrist would literally ache at the end of a Rebellion session because I was having to do so much clicking and scrolling.

But now, there may be hope…

I’ve just finished a couple of sessions playing the demo of Empire at War, which is due out next month. This one looks polished, original, and fun.

At its lowest level, the game is a very nice little RTS, similar to the concept in Force Commander, but (much) more engaging. At its “higher” levels, it is a strategic game in the tradition of Star Wars Rebellion, but I don’t think it will require a hand/wrist surgeon after 10 hours of play.

Add to that all of the multiplayer options that will come with the full game, and – with any luck – there will finally be a worthwhile Star Wars game in the PC stragegy genre next month.

Can’t wait.

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