Finally, we have come to the end of our three-part look at the civilizations of LucasArts' strategy game, Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds. We have profiled the infamous Empire and heralded Rebel Alliance, the sinister Trade Federation, and noble Naboo. Now, we arrive at the primitive races of Star Wars, at least as the Galactic Empire classes them. These are peoples who live in harmony with nature, who have no need to control worlds or conquer stars, although they are every bit as capable and technologically advanced as the more "civilized" factions in the game. These two remaining civilizations are the amphibious Gungans of Episode I and the Wookiees of classic Star Wars.
The Gungans have gotten a bad rap ever since Episode I hit movie theaters last year. Jar Jar Binks has forever tarnished the reputation of this honorable race. Gungans in fact do have an advanced government, with refined laws and respected codes. Remember that Jar Jar is an outcast; he is not representative of the Gungan people. The Gungans in Battlegrounds have many unique elements to their gameplay style, perhaps in an attempt by the designers to compensate for the well-known loathing that people have for Gungans. If the designers are worried that people might not play Gungans because of the stigma attached to them, then they have gone all-out to give them many interesting advantages that no other civilization gets. As far as LucasArts' is concerned, you will play the Gungans and be pleasantly surprised by their capabilities. They are the only civilization that has portable shield generators, that can build underwater, and that ride massive dinosaurlike mounts.
Wookiees, on the other hand, need no special treatment to lift them up in the eyes of Star Wars fans and gamers. Chewbacca, unlike Jar Jar, has done an outstanding job in representing his people. He is loyal, strong, technologically brilliant, and immensely strong. His people likewise exude these admirable qualities. Wookiees are a very advanced civilization. In fact, originally, they were supposed to be the forest people encountered in Return of the Jedi. However, they were replaced by Ewoks, because George Lucas wanted a Stone Age civilization--not a high-technology civilization--on Endor. In the lore of Star Wars, Wookiees are also the backbone of the Imperial slave army of laborers and engineers. They built the first Death Star. Their buildings and homes reflect their technological ingenuity in Battlegrounds. Many of their structures have a junkyard appearance, sporting wood and metal plates. Wookiees, as you would expect, are very strong in infantry and air units. They have their definite advantages, but they also have some fairly obvious weaknesses.
We'll explore more of their qualities, as well as those of the Gungans, as we now take a more in-depth look at both civilizations.
The Gungans have an advantage in water units and mechs. These are their clear strengths in terms of units. All the Gungan mechs are actually dinosaurlike creatures of some sort, with a heavy gun strapped to their backs. The strike mech is a kaadu, the mech destroyer is a lerraa, and the assault mech (the AT-AT equivalent) is a giant fambaa. Even the heavy artillery is made up of creatures. The pummel, for instance, is a four-legged beast called the cerrabore, which rams its head against walls and buildings. The Gungans are purportedly masters at raising their creatures, and their unique technologies further enhance these organic mechs. Creature training, a technology researched at the heavy weapons factory, doubles the effectiveness of artillery, pummels, and antiair guns. Gungans can also research Gungan creature armor at the mech factory to gain +10 percent hit points for all mech units. If combined arms are used--and a Gungan player should truly take advantage of all his abilities--then the Gungan army is almost unstoppable. A contingent of heavy assault fambaa, under cover of a fambaa shield generator, is a juggernaut of a foe. Heavy mech fambaas already have 300 hit points, but coupled with shields, that grows to 600 effective hit points before the creature armor upgrade is even factored in.
The Gungans get the full complement of ships, although to be honest, most civilizations get nearly all naval units. However, Gungans have an advantage there in that they have a unique technology--called growth chambers--which lets them build ships 20 percent faster and cheaper. Especially on naval maps, the Gungan advantage becomes clear, as they get all naval vessels and can pump them out better than anyone else.
The Gungan unique unit is the fambaa shield generator, those hulking sauropods in Episode I that carried shield generators on their backs to protect the Gungans from the battle droid blasters. These fambaas are extremely tough, with 20 armor added to ranged and melee attacks. Moreover, they of course have shields. This unique unit grants shields to all friendly units in a large radius, effectively doubling their hit points. In addition, shields regenerate over time, making any army under cover of fambaa shield generators a more resilient and tenacious foe than would otherwise be possible. Once upgraded, they become more monstrously powerful, with 25 armor and 100 more hit points, which actually works out to +200 hit points when you factor in the shield. This unit alone makes the Gungan army extremely strong and will probably be a staple of any Gungan general's army.
Gungan Strengths and Weaknesses
As stated before, the Gungans are strong in mechs and ships. Mechs really are the backbone of the Gungan army. They have good hit points relative to the mechs of other civilizations, and they also are fairly strong. When you throw in the fambaa shield generator, Gungans are tough to dispatch. Gungans also are surprisingly strong in infantry. They get the entire lineup of infantry units, including repeater troops, advanced mounted troops, and heavy antiair troops. The last unit, antiair, is key, because one of the two glaring weaknesses of the Gungans is in air units.
Gungans are severely handicapped when it comes to air units. They do get the full line of air units, but they don't get any tech level four air upgrades, so their fighters and bombers are less accurate than those of other civs--they have no shields, and they aren't as fast. Moreover, Gungan air units cost 5 percent more and take 5 percent longer to build. Because of their lack of air superiority, Gungan ground units are thus vulnerable to air attacks, and a mighty fambaa army will die helplessly against enemy fighters and bombers if no antiair escorts accompany them into base. So while the Gungans do have a decided strength in ground units, their air inferiority is a huge weakness.
Gungans are also weak in the Force, and when they build a Jedi temple in tech level two, that's about all they get. They can get Jedi padawans and upgrade to Jedi knights, but they cannot recruit Jedi masters. Nor do they get any of the tech level four upgrades, like increased turning range, stealth, stealth detection, or the ability to turn heavy units and buildings. The only significant Jedi temple technology they get is faith in the Force, which gives them a 50 percent bonus to resist conversion by enemy Jedi. Here again is a Gungan weakness, and matched up in melee, Gungans will lose to the superior melee attacks of Jedi.
An economic advantage that balances out their weakness is their ability to build underwater. Gungan utility trawlers can construct houses (prefab shelters) underwater. It's a small bonus, but it's helpful in allowing Gungans another unit that can build homes and also build them underwater when space is at a premium.
Chewbacca and company are a fun civilization to play and are surprising in several ways. Wookiees excel in trooper and air units. In many ways, they complement the Gungans nicely and duplicate some of the strengths of the Rebels.
Wookiee troopers are strong because of several unique technologies and their unique unit. Wookiees get the full complement of infantry, such as regular troopers, mounted troopers, antiair troopers, and grenade troopers. All their troopers look menacing, especially their mounted troopers, who ride great dragons into battle. The Wookiees get all trooper upgrades as well, making their infantry one of the best in the game. However, the designers went one step further and gave them a unique technology, which gives Wookiees a clear advantage over other civs: self-regeneration. Self-regeneration makes all organic units except for workers regenerate wounds automatically and also gives all troopers +30 hit points and +2 armor. Add in the Wookiee unique unit, and you have a trooper army as powerful as a Gungan or Imperial mech army.
The Wookiee unique unit is the berserker. It has 230 hit points, which is enormous for an organic unit, and also has a powerful attack. However, it is a melee unit, so it has to be in close range to fight. It has good armor, though, and, with its high number of hit points, it is able to withstand lots of punishment. There is also a unique technology, the jet pack, that improves berserker speed. They are already fast, but with the upgrade, they are extremely mobile troopers. Although not as strong as a Jedi, the Wookiee berserker is a deadly adversary. If you can support it with repeater troopers, it can be a very effective complement to your army.
In addition to having superior ground troops, the Wookiees dominate the skies. They get all air units but also get all air unit upgrades, meaning they get shields, improved accuracy, and thicker armor. Wookiees can't build aircraft as fast as the Naboo, but they do field a mean air force. The same Trade Federation air force that defeated the Gungan air force was torn apart by a Wookiee air fleet.
Wookiees don't necessarily get all mech units (they are missing the heavy strike and assault mechs) but are compensated somewhat for that failing. They have a unique technology, called Wookiee ingenuity, which discounts all mech factory units by 15 percent. They also have an upgrade at the heavy weapons factory that improves the range of artillery, giving them excellent siege capability as well--a nice complement to the superior Wookiee infantry.
Wookiees are an excellent civilization in terms of raw attack strength, and they also surprise gamers with a good air force and a junkyardlike look, boasting buildings thrown together with mismatched plates of metal and swatches of wood. One area where Wookiees don't excel is in Jedi. They, like the Gungans, do not get Jedi masters. And like the Gungans, they get no Jedi technologies in the fourth tech level except for faith in the Force. Wookiees also have a paucity of naval units and are unable to build the more advanced ships. As noted, they don't get all mech units, but they also don't get many of the tech level four mech upgrades either. Only the discounted prices of their mechs keep them competitive.
However, Wookiees do get a nice economic bonus. Starting in tech level three and beyond, Wookiees collect carbon 5 percent faster. It's a small bump, but it's useful because many troopers and buildings have a high carbon cost.
In many ways, the Wookiees seem like a civilization designed specifically for infantry and air strikes. They also have excellent siege weapons. Although not as sophisticated as other civilizations, the Wookiees look like they'll be a fun faction to play.
Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds should be hitting store shelves within the upcoming weeks. It promises to deliver real-time strategy gameplay as fun and diverse as that found in the original Age of Kings. With six civilizations, all offering unique units, unique technologies, and different styles of gameplay, there should be something to entice every strategy gamer. If you enjoy traditional ground offensives, you can go with the Wookiees or Galactic Empire. If you want to stomp through bases with heavy mechanized assaults, the Empire and Gungans are available. Gamers who want to try out Battlegrounds' air force, which adds a new element to the game, can play the Naboo or Rebels. And of course, with Jedi in the game, there are yet more options to play with and master.
LucasArts doesn't have the best track record when it comes to Star Wars strategy games, but Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds is not Force Commander or Rebellion. This time, with the Age of Kings engine and a renewed dedication to strategy games, the company could finally reverse the trend of disappointment. Galactic Battlegrounds plays like a fun game with lots of nuance and strategy. If the build we've been playing is any indication, this next chapter in Star Wars strategy games will finally please all the fans and gamers who have waited so patiently for a game that truly captures the epic battles of the Star Wars movies.