" It's bad enough trying to quell those uppity rebels; I don't want to have to fight my camera, pathfinding, AI, and controls too. "
Title: Star Wars: Force Commander, by Lucas Arts
Format: Real Time Strategy for the Windows PC.
Reviewing Monkey: Chimpan-A
The Hype: Lucas Arts tries to answer our prayers for Star Wars RTS, with "Epic Real-Time Strategy based in the classic Star Wars saga." Unfortunately the gods are mocking our prayers...
What This Monkey Thought...
Graphics: Well to start off the graphics are actually decent. Everything is nice and 3D polygonal. Some of the personnel units are a little blocky, but the buildings and vehicles are well done. The occasional missing frame of animation hinders the units a little when they move, but nothing too noticeable if you're not zoomed in. Speaking of which everything holds up when you do zoom in on the action, the cut scenes are grainy, at best, but the character models move around nicely enough. 4 out of 5
Sound: The in game music does a good job of invoking the feel of the movies. With rousing tunes lifted generally almost straight from the movies (with a few minor touch ups and changes of course). The Rocked up version of the Imperial March of the main menu could have been done without, definitely. The voice acting is decent, although you'll probably want to turn off the unit response after a while. Since you can't do that though, you get to grin and bear it. Sound effects are pretty well done, with blaster fire being the most prominent. A nod to the guy who imported the Tie Fighter sounds though. 3 out of 5
Game Play: Ugh. So much hope. The game is played from a third person, with a fully moveable camera. Unfortunately this is probably the games weakest link (ironically it's also one of the boasted strengths on the box). The game sports a Myth-like camera control system. Whilst this worked great for Myth, where you rarely had to worry about the units not directly in the area of your camera, Force Commander does not benefit in the slightest. Having to flit about the map can often leave you disoriented when you arrive at your home base to organize further troops, or have the troops in the field hit their destination. The requisition of units is done via a "Command Points" system. Unfortunately this system is arbitrary at best. You get points for killing things, or taking them over. You lose points for losing guys. How much you get, and when are things you'll probably never learn, nor really care about. Generally you've either got too many Command points, or too few. Lots of little problems dig at the game play. I can understand why terrain should be a factor, but please tell me why an All Terrain Armored Transport can't walk up a small hill? All the problems eventually add up, keeping this game from being fun. It's bad enough trying to quell those uppity rebels; I don't want to have to fight my camera, pathfinding, AI, and controls too. 2 out of 5
Level and Environment Designs: The levels are fairly well done. Nothing too complicated, but usually with lots of hills or mountains to restrict your armored units. The levels look nice, to be sure, and are all very fitting. Hoth is the snowy wasteland you'd expect. The forests of Endor even limit your camera control to below the canopy (which just adds to the camera problem, but it's a nice touch). 3 out of 5
Multiplayer: The multiplayer falls under one category, and that's death match, nothing else, although it might be fun to trounce your friends in the Rebel Alliance once or twice. The basic flaws that keep the single player from being fun eventually drag down the multiplayer as well. Maybe with a little variation it might have been worth it to play. The game functions well enough in multiplayer, with no undue slowdown. 3 out of 5
Replayability: If you managed not only to slog through the game, but also beat it, congratulate yourself. Then put the game away and forget you bought it. Multiplayer doesn't add any interesting elements worth playing for, and the single player story isn't worth a second go. 2 out of 5
Story/Dramatics: The story is one of the better-done aspects of this game. Following the plots of episodes 4 - 6, except from a different position. Expect to see many parallels as you search for a crash landed pod carrying droids on Tattooine, and look for a good spot to put up a shield generator for the new Death Star on Endor (And yes, there are Ewoks). With rocks capable of eliminating AT-STs). Unfortunately it's not particularly interesting, and you're not likely to follow it. 4 out of 5
Instructions and Learning Curve: The instructions aren't half bad. They give a run down of the all the necessary components, such as camera controls (just not how to make the camera manageable). The one major oversight is the explanation of command points. Although there's a review of the system, nowhere does it state what gets you what amount of CP. The learning curve is horrible, as you desperately try to figure out which units beat the other units in the eternal RTS rock paper scissors game. The game tries to give stats on which units work well against others, but in practice these stats don't tend to mean much (and are after all only represented by a filled bar...). Your unit AI is sketchy at times, with path finding being a bit of a problem for the armored units. All this while the opponent AI is beating down the force you thought would blow it away. 3 out of 5
Installation and Real System Requirements: The box asks for Windows 95+, 266 MHz, 64 megs of RAM, and 450 megs of hard drive space, not to mention a 3D video card. The installation is relatively easy, requiring a disk swap half way through. The game runs well, with little to no slowdown. Excessive amounts of units can slow the game down a bit though, even on the higher end systems. 4 out of 5
For those of you wishing for the magical Force of Star Wars RTS, keep wishing. Bad camera control and an abstract resource system slog down what might have been an otherwise enjoyable game. AI difficulties just drag it down further. Everything else is decent to good, especially the Star Wars theme, but game play just drags it down.
The Good: A Star Wars Real Time Strategy game, with a great star wars feel to it!
The Bad: Game play, plain and simple: it's just not fun.
The Overall Ugly: There are far better done games out there, don't waste your time.
What it's Worth: Probably a few bucks less than when I bought it.