Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Galaxy Far...Far...Far...Far...Far...

Finally, I'm getting to one of my favorite old games. Star Wars Rebellion was published a decade ago...suddenly I feel really old. Anyway, for it's time, it was the pinnacle of large-scale strategy games. For it's time, it had a good UI, excellent balance, an innovative tactical mode to a strategy game. For it's time, it was THE Star Wars game to play.

However, today is a decade after it's time, so what worth can be found in this game? Well, there's gotta be some good, because Lucas Arts decided to remake the game as Star Wars: Empire At War, which is basically an upgrade to Rebellion. It's important to look at the aspects that carried over: a unique tactical subsystem in the strategy game, and the possibility for a huge, immersive game.

The tacitcal subsystem is more important as an idea in Rebellion than as an execution. The space combat was clunky and hard to see what was going on. The camera controls sucked, and all in all, it usually ended better letting the computer calculate out the result. Basically, in Rebellion bigger ships > smaller ships, and a fleet of larger ships usually outlived a much more massive fleet of smaller ships. The importance of this idea in Rebellion is how it transferred over to Empire At War. In EAW, every battle is tactical, and every map is unique. The game requires at least some skill, tactically, as well as ability on the strategic map. That is what being a galactic commander is all about.

The second great part of Rebellion is the scope of the game. The smallest Rebellion game type has about 100 systems. This leads to games that take hours if not days to fully paly out. Don't get me wrong, I do have a life, but that kind of massive scope is delicious. Having a single game that could last days is an awesome feeling, and fully conveys the scope of this galactic war. EAW scales this back a bit, but still consists of huge, diverse maps. Large maps work well for this kind of game.

It's important to note that, contrary to Yoda's teachings, size matters. A game that's premise involves a single island (a la Evil Genius) doesn't need to go beyond that island very much. A game where you fight to control the galaxy, needs a galaxy to control. Scope is very important to games. Morrowind was gimped, in my opinion, because the island was a little confining and small (once you got to the end of the game and got all the stilt strider points at least). Games like WOW are almost too big to be effective. It's all a balancing act, and everything must be done to correspond with the game itself.

Up next: More on Rebellion's Hero System

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