A Solid Foundation
For some time now, LucasArts has been in desperate need of a polished real-time strategy game set in the Star Wars universe that would allow fans of the franchise to control all of their favorite characters. I'm happy to say that Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds is that game. Developed for LucasArts by Ensemble Studios, it is strongly based on the engine used for the Age of Empires series, and it shows. Not that this is a bad way for LucasArts to go. Force Commander was a miserable gaming experience with more flaws than you could count, possibly giving LucasArts a wake-up call that they could not necessarily march into any genre and expect Star Wars enthusiasts to adore it. This time around, LucasArts chose to go with the experienced team at Ensemble Studios and utilize refined technology and gameplay.
How deep do the similarities between Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds and Age of Empires go? The resources of ore, nova crystals, food, and carbon directly correspond to those of stone, gold, food, and wood. Units can only point in eight different directions, meaning that projectiles don't always follow the way in which a unit is facing. And the graphics are beginning to become a little outdated in comparison to the detailed 3D visuals of more modern RTS titles such as Empire Earth. A massive technology tree including 300 units makes up the gameplay of Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, and I must say that combat is quite balanced, even if it doesn't seem to have continuity with the movies.
An enjoyable scenario and campaign editor in shipped with the game identical in appearance and functionality to the one many are accustomed to from Age of Empires. Perhaps this will win over some of the users who created fantastic campaigns for Age of Empires and increase the longevity of Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds. Another minor, yet appealing feature is the DataBank, which offers background information on the planet and races available in the game.