LucasArts' Star Wars franchise has had a rough go of it on the PC.
The original Star Wars films were filled with vision, ambition and
excitement. Those characteristics translated well into LucasArts'
X-Wing and Tie Fighter series in the earlier days, but as of late
there's been very little to be enthusiastic about when it comes to
Star Wars titles on the PC. Rebellion was a title that was simply
uninspiring. The two Episode I based titles were as laughable as
the movie was and unfortunately, Star Wars: Force Commander
continues the trend of lacklustre products. The attempt to re-create
such strategic, epic battles as those found at the beginning of The
Empire Strikes Back, fails miserably. The end result is a real-time
strategy game gone horribly wrong.
Where does one begin? In a galaxy far, far away? let's not and
say we did. Force Commander opens with an introductory video
worthy of the Star Wars name. I should have quit the game right
then and there because it all went downhill after that. Opening
sequence aside, there are only really two other aspects that I
enjoyed about Force Commander. First, the sound effects were
excellent. They are taken straight from the film so you'll certainly
recognize any of the sounds instantly such as blaster fire, AT-AT
Walker effects, Jawa and Ewok murmurs, and all the other vehicle
effects as well. Even the voice acting is relatively well done,
although the real voices were not used in Force Commander. The
only other highlight in Force Commander is the units themselves.
Thumping around in an AT-AT Walker or speeding along in a
snowspeeder is a dream come true. The game is chalk full of
recognizable vehicles including both light and heavy armoured
Force Commander has been four years in the making. At one
point, LucasArts decided to lose the original game engine and
switch to a full 3D engine, a decision that I'm sure they'd rather
have over again. 3D engine aside, this game looks and feels four
years old. The camera interface is simply horrendous. The default
view is what you might call a ground view. You see your units at
eye level, which would be perfect if it wasn't for the fact this is a
strategy game. The whole battlefield needs to be viewed, so why
this is the default view is beyond me. The good news, you can
view one-on-one confrontations up close and personal. The bad
news, you'll lose the game if you do so. You can't watch a battle
and partake in a war at the same time, and moving the camera in
and out is a tedious task. What you'll probably end up doing is
pulling the camera as far back as you possible can in order to view
the entire battlefield, at which point you lose all detail whatsoever
in the units themselves. There's no in-between in Force
Commander and this is arguably the game's downfall.
Graphically, Force Commander is well behind the times.
Environments are somewhat interesting and unique but that's
about as good as it gets. Explosions and other effects are decent at
best and the animations are extremely stiff. Ugly doesn't describe
the game's HUD which begins by taking up a third of the screen.
One of the worst in-game interfaces I've ever seen can luckily be
minimized and no doubt will be to any unfortunate gamer who
falls prey to Force Commander. I saw a bunch of screenshots
about six months before Force Commander was going to be
released and my first response was, "Is it just me, or do the
graphics look like crap?" My first inclination was the correct one
because the bottom line is this, Force Commander looks old.
Force Commander is an action-based real-time strategy game.
That's to say that development and resource management is kept to a minimum.
Commander points are used in order to recruit more troops.
Commander points can be lost or gained by killing enemy units
and completing certain tasks. If you don't complete objectives, or
you do so in a poor manner, Commander points can be taken
away from you. If you're stuck though, Commander points can be
obtained simply due to the passage of time if you haven't
overspent to begin with. Individual units themselves also gain
experience, becoming more and more powerful as they progress
through each mission. That's right, you can carry units from
previous missions into future ventures.
Another issue with Force Commander is the terrain. You'll find that
many units don't know how to react to certain terrain, resulting in
horrible pathfinding issues that could put an end to your battles
Force Commander does offer multiplayer over LAN, TCP/IP and
now over Microsoft's Gaming Zone. There are a few multiplayer
problems or issues that you'll find out of the box, but luckily there's
already a patch for these problems. Up to six players can play on
one of many multiplayer maps provided in Force Commander but
the same problems rear their ugly head in multiplayer games as
well. Camera, interface, graphics, it's all just as clumsy as in single
Unless you're a diehard Star Wars fan, I wouldn't go near Force
Commander with a ten-foot pole. LucasArts announced several
months ago that they've teamed up with Verant Interactive to
produce a massive online Star Wars title. I can't say I blame them
for going with Verant Interactive as the developer, I wouldn't trust
the LucasArts developers with any more Star Wars titles either, not
after this hunk of junk.