Activision’s Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds combines two great tastes that taste great together: Star Wars and RTS (real time strategy). If you think the point of Sim City should be to build up a global superpower for the sole purpose of laying waste to surrounding townships, then SWGB is for you.
Choose from one of six civilizations to play as: the Rebellion, Galactic Empire, Naboo, Wookies, Gungans, or Trade Federation. SWGB utilizes the same engine as Age of Empires and Age of Mythology, so if you’ve played those games you’ll know what to expect here: you harvest resources (food, carbon, nova, and ore) and use them to build workers, buildings, and military units. You can also use your resources to research various technological upgrades; an expenditure of 75 food, for example, might increase your troops’ line of sight, or provide them with stronger body armor. Each civilization has its own unique technologies that aren’t available to the others, such as the Rebels’ airspeeders or the Gungans’ mobile shield generators. Learning an opponent’s strengths and weaknesses can mean the difference between a long, drawn out war of attrition, or a deftly executed surgical strike. Will you concentrate on air power or ground troops? Will you maintain a compact and tightly organized city, or spread out and colonize other areas of the map? Will you attempt to ally yourself with another civilization against a third opponent, or will you try to conquer the entire world? The choices are endless, and each decision you make will affect the final outcome.
The “standard game” is only one option available to you however. There are also several scenarios tailored to each specific civilization. Completing the first mission will unlock a progressively harder mission. These scenarios are generally unlike the standard game—instead of building up a settlement from the ground up, you typically start off with a small military party and no way of getting more resources. You will have to carefully marshal your troops until reinforcements are sent or you discover an allied base. A time limit is often a factor in these missions, adding yet another level of challenge. Here is an opportunity to relive some of the classic moments of Star Wars history; who can resist the temptation to take control of Darth Vader and march a detachment of AT-ATs against the Rebel’s Hoth base?
Then there’s the scenario editor. Controlling the destinies of a virtual civilization not doing enough to feed that messianic complex of yours? How about designing your own world, right down to an individual tree. Create any kind of map you can imagine using various ground textures, then stock it with all manner of flora and fauna. Add in some buildings, throw Boba Fett in there—voila, you’re a demigod! The scenario editor is an amazing tool allowing you to not only design the physical world, but to set mission parameters, and all manner of trigger/effect relationships within the game. You could, for example, specify that when a certain building comes in view, the following effects happen: 1) the building explodes, 2) an onscreen message informs the player that intelligence reports that a certain enemy has claimed responsibility for the sabotage, 3) another message informs you that your superiors are sending in aid to help you hunt out the perpetrator and destroy his hideout, and 4) a squadron of TIE fighter arrives as backup. The stage is now set and the player must attempt to successfully fulfill the parameters of the mission. The final trigger might be the destruction of all enemy troops and buildings, with the effect being the display of a victory message. Getting the knack of designating the proper triggers and effects (provided by drag down menus) can be tricky at first, but you can test play the scenario at any point to make sure the situation plays out as you’ve envisioned it. Then if you’re really feeling ambitious, you can string along several individual scenarios into a single epic campaign. Obviously this is an extremely powerful tool, and a feature that can extend the replay value of SWGB to an infinite degree.
I’ve been playing this game steadily for a good six months now and I love it more every time I play. There are so many options, difficulty levels, and styles of play available to you that there is simply no reason for you to tire of it. The giddy anticipation of the point late in a campaign where you’re ready to make the final, decisive march on the enemy—artillery hammering away at his walls, well-ordered legions of ground troops and mechanized units protecting your cannons and waiting to swarm through the enemy’s breached defenses, all while your elite aerial squadrons blast away at a settlement who thought they could do without anti-air guns—it’s a feeling you just have to experience for yourself.
The graphics and sound effects are top notch, especially considering the relatively paltry system requirements. The Star Wars theme music is nice, but I’ve already seen the movies about a hundred times each, so I usually turn the music off, keep the sound effects up, and throw in a cd for accompaniment. The only gripes I had with the game were picayune—why can’t the AT-ATs simply stomp on ground units, why do your air units just hover in place instead of making swooping assaults, things of that nature. All things considered, if you’re a fan of Star Wars (and I’m thinking chances are good if you’re on a gaming site) this game is an absolute must-own. I give it a solid 9 out of 10.
Operating System: Windows 98, 2000 ME.
Computer: 100% DirectX compatible computer required.
CPU: Pentium II or Athlon class 233 MHz or faster CPU required.
Memory: 32 MB RAM required. 64 MB RAM recommended.
Graphics Card: 2 MB PCI or AGP graphics card required.
4 MB graphics card recommended.
Sound Card: 100% DirectX compatible 16-bit sound card required.
CD-ROM: Quad Speed IDE or SCSI CD-ROM drive required.
Input Device: 100% Direct Input compatible keyboard or mouse required.