Star Wars, the well-known science fiction series of movies makes its way to the popular real time strategy format with Star Wars: Force Commander. The game plays much differently than most RTS games and the interface is new. Still, with the game's new features and objectives, it has trouble realizing its potential as a great video game.
When looked at in the light of the overused format of the huge raft of games exploiting the popularity of Star Wars, this RTS doesn't offer significantly more than its competition. It is unique and has some good properties but Lucas Arts could have ironed out major weak points to make it a better experience.
The interface is especially difficult to get used to. With so many different zoom and rotation capabilities, you need to listen to the tutorial before really getting involved with the game. It's difficult to maneuver your troops at first because you can lose them very quickly by accidentally moving them at the wrong angle.
The only way to possibly take control and view all the action is to press the "V" key to lock onto your troops' movement and have the screen follow them automatically. Under this setup, it's also easier to tilt the screen up and down and rotate the cameras around them. After you've played a few missions, though, chances are you'll get the feel of maneuvering your troops despite the learning curve.
Some gamers might find the new interface more complicated than it's worth and the toolbar at the bottom of the screen takes up quite a bit of unnecessary space. All you really need to see in the game is the map of the entire area (unless you're ordering new troops). Another portion of the toolbar is reserved for viewing all the members of your platoon or group of units. This is poorly designed and a much more viewable screen area could have been offered by simply attaching the map to the top right or left corner of the screen.
With the 3D graphics interface, one would expect the game to have superior graphics. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as even in the highest resolution, graphics have rough edges and the characters are not very detailed. During the game, you can see the obvious edges of the sand and high cliffs. The pixels are noticeable in these edges and they detract from the overall game graphics.
You have the ability to zoom in on your units so they take up the entire screen but, when you do, they show little detail. The storm troopers have the same rough edges as the terrain and appear very blocky. Each level does look different than the previous one (some have cliffs while others have buildings ranging from the deserts of Tatooine to the industrialized Coruscant) so the game offers good variety in this respect.
Star Wars: Force Commander does have a few other highlights worthy of note. Ever wonder what was going on elsewhere with the Imperial fleets during the original movies? The game puts you in the shoes of two brothers who are Imperial officers during the famous Star Wars trilogy. For the first half of the game, you're a member of the Imperials and the next half puts you on the Rebels side. Being a part of the Imperial army is a terrific perspective since you're looking for R2D2 and C3PO. Since the game takes place during the timeframe of the original Star Wars trilogy, it offers a superb nostalgic feeling for fans of the movies.
Many RTS games require you to construct a refinery (or some similar structure) to collect minerals. Star Wars: Force Commander uses Command Points that are gained by killing enemies (set number of points) and taking command of enemy structures in each level (steady flow of points). Once you have them, you get extra units by ordering from the main ship.
It's easy to get a ton of these points when you gain control of enemy structures, thus giving you instant access to any troops you're allowed to have. You won't have to research new troops but, on the other hand, the game doesn't have many options from which to choose. For example, when playing on the Imperial side, you only have access to three or four different unit types (two types of walkers, normal storm troopers and a storm trooper on a speeder).
The game doesn't have as many facets as RTS games like 1602 A. D. or Submarine Titans, so advanced RTS users may not like it. The storyline is well done in its depiction of an Imperial officer's defection to the Rebel side but the graphics and interface could've benefited from additional tweaking to create a more fun game.
If you can manage to get past the annoying camera angles and non-detailed, often ugly, graphics, you are presented with a solid story accompanied by some great music. But, unless you're a die-hard Star Wars fan, there are many other RTS games on the market better than this one.
Graphics: The game has good colors but the graphics suffer from obvious pixelation around the edges that need polishing. The range of view (very near to very far away) is impressive but the graphics are blocky and not detailed. All of that aside, the weather conditions are nice and each level has a different look than the previous one.
Sound: During the full motion video sequences, the music is unchanged from the original trilogy and much of the dynamics of sound are the same. During the game, however, a "spiced up" heavy guitar based version of some of the songs is firmly in place along with a more techno-based style to fit the futuristic RTS format.
Enjoyment: The game is not particularly fun at the beginning due to the learning curve needed to master the interface and get accustomed to the look of the graphics. It does, however, become more enjoyable once you get used to it. Once you figure out how to tilt and move the screen efficiently, you won't have many control issues. Also, it's fun to watch the story unfold.
Replay Value: Skirmish and multiplayer battles offer fresh challenges after defeating the game in solo mode, assuming gameplay is solid enough to keep your interest.
People who downloaded Star Wars: Force Commander have also downloaded:
Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, Star Wars: Rebellion, Star Wars: Empire at War, Star Wars: Dark Forces, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D, Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance, Star Wars: Battlefront, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces 2
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