Six campaigns are offered as part of Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, one for each of the races. You begin by commanding the Trade Federation as they invade the Royal Naboo and end by taking control of the Wookiees after the Rebel Alliance has fatally wounded the Galactic Empire. The other race is the Gungans, whose gameplay is decidedly different due to their nature as an underwater species.
Here, air units have been introduced by Ensemble Studios. These make strategy a little more complicated, because walls will no longer totally defend you. In order to combat fighters and bombers, the player must fill his/her base with anti-air units and turrets. Just as they did in Age of Empires, turrets play a critical roll in defense. Units can be garrisoned inside turrets to increase the firepower of the turrets and provide some protection for the units. However, the air units aren't as dynamic as I would have hoped. They simply float several meters above the ground, not constantly in motion as they are in RTS games like Ground Control.
Proximity is something that you will have to monitor as a commander in Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds. Power Cores make surrounding structures dramatically more efficient, and Shield Generators provide a protective layer to units and buildings within their range.
While the tech tree is quite immense, including four diverse technology levels, it doesn't change enough from race to race to make gameplay differ greatly. Essentially, only difficulty and storyline change from campaign to campaign.
Despite their detail and large size in Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, structures are built with alarming speed and come down at a snail's pace. The only thing that makes destruction of an establishment quicker is a large army of troopers and mechs. Thankfully, you typically have one of these at your disposal. Troopers are created at the Troop Center, where they are also advanced from Trooper Recruit to the Repeater Trooper and from the Mounted Trooper to the Advanced Mounted Trooper. Similarly, mechs are created at the Mech Factory the source of Strike Mechs and Mech Destroyers which are upgraded in the same manner.
Workers are the collectors and buildiers of society. When an attack is imminent, you can call them all back into your Command Center with an alarm from where they can fire some weapons, and send them back to their tasks when the coast is clear. You will find yourself sending them all over the map in search of resources which appear to be rarer than they were in Age of Empires.
In case campaigns are just not your thang, other game modes are part of Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds. Terminate the Commander involves seeking out and killing a particular unit in the enemy force. Death Match is a scenario in which resource gathering is not a major issue because you begin with a huge abundance of ore, nova crystals, food, and carbon. Monument Race and Defend the Monument ask you to be the first to construct on monument or protect the one that you have for the longest time.
The manual of Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds is thick and informative, covering units, technologies, control, and the basic workings of the game. It even contains a foreword comparing and contrasting the title with Age of Empires II. In the earlier parts, it discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each race. For example, the Rebel Alliance is the best at gathering food from farms, while the Gungans have the strongest navy in the game.
Many fans of the Age of Empires series will be after the multiplayer, of which this game has plenty to offer. With a 200-unit limit and up to eight players, you can go at it through Internet, LAN, or Microsoft's Zone.com. Microsoft and LucasArts have had a successful relationship for years, and when I checked, there were always many ongoing games in the rooms at Zone.com.
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