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Star Wars Galactic Battlegrounds: Clone Campaigns

Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: LucasArts
Developer: LucasArts
Media: CD/2
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

Since this is an expansion and not a completely new game, the graphics haven't really changed all that much. There are a few new details and things look a little cleaner, but for the most part it's the same good looking game from a year ago, regardless of the graphic detail you have it set on. The most noticeable differences come in the way of special effects. Players familiar with Galactic Battlegrounds will probably remember the giant, magic marker looking laser blasts and cheap explosions. These have been totally reworked and look really good. There are a few new title sets introduced which help to add a little spit and polish to the game.

The soundtrack still features the same montage of Star Wars music, only now it includes parts of the Episode II soundtrack as well. As in the last game a narrator, either Mace Windu or Count Dooku, introduces each scenario. The narration is very good and the actors who portray each character do an excellent job. Unit chatter for the new units is the same, although I wish there was a little more variety. Each time you tell a unit to move somewhere he responds with the same 'call'. This gets rather annoying during major battles, especially when you are playing with the Confederacy since most of their units give out an almost Ned Beatty-like squeal in response to commands.


Gameplay:

Like most expansions, Clone Campaigns adds a few new units to the fray and fixes a few of the imbalances in the original. The most notable changes are the two new factions, The Republic and Confederacy. Since the campaigns tell one arching story, you must play them in order. The first seven missions involve a Chiss Jedi named Sev'Rance Tann - Count Dooku's apprentice, while the last six involve Echuu-Shin Jon (players will remember him from the Rebellion campaigns). At first, I wasn't too jazzed about having to do this, but once I realized how deep the story went, it was really cool. Rather than retell parts of the movie, the expansion fills in a few of the gaps and works around the movie. While the game sets itself up for a 'good guy - bad guy' scenario, as the plot thickens it becomes harder and harder to tell who the 'good guys' really are. After completing the main scenarios, a special campaign is unlocked which involves the aftermath of Return of the Jedi and a very cool unit.

While both factions share a number of similarities with the original six, there are enough differences to make them worth using. For example, the Republic gets quicker, cheaper air and mech units as well as the added advantage of the Jedi starfighter, which combines the effectiveness of a starfighter and gives it the capabilities of a Jedi. On the other hand, Confederacy worker units are stronger and better able to defend themselves. In addition, their animal nurseries have the ability to producing predator units. These cheap, effective units are an added boon to the Confederacy and I can definitely see some strategies popping up around these units.

Two of the biggest changes to the overall game are, at first glance, rather trivial. The first is the power droid. These are perhaps the most useful units in the game - especially for players like myself who set up satellite bases all over the map. This is essentially a mobile power generator and while I wouldn't recommend them as a substitute for the real thing, they go a long way in supplementing them. Jedi have also been made more effective. Masters can now regenerate hit points (an ability that was until now given to certain Jedi) and are cheaper to produce - making it possible to send a sizable group of Jedi into battle with your armies.

In order to help balance out the factions, each of the original factions now have brand new units. The A-wing starfighter is now a part of the Rebellion's already formidable fleet and AT-ATs can now receive an upgrade that allows them to shoot at air units. Although mostly a cosmetic change, Naboo mounted units now ride sabercats. All factions also gain use of the Air Cruiser - a very powerful, and expensive, unit that becomes available later in the game. While slow and vulnerable, this unit makes up for it with its amazing range (more than even the best turrets) and firepower.

I could go on about the balancing issues that have been fixed, but then I'd probably just be rewriting the manual. It's obvious that someone was listening to fans since just about all the fixable complaints have been dealt with.

For the creative, Clone Campaigns offers a very good scenario editor and while the layout is hard to use, it's still cool.


Difficulty:

Clone Campaigns is very spotty in regards to difficulty - which is one of the main faults of the game. In most of the campaigns, you start off with a small, yet respectable force. The problem is that the computer usually starts with a larger army, a better base, and at a higher tech level. Things only get harder when the computer decides to start attacking your base - mostly with hard to defend against aerial units or Jedi. Thankfully the computer still hasn't quite figured out how to attack with large armies so once you have your base defenses up, you can sometimes forget about keeping troops stationed at your base. You can change the difficulty before each mission if you get to a point where you just can't hang with the computer.

Game Mechanics:

Clone Campaigns continues the same basic control set up as Galactic Battlegrounds. For beginners, everything can easily be done with a simple point-and-click. As you become familiar with the game, you'll start to learn hotkeys and add a little more control to your battles.

Fans of Galactic Battlegrounds are going to want to pick this up - even if it's just for the improvements made to the existing factions. However, since this is still basically an Age of Empires clone, RTS fans may be turned off and want something new.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:



Galactic Battlegrounds as this is an expansion pack, Windows 98, XP, Me, 2K, P233MHz, 32MB RAM (64 for Win2K or XP), 2MB graphics card, 4xCD-ROM
 

Test System:



Windows Me, PII 350MHz, 196Mb RAM, 3Dfx VooDoo3, 10 Gig HD, 4X DVD drive, Creative Audio PCI

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