Star Wars: Empire at War E3 2005 Impressions

We revisit LucasArts' and Petroglyph's upcoming real-time strategy game at E3 2005.


We had a chance to take an updated look at Star Wars: Empire at War, the upcoming real-time strategy game from LucasArts and Petroglyph (a developer composed of many members of the original Westwood Studios team). While we had previously brought you an updated look at the game in advance of the show, at E3, we were able to see some new features in action, such as the galactic map and the role of hero characters in the game.

The galactic map we saw resembled a computerized star map that included each major planet in the Star Wars system (including Alderaan, Tattooine, Hoth, and others), marking each one's current affiliation (either neutral or under the control of the Empire or the Rebel Alliance), as well as the location of trade routes among planets. While you won't be able to create trade routes yourself (they'll exist independently throughout the galaxy), you'll want to capture any and all planets through which trade routes pass, since these planets will produce a much larger supply of credits. As we've revealed previously, the game won't use any kind of traditional resource management systems; instead of mining for gold, you'll actually sit back and watch the credits roll in from the planets you control. And wealthy trade planets will give you much more, and will therefore be primary targets for ambitious commanders. The galaxy map will also be where you commission your armies, and it will serve as a sort of disembodied haven for any other units you don't have deployed, such as units you have retreated from battle to save yourself the expense of producing new ones.

We also had a chance to see heroes in action, or more specifically, the most infamous antihero in the Star Wars universe: Darth Vader. The dreaded Lord Vader appears on the ground as a relatively small-looking infantry unit, black robes and all, since the game will attempt to model relative scale between stormtroopers, snowspeeders, AT-ATs, and Imperial walkers. However, his fearsome command of the Force, which grants him such powers as Force push (which lets him blast a shock wave along the ground around him, thus flattening any enemy infantry units) and Force crush (which lets him lift most small and medium vehicles clean off the ground--with his mind, of course--before crushing them).

Empire at War continued to look very impressive graphically. The game seemed to do a good job of modeling the relative scale between different types of units and vehicles, and it featured spectacular explosions, complete with billowing smoke and heat shimmer effects, whenever a vehicle went down in flames. While exact details on the game's multiplayer modes remain scarce, Petroglyph is still willing to confirm that current plans include a quick-action skirmish mode for up to eight players, as well as a possible campaign-style multiplayer mode in which one player will play the Rebel Alliance while the other will play the Empire. We'll have more details on this promising strategy game as we near its release later this year.

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