Game Over Online ~ Star Wars: Force Commander

GameOver Game Reviews - Star Wars: Force Commander (c) LucasArts, Reviewed by - Lee Donowitz

Game & Publisher Star Wars: Force Commander (c) LucasArts
System Requirements Pentium II 266, 64MB Ram, 3D Accelerator
Overall Rating 36%
Date Published Tuesday, April 18th, 2000 at 03:19 PM

Divider Left By: Lee Donowitz Divider Right

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 units.

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 quickly.

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 player.

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.

[ 09/20 ] Graphics
[ 10/15 ] Sound
[ 10/30 ] Gameplay
[ 03/20 ] Fun Factor
[ 01/05 ] Multiplayer
[ 03/10 ] Overall Impression


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