With Episode II: Attack of the Clones, the Star Wars universe is expanding. To stay comprehensive, a game like Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds has to keep up. Hence the Clone Campaigns expansion pack, which adds the Confederacy and the Republic factions to the game, as well as a few new features. Unfortunately, there's not much here that stands out, making this feel more like a series of tweaks than what we've come to expect from a fully featured expansion.
The two new sides should be the most notable additions, but there isn't a lot to make them stand out. Neither of them has much character beyond a few units that will look familiar if you've seen Attack of the Clones. The Confederacy is a civilization representing the secessionist systems united under Count Dooku, the villain played by Christopher Lee. They are characterized mainly by the Geonosians, insectlike aliens that live in hivelike earthen structures. They are unique in their ability to use their animal nurseries to build predators, each with a specialized function. The nexu are effective against workers, the reek are effective against buildings (they're basically fast, cheap units), and the acklay are the equivalent of strike mechs, effective against enemy troopers. However, unlike the neutral predators in Galactic Battlegrounds, the Confederacy's predators are instantly identified by other civilizations as enemy units and attacked accordingly. There's no opportunity to use them as stealth units. Instead, they serve only as relatively cheap mid- to late-game units.
The Republic consists of the good guys from Attack of the Clones. With their prefab shelter bonus and a late-game technology that lets them build troopers at double speed, the Republic is capable of quickly amassing lots of clone troopers. Their Jedi are particularly powerful, and their Jedi Starfighters give them air power on par with Naboo and the Rebels. They earn more nova crystals from capturing holocrons, and their "sight beyond sight" technology gives their troops long range that rivals the reach of the Wookiees and Gungans.
Each side has a single-player campaign set in the aftermath of the events of the movie. As the Confederacy, you are one of Count Dooku's generals, rebuilding his army and then foiling the Republic's plans to create a new weapon. The Republic campaign features a much better story about the rise and fall of a padawan to Mace Windu, Samuel Jackson's character. Unlike the campaigns in the original Galactic Battlegrounds, you have to play these campaigns in sequence, and when you complete them, you'll unlock only a single bonus mission--a disappointing one at that.
The rest of the new content in Clone Campaigns falls into one of three categories: the significant, the marginal, and the questionable. There are only a few additions that are significant. Air cruisers are perhaps the biggest shift in game balance. These are essentially flying trebuchets, able to fire devastating area-of-effect attacks from long range that can blast their way through chunks of resources. These cruisers put much more emphasis on developing and countering air power.
Also significant are the more powerful and less expensive Jedi. They don't crumble so quickly under bounty hunter attacks, and most of their upgrade techs are cheaper. The fact that Jedi Masters regenerate health automatically makes them an ideal addition to any ground force. Also more useful now are animal nurseries, which produce food faster and are thus competitive with farming and fishing. Mounted troopers, which are unlocked by building a nursery, are more powerful, with increased effectiveness against Jedi and buildings, improved armor, and cheaper upgrades.
However, the rest of the new content is only marginally useful at best. There are new bonuses that apply when civilizations ally with each other, but these range wildly from the very powerful to the almost useless. For instance, a Rebel ally gives farms an increased yield, which can be a major boon during the early build-up stages of a game. When the Wookiees ally with someone, both sides get +2 to their troopers' line of sight, as opposed to the Gungan bonus, a discount on shield generators and shipyards that would be useful only in very specific situations. This just goes to show that everyone loves a Wookiee and that no one wants to be friends with a Gungan.
The new power droids are mobile power sources, useful for establishing forward bases but not fast or cheap enough to replace power cores. The Empire's AT-ATs now have the unique ability to fire at air units, giving the Empire yet another mech bonus (and silencing fans who might protest that an AT-AT clearly shot down a snowspeeder in The Empire Strikes Back). The random-terrain-selection feature is helpful in multiplayer games to prevent players from choosing a civilization based on map type. When there's a chance you might get a water world, civilizations with a ship advantage, such as the Gungans and the Trade Federation, are even more attractive. Also, the Clone Campaigns expansion opens with a sleepy cinematic intro that includes brief scenes from Attack of the Clones--a much less rousing introduction than the one in Galactic Battlegrounds.
Finally, there is the new content that is useless almost to the point that you might not even notice it. The fortress bonuses for each civilization are esoteric and mostly trivial. The new locations are little more than cosmetic changes, providing alternate graphics for the same old stuff. The supposedly treacherous lava on Sarapin is simply orange impassable terrain. The new Tatooine terrain has an inert Sarlacc and some fiesty Jawa camps that--like almost all of the game's terrain features--don't do anything. Before the expansion pack, the Sandcrawler rush was a feature of nearly all battles on Tatooine, but the new Tatooine has unarmed Sandcrawlers with nonworking build options on their command menu. Looks like someone in play testing missed that one.
There are also subtle changes that are clearly an effort to rebalance the game. The Empire's air unit disadvantage was completely removed--instead, it now has an advantage with cheaper units that no longer have a build time penalty. As if their air units weren't already good enough, the Rebels can now research technology to unlock an A-wing fighter. Naboo no longer has to research technology to get shielding for their unique Crusader units. There are plenty of changes even more minor than these, mainly the sorts of things a developer would do after a game has been out long enough--long enough that the hard-core players have found ways to exploit imbalances. There's no telling whether you'll like, or even notice, most of these changes.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about these minor tweaks is that LucasArts could have instead made many larger changes, which would have made Galactic Battlegrounds a better game overall. An attack-move option would have worked wonders to make combat more manageable. Automatic conversion would have reduced the level of micromanagement required to make the most of your Jedi. The game could have used better queuing of research, building, and unit orders. Broader distinctions among the civilizations would make them more vivid rather than all of this nickel-and-dime tuning. But instead of making the game better, Clone Campaigns seems intent on reminding us that this is very much a game of increments, with a 10 percent bonus here and a 5 percent penalty there. The original Galactic Battlegrounds was a good game in that it brought to life the epic sweep of battles in the Star Wars universe, but this expansion pack doesn't add much to that epic sweep.