Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds: Clone Campaigns Preview

Find out what you can expect from this expansion pack, which will be based on Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

When Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds hit store shelves late last year, it only covered the Star Wars films released up to that point in time. That meant the original game involved or paralleled events in The Phantom Menace, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. The adversaries in the game were the Naboo, Trade Federation, Gungans, Wookiees, Rebel Alliance, and Empire. Now, with Episode II finally near release, LucasArts is ready to publish the expansion pack to Galactic Battlegrounds. Titled Clone Campaigns, it covers the events of the upcoming Episode II film, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and features the main combatants from the movie, the Galactic Republic and the secessionist Confederacy of Independent Systems.

If all LucasArts was adding to the game was two new factions, that alone would be reason enough to pick up the expansion. But that's not all. The expansion will also include updates to all the pre-existing civilizations, including new units and technologies. Balance tweaks to existing units have also been added; in general, the design team took the opportunity to fix any problems in the original game raised by fans.

One of the new civs in the game is the Confederacy, whose primary constituent are the subterranean Geonosians.

The graphics and sound have also been updated. Since the visuals of the first game were somewhat disappointing when the game first shipped, that's also welcome news. The least of the tweaks is a new intro cut scene. The fat lasers of the mechs in the game, dubbed "magic markers" by the artists, have been thinned out and made leaner and meaner. The explosions are also new and more dramatic, with rings of debris and shockwaves to really liven them up. The sound that accompanies these explosions has also been improved. The artists also created hundreds of new pieces of art and landmarks for the scenario builder so that gamers can build their own unique maps of famous Star Wars locales. There is art for Tusken raiders, Tusken Bantha riders, Jabba's Palace, Jabba's barge, the crashed spaceship that frames the skyline of Mos Eisley in Star Wars Special Edition, a shuttle Tyderium, and many other pieces.

The slate of changes for Clone Campaigns is huge. Judging from the trailers for Attack of the Clones, the civil war in Episode II features gargantuan battles, and with that in mind, LucasArts has increased the pop cap to 250. In keeping with the theme of new Episode II content, there are also two new planets, Geonosia and Sarapin. Sarapin is a completely new lava world, while Geonosia is a variant of a pre-existing tileset. Additionally, the design team has added "attack move" functionality, so that units will acquire and attack enemy units along their paths, as in StarCraft. There will be no attack move button, but you will be able to hit shift and right-click to achieve the same result.

In addition to the new Galactic Republic civ, Clone Campaigns also adds a lot of balance tweaks, new units and technologies, and better graphics and sound.

Animal husbandry, which also wasn't used as much as the designers hoped, is also seeing enhancement. The animal husbandry building is now self-powered, so you don't have to build a power core near it to gain the full benefits of it. In addition, it now generates food at a faster rate. There are new predators on some maps, as well as new meat animals, including the womp rat and the shook. Power Cores likewise have been improved, gaining a greater radius of effect. In addition, all civs can now build an EG-6 power droid from the power core that basically functions as a walking power core to provide juice for unattended buildings. Shield generators are also seeing their radius of effect enlarged. They can also be upgraded to regenerate the shields of nearby friendly units at a faster rate.

Unit Tweaks and Changes to Old Civs

Many units in Galactic Battlegrounds were overhauled or improved based on feedback from gamers. The most significant of changes was made to the Jedi units. LucasArts says that people just weren't using Jedi, so now they are vastly improved across the board. Jedi Padawans, Knights, and Masters have a better attack and cheaper cost. In addition, Jedi Masters are now much more powerful, with more hit points and automatic hp regeneration. Water combat is also improved, with all naval units being cheaper. In addition, all civs can now build a new sensor buoy building, similar to a sentry tower, that provides sight over water.

The AI for the game has also been improved. LucasArts believes that no longer will you be able to defeat two moderate difficulty opponents in a random map game, as you could in the original.

Among the more significant additions to the game are all new units and new bonuses for the old civs. LucasArts simply wanted to add even more value to each civ and further differentiate them. All races now have a unique Fortress bonus. For example, the Empire can build fortresses 10 percent faster, the Rebel fortresses have +1 line of sight and attack range, and the Naboo fortresses have a bonus to attack mechs and heavy weapons. All races also get unique team bonuses, which kick in during multiplayer games and apply to both your own civ and your allies. Again, the Empire's team bonus allows yours and your allies' mech units to move 10 percent faster, while Rebels give theirs and their allies' farms +35 food. The Naboo team bonus is faster air cruisers.

Air cruisers are a new unit for each civ. These flying siege units can blast away defenses.

Air cruisers are a brand new unit that has been added to all civs. They are built from the fortress, and are the flying equivalent of a cannon. Lucasarts calls it the "AT-AT of the sky." Although they have a tremendously powerful attack, they also have a very slow reload. Air cruisers have longer range than towers, and were put into the game precisely to counter base defenses, especially on space maps, where it was sometimes impossible to crack through towered-in towns because bombers would always get shot down before they could drop their payloads. However, for all their power, these new ships are expensive, costing 600 food and nova.

As if these updates weren't enough, each civ also got some additional enhancements. The Empire receives a new technology for the AT-AT called walker research. Researched in the 4th tech level, it lets AT-ATs attack air units. The change was based on feedback from gamers, who thought that the AT-AT should be able to shoot down airspeeders and the like, as seen in Empire Strikes Back. The new tech makes the Empire the only civ with a heavy mech that has anti-air capabilities.

The Rebels actually gained a new unit, the A-Wing fighter, which is faster than other aircraft and gives the Rebels yet more air superiority. Among the Gungans' enhancements are regenerating buildings. The ability is innate and does not have to be researched, and gives Gungan structures a little more durability.

The Naboo mounted trooper now rides a tuskcat.

The Naboo received quite a few new bonuses. They now gather nova faster, and also get a holocron nova bonus as well. Their royal crusaders have been pumped up as well, gaining more hit points and a better attacks. The last new Naboo unit is actually the result of a facelift. The artists thought that the Naboo mounted trooper was too similar to the Gungan one, so they changed the mount to a tuskcat, which is essentially a saber-toothed tiger. The new unit is a tuskcat rider. The other civs also received new techs, team and fortress bonuses, and other tweaks. The most prominent change though, comes in the form of two new civilizations.

Galactic Civil War

The two new civs in the game are the main combatants in Episode II: the Galactic Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems. They each have their own campaigns, and this time, you must play them in order, with the Confederacy campaign first. When you choose the Confederacy, you're following the orders of Count Dooku (in reality the Sith Lord, Darth Tyranus), but you actually play an apprentice of Dooku's named Sev'rance Tann, a Chiss Jedi. When you fight for the Republic, you're given orders by Mace Windu, although you play the Jedi Master, Eschuu Shen-Jon, from the first game's campaign.

The two new sides have their own unique bonuses, units, and look to differentiate them from each other and the existing civs. The Republic, for example, looks more modern and technologically advanced. Influenced by the look of Coruscant, their buildings will start to resemble sprawling city complexes, since their structures fit together seamlessly to create unbroken settlements. The Confederacy has a more earthy look, being influenced by the Geonosians in Episode II. Thus, their buildings look like they are hewn from rock, and appear to have underground caverns.

These Geonosian flying warriors are about to face off against Republic clone troopers.

In terms of gameplay, the two sides have some interesting new abilities. The Confederacy is good with troopers and mechs. They make use of spider-like droids of various sizes, including the massive spider walker from the Episode II trailers, called a homing spider droid, as well as miniature versions called dwarf spider droids. Their unique unit is an insect-winged, flying melee unit called the Geonosian Warrior. It can attack both air and ground units, and is essentially a highly-mobile infantry unit. Among the bonuses the Confederacy gets is better animal husbandry, better nova crystal profits for their cargo hovercraft, and the basic training upgrade for free, In fact, Confederacy workers will be the best in the game, since they also get the unique tech, Geonosian Diligence, which improves their attack and work speed. Most interesting of all their features is that they can control predators, dumb beasts that simply attack other civs but that can be tamed by the Confederacy. The Confederacy can produce three predators and control them as normal troops. The Acklay is good against troopers, the Nexu is good at eliminating workers, and the Reek is best at taking down buildings. Best of all, they only cost food to build.

The Republic's Jedi Starfighters are the best air unit in the game.

The Republic, in contrast, fields a force that is more dependent on technology and the powerful Jedi. In fact, this civ beats out even the Naboo in terms of Jedi power. And they at least rival the Rebels in air superiority. In addition to getting all the Jedi upgrades, they get a unique Jedi technology called Sight Beyond Sight, that boosts the sight range of the Jedi and other units by +6, giving them by far the best recon ability. Their team bonus also gives their Jedi faster move speed. Republic air power is provided by their unique unit: the Jedi Starfighter. It looks like an A-Wing, but has the power of a fully upgraded X-Wing but at a cheaper cost. It is also immune to Jedi conversion. Among the Republics unique technologies are Senate Hub, which gives their fortresses a +2 line of sight and attack range, and Kaminoan Cloners, which cuts build times in half for laser troopers. The Republics other benefits are better holocron nova generation, six population per prefab shelter instead of five, and better medical droids.

Clone Campaigns is currently set for a May 14 ship date, just two days before the movie debuts. It obviously draws from the movie for much of its new content, but it also adds lots of value to the old civs, while fixing certain issues like balance and even graphics. This expansion is sure to please any fan of Galactic Battlegrounds, and will no doubt make the original game even better.

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