milk (milk) vt. 1. to drain off or extract money, ideas, strength, etc. from as if by milking; exploit (see: LucasArts)
Since the theatrical release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace a couple of summers ago, the boys and girls at the LucasArts ranch have been busy churning out almost a half dozen video games based on the over-hyped prequel. Originally developed by Factor 5 for the N64, Battle for Naboo marks the third Phantom Menace-based title to hit PC screens. LucasArts’ track record with Star Wars-based PC titles has been pretty dismal as of late, highlighted by Star Wars: Force Commander’s abysmal showing last year. Is Battle for Naboo able to buck that trend?
Battle for Naboo is a shooter that places you in the role of Lt. Gavyn Sykes, a hotshot pilot with Naboo’s Royal Security Forces. The story unravels essentially the same as the plot in the film, The Phantom Menace. The Trade Federation has invaded the capital city of Theed. Fearing for her planet, Queen Amidala escapes Theed in order to plead Naboo’s case before the Galactic Senate. While the Queen is away, you must protect Theed and its surrounding regions, and form a resistance movement in order to end the oppression of the Trade Federation.
Battle for Naboo unfolds in a series of 15 missions. The opening scenario takes place in the capital of Theed, in which you must escape to the outskirts of the city. Once outside, you’ll learn that the Trade Federation has been attacking farms and other civilian targets while setting up bases and satellites. Your assignments will encompass such objectives as Search & Destroy, Sabotage, Reconnaissance and Convoy, all leading up to the climatic finale as you lead an army of pilots against the massive Trade Federation control ship, as seen in the movie.
The term variety best describes the highpoints in Battle for Naboo. A variety of mission locales will see you travel to the remote reaches of Naboo, discovering stormy swamps, snow-capped mountains and ancient ruins that all lie beyond the initial city walls. A variety of vehicle types will allow you to jump into the cockpit of several land, sea and air vehicles including the Naboo starfighter, heavy STAP, Gian speeder and even a Trade Federation gunboat. Some campaigns allow and even require that you switch vehicles mid-mission in certain designated hangars. Each vehicle is mildly unique in terms of how they handle and as you unlock new, high-powered vehicles, you can return to the earlier missions in order to improve your performance rating, a reward system featuring gold, silver and bronze medals awarded based on your mission efficiency.
There’s a surprising lack of variety in terms of mission objectives. While some campaigns require more than, most of the missions focus on Search & Destroy tactics. Whether the request is to eliminate all destroyer and battle druids in a given area or to knock out a few Trade Federation satellites, many of the scenarios have the same feel to them. Unfortunately, the radar system does little to help with these Seek & Destroyer missions. While the radar helps indicate the way to proceed, it’s limited in terms of the information it provides. A colour code system is implemented to represent the various units in the area but it isn’t sophisticated enough to indicate what kind of enemy unit is around the corner, whether that be an ATT or a harmless structure, for example. Before you know it, you’ll be reloading the level several times over until you memorize the layout. The radar becomes even more frustrating as the missions take to outer space. You might be right on top of an enemy unit, according to the radar, but of course it only reads in 2D so the enemy ship is likely some distance above or below you. Dogfights in outer space can be a bit of a chore because of this.
The visuals are a clear indication that Battle for Naboo is a straight port. While the graphics might be solid for an N64 title, it does little to show off the abilities of a good video card. The drawing distance is considerably better when compared to the N64 version but it’s still quite limited none the less. The level of detail in the game is surprisingly low as well. While the environments are instantly recognizable to fans of the movie, the textures are quite bland and sometimes blurry, and the 2D sprites used for trees, pilots and other related objects are rather prominent. The sound department is also a bit of a mixed bag. The usual phaser and Star Wars related sound effects are all present and accounted for and the soundtrack is pulled straight from the movie. With that said, the audio is quite muddled throughout the game, which can be a little distracting.
Control is another issue that pops up in Battle for Naboo. Making sharp turns, particularly in confined areas such as the city level, can be quite difficult and you’ll undoubtedly find yourself bumping into structures left and right. This problem disappears for a while as you venture into open areas but once you reach outer space, it becomes a dilemma again as you constantly fly into invisible barriers. Another issue lies in the targeting system. While considerably flexible in terms of direct hits, you have to constantly tap up and down to get a decent bead on the enemies. This is especially noticeable in outer space as well.
Being a direct port, Battle for Naboo does not offer any multi-player options. In the same vein, it does offer many of the same surprises found within its N64 counterpart including various codes, secret levels and ships, and special modes of play.
When the Trade Federation has been thwarted and the celebration in Theed begins, Battle for Naboo fails to elude the recent Star Wars curse. While it offers a nice array of vehicles and mission locales, and a handful of intense battle sequences, the bright spots are few and far between. The clunky controls, limited radar system, lacklustre presentation and repetitive gameplay all contribute to a game that would have been better off staying on the N64. The future looks bright for the Star Wars franchise, now that LucasArts has teamed up with the likes of Ensemble Studios, BioWare and Verant Interactive, but the present, at least for PC gamers, remains cloudy.
[ 30/50 ] Gameplay
[ 06/10 ] Graphics
[ 06/10 ] Sound
[ 05/10 ] Storyline
[ 05/10 ] Controls
[ 06/10 ] Fun Factor