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Empire at War = Rebellion 2 (Status and Alpha Preview)


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Though the two previous strategy games based on the Star Wars license have enjoyed mixed success (one was good, the other was awful), things seem to be right on track with LucasArts's latest effort, Star Wars: Empire at War. We recently had the opportunity to see the game in action and chat with producer Brett Tosti about the overall direction of the title. Though the game is still at a very early stage, it already shows a lot of promise. And it's no wonder: many of the developers at Petroglyph refined their design and programming chops at Westwood.


The game is set just a few years before the events related in A New Hope. The Empire has dominated the galaxy for a generation now, and rebel leaders are just starting to organize. This sees the formation of the Rebel Alliance, the rise of Darth Vader and the creation of the dreaded Death Star. Though much is still being decided, at least some of the established characters and planets from the first film play a role in the game. (There will be a small taste of some Episode III content in the game, but the developers aren't talking too much about that just yet.)

Brett showed us an opening cinematic, created almost entirely from in-game assets. The scrolling text tells of the Alliance's plans to capture a new Empire fighter prototype called the X-Wing. The camera pans across a star field, stopping just as a Rebel fleet hyperspaces in at takes up orbit around a nearby planet. Troop transports descend to the surface and land outside an Imperial base. Infantry and tanks swarm out of the ships as AT-ATs and stormtroopers rush to meet them. The Rebels gain the edge in the firefight after calling in a pair of Y-Wings to take out the Imperial AT-AT. With the Imperial forces routed, the Rebels seize the X-Wing prototypes and launch off into space.


But it's not done yet. An Imperial fleet has moved in to intercept the Rebels. Star Destroyers and waves of TIE Fighters mix it up with a small number of Rebel cruisers and squads of Y-Wings. Realizing that they can't possibly win against such overwhelming odds, the Rebels retreat, taking their new X-Wing fighters with them. The camera cuts to a very disappointed Darth Vader standing on the bridge of one of the Star Destroyers.


Though it doesn't touch on every aspect of the game, the cinematic serves as a nice introduction of the world of Empire at War. The Empire and Rebel Alliance will battle across a variety of planets, from Hoth to Tatooine, from Yavin to Naboo. Each planet provides resources that can be used to build new units to conquer new worlds. Space and ground battles will rage across the galaxy as the two factions vie for control. Units and bases persist from battle to battle, opening up plenty of new tactical and strategic considerations.


Rather than relying on scripted missions and story points, the developers have decided to let the story develop dynamically. There are no missions here; players will simply fight from planet to planet in a freeform galaxy. The persistence of units and bases will give a sense of continuity to the whole affair. So while the game doesn't feature a Death Star attack on Yavin or the Rebel's fighting retreat from Hoth, those scenarios can come up as a result of how you and your opponent are playing the game.


Anyone familiar with the brand understands the polar nature of the Galactic Civil War. On the one side you have the mighty Empire, an established power in the galaxy that can bring their full might down on anyone who opposes them. On the other you have the Rebel Alliance, a small, scatter band of freedom fighters/terrorists that have to rely on hit-and-run tactics to strike at chinks in the Empire's armor.


On average, the Rebel units are going to be better than those of the Empire, particularly their space fighters. But they'll also be a lot more expensive. This means that the mass-produced, inexpensive Imperial units have more of an advantage as the game wears on. The trick is that the Imperial player can't be too wasteful with the units without losing his numerical advantage. This is why the Rebel player will want to focus on hit-and-run tactics, sending in a small force to take out a key resource and then retreating before the Empire can stage a counterattack.


The Rebel player has one significant advantage here in that he or she can see pretty much everything the Empire is doing. While the Empire has to search out every Rebel fleet and stronghold, the Rebels will know pretty much exactly where many of the Imperial bases and fleets are located. In addition to sending their fleets hunting for Rebels across the galaxy, the Empire will be able to find out about the Rebels by sending out probe droids.




The whole point of this, at least in single player, is to take over a certain portion of the galaxy's 20 or so planets. The actual portion you'll need to control still hasn't been decided yet, but once you have 15 or so, it ought to be hard to stop you from getting the other five. There are some clear endgame triggers as well, but Brett didn't want to give those away. Naturally, taking out the Death Star or wiping out the Rebel based on Yavin 4 seem like reasonable choices.


There may be a variety of options for victory in multiplayer but, again, total annihilation is the surest form of victory there is. The galaxy is scalable, so you can play shorter or longer games according to your preference. The larger strategic game is only playable by two players, one taking the Empire and the other taking the Alliance. Skirmish maps support up to eight players and can focus either on space or land battles, or a combination of both.

The planets are worth controlling because they give you resources and production facilities that can be used to buy new technologies or be translated into the various weapons of war, from stormtroopers to Star Destroyers. Unlike many other RTS games, there's no building or harvesting in the tactical battles here. You'll handle all these duties on the strategic planetary map. Some planets will offer other unique benefits: quicker building speed, reduced building costs, or for those located alongside key hyperspace routes, increased movement bonuses.


The planetary strategy phase of the game is also where you issue movement orders to your forces. When your forces come into contact with those of your enemy, you'll transition to a tactical battle. If your fleets have met, you'll have to resolve any space battles before moving on to fight for control of the planet surface. Like Ground Control, your forces will be fixed at the beginning of the fight. Though there are a few options to get reinforcements during a fight, you'll really only have the forces you brought with you.


The space units have all been designed in rock-paper-scissors fashion. The large capital ships are vulnerable to bombers, which are vulnerable to fighters, which are vulnerable to mid-sized capital ships, which are vulnerable to large capital ships. In specific terms, you might be facing an enemy Star Destroyer. Your best bet to take it out is to send in a few squads of Y-Wings. Their weapons can penetrate the shields of the Star Destroyer very well. To counter this, the Empire will send out TIE Fighters to take down the Y-Wings. As the rebel player, you might sent out some Corellian Corvettes to deal with the TIE Fighters. But since these Corvettes are particularly vulnerable to Star Destroyers, you need to plan your attacks carefully.


In the case of the Star Destroyer attack (or an attack on any large ships or space stations), you can select sub-systems to target. The various weapons, shields, and engines can each be targeted separately. If you want to take out the large ships quickly, you'll need to attack their shield generators right away. The AI makes some of these calls on their own, leaving you free to focus on other matters. Though it sounds like a lot to manage, the game conveniently groups your fighters together into discrete squads that can each be led as a single unit.


Rather than giving you full freedom to move up and down, the space fights of Empire at War take place on a number of flat planes. While it would be nice to move the units up and down on the Z-axis here, the fact that ships rise and sink from one plane to another keeps the game from looking as static as Conquest: Frontier Wars. It also helps the pathfinding a hell of a lot, since small ships can fly over or under the larger, slower ships.


This flat terrain becomes essential to preserve the danger and excitement of asteroid fields, like those found outside Geonosis. Units can pass through the asteroid fields if they want, but they'll take tremendous damage for doing so. The smarter (and slower) choice is to find clear lanes that lead you to the other side of the field. The downside to this choice is that your path is somewhat predictable, and it's easy for an enemy waiting on the other side to ambush you when you emerge




If there's any enemy presence in orbit around the planet, you'll have to eliminate it in a space battle before launching your ground assault. The transports carrying your ground forces are present during the space battle, so you'll want to make sure to protect them from enemy attack. When the odds are against them, a savvy enemy will target your transports first to reduce the likelihood of your troops making it to the ground. You can take advantage of the interaction between ground and space to blockade enemy planets, trapping enemy forces on the surface. Since spaceships can't be produced on the ground, the blockaded player will have to move fleets from other systems in to break the blockade.


It's clear that the space battles have received the most attention so far. The developers, all veterans of land-based RTS games, have obviously tried to nail down the space segments before tackling the ground action. While there's still a lot of work to be done in this area, we were very impressed with the results so far. In particular, the damage modeling for the large ships is awesome. Blue and orange explosions erupt from the hull of damaged Star Destroyers. If you damage them enough, you'll even see parts of the geometry fly off. I remember one space battle with a Star Destroyer that looked like someone had taken a bite out of it. That's a great touch.

Though there's no real interaction between the units in space combat and the ground combat units, there are a few specific areas of cooperation. Ion cannons based on the planet can be used a bit like superweapons against your enemies in the space battles. Likewise, during ground battles, some troops can call in air support in the form of Y-Wing strikes on key installations or enemy units.


The rock-paper-scissors mechanic plays out on the ground as well. In this case, the massive AT-ATs are vulnerable to air speeders, which are vulnerable to AT-STs, which are vulnerable to rocket soldiers, who are vulnerable to regular infantry, who are vulnerable to certain types of artillery and gun towers, which are vulnerable to AT-ATs. In terms of ground structures, you'll be able to place the gun towers yourself but you'll find that the overall base layout is determined for you. Shield generators, production facilities and communication arrays all need to be protected or you'll sacrifice the advantages that each one provides.


While previous games have missed the mark with regard to scale, Empire at War seems to have it just right, at least as far as the models are concerned. Like more RTS games, the units tend to seem a lot closer together than they ought to, but at least the AT-ATs really seem to tower over the ground troops this time around. One particular battle sequence sticks out in my mind: A group of speeders had just disabled an AT-AT that was advancing on a Rebel base. The smoking AT-AT slumped a bit and wobbled just before diving chin first into the ground. A cloud of dust spread out from the point of impact, obscuring the soldiers scurrying along below.


Happily, each of the unit types is aware of where it sits on this wheel of superiority and will choose targets accordingly. Unless you order otherwise (or unless circumstances dictate), your X-Wings will tend to focus on taking out enemy TIE Fighters rather than Star Destroyers. There is a bit of a random element thrown in here to prevent exploits but, for the most part, units will try to be as effective as possible if left to their own devices. Formation groupings allow you to put a mix of units together for mutual protection.


As we said earlier, the team hasn't quite figured out how to handle the characters from the films yet. We do know that there will be hero units in the game, but the team wouldn't confirm whether or not you can take Darth Vader or the Millennium Falcon into battle.


Currently the game's interface is very spare. The only thing you can currently see on the screen is a small mini-map. I happen to like things this way because it allows you to focus your full attention on the game itself. Brett mentioned that the team may be adding a small toolbar to the bottom to aid in formation controls, but he also suggested that this might be an optional feature for gamers who prefer the cleaner look of the current interface. We're also going to have to wait to see the game's full camera options. They seem pretty flexible based on the current build. The team hopes to maintain that flexibility while also offering a less confusing mode for novice players.


Though a lot of work has been done already, the game won't reach alpha state until sometime after E3 this year. The developers at Petroglyph haven't used any pre-existing code for any aspect of the game, and that's taking some time. They're currently targeting a Fall release for the game. We'll have more specifics in the coming months.


End Quote

- The Trivium Organization - Community Manager -

- Petroglyph Fan Forums - CoAdmin & Human Resources Manager -

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:arrow: I will double post for the reason that I want the quote abouve to be clean of impressions.


:arrow: Some of you may know the infos abouve ....some not.


:arrow: From what I see it seems that this guys from Petroglyph tried all the SW Strategy games including Rebellion and they decided to base their game on Rebellion priciples. So I can sleep well tonight.




:arrow: The SWR PR man should inform Petroglyph site about this new subforum here. I know they only have news about EaW sites on that page but they also said that if you have a news related to EaW inform them. If we say that we are the Rebellion fan-site ....etc.....and use the power of the force to convince them we may get a mention about us there.


:arrow: This guys seem to be needing some good ideeas about characters ....diplomacy etc. I assume that by now EaW must be already alpha. What I'm sugesting is that Evaders and Jedi Igor and we put up a list of suggestions and foward it to all their departaments. It must be short and extremly well done. I will explain at that time how and were to send it.


:arrow: I want you guys to start makeing this Help & Suggestion list since you know me ...if I makeit I will end up in a parallel universe...loll.



Seeya soon.


Edit. Can I have moderator powers here ? Thanks.

- The Trivium Organization - Community Manager -

- Petroglyph Fan Forums - CoAdmin & Human Resources Manager -

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Edit. Can I have moderator powers here ? Thanks.


What part of your ego is as stake here? You want moderator powers in a forum for a game that hasn't yet been released... interesting...

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I wonder the same Jahled. What makes you think you should have moderator powers for Cain?


Er? Given Cain is up for using stuff you and me have worked damn hard on for Reloaded for one of his new so called projects, I was simply trying to be rude.


:arrow: Check secret area


:arrow:http://img3.imagevenue.com/loc270/481_boredasfuck.gifThey are...

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  • SWR Staff - Executive
I am closing this topic until further notice.


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Fighting is terrible, but not as terrible as losing the will to fight.

- SW:Rebellion Network - Evaders Squadron Coding -

The cake is a lie.

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