Star Wars: Supremacy
|a game by||Coolhand Interactive|
|Editor Rating:||6.5/10, based on 1 review|
|User Rating:||6.0/10 - 1 vote|
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You've Seen The Films, Read The Books, played the games and surrendered meekly to the ruthless marketing. You've probably even pulled yourself around the room to a freeze frame of Princess Leia. So what else remains to be milked from the flaccid breast of the Star Wars beast? Another game, evidently. But woah - easy tiger, steady as she goes - not just any old game, a real-time strategy game, with strategy, in real-time, and everything.
Yes, Star Wars Supremacy is indeed a bold journey into the hitherto uncharted territory of deep strategy in the Star Wars universe. The game is set in the time immediately after the conclusion of A New Hope, which, as you'll no doubt be aware, is the proper name of the first Star Wars film (or fourth if you want to be arsey about it). While Supremacy isn't really story driven, it's always nice to establish some kind of context, so feel free to adopt a deep, ridiculously melodramatic voice as you read the following precis: "The Rebel Alliance has dealt a decisive blow to the Galactic Empire by destroying the first Death Star. Only temporarily thwarted, the Empire regroups to continue its relentless pursuit to crush the Rebellion, while the Alliance has rallied galaxy-wide support for its noble cause. You hold the future in your hands. Subvert the Empire or crush the Alliance. Your choice. Your destiny."
Strength through joy
Assuming command of either the goodies (alas, without Bill Oddie) or the baddies, you are charged with the fairly hefty responsibility of taking over the galaxy. Depending on the length of game required, said galaxy can be limited to 100, 150 or 200 planets, which the player must then go about gaining control of through strategic deftness and tactical savvy. Failing that, you can simply go in there tooled up and start shouting. The key to the entire game is planetary loyalty. This can be swayed through many different methods, and often planets will remain neutral until some factors influence them. In an effort to solicit support for your side, a show of military force is often required. This may be very effective in the short term, but a resentful planet is more likely to shift loyalties. Espionage or diplomacy is therefore called for, which may take longer to establish loyalty, but will provide a more solid commitment.
Star Wars Supremacy takes the macro approach to strategy gaming. All the action takes place in space over planets, rather than on them. There are two major components of the game, strategic and tactical. The strategic side includes manufacturing, resource management, fleet deployment, mission assignments and exploration. Major decisions are made in the Command Centre, and players are updated on events by their agents - the perennially irritating C-3PO for the Rebel Alliance, and the clearly made-up IMP-22 for the Galactic Empire. Clicking on various star systems reveals a plethora of facts and opens up an array of options.
At first, the game appears extremely daunting, prompting constant groping for the manual. Do not be mistaken, do not be misled, Star Wars Supremacy is no fly-by-night pick-up-and-play affair. A good deal of commitment is required before any kind of reward is to be had, but with patience and concentration it gradually starts to come together. While the game does run in real-time, it is essential to dispel any similarity to the likes of WarCraft 2 or Command Et Conquer. The gameplay is far more like a Masters Of Orion in real-time.
Shut winders, get weshing in
The interface is largely a massive set of windows which pop out of other windows. The most basic window is that of the star map, which denotes the layout of the Star Wars galaxy. Space is divided into sectors of ten planets apiece. The larger the game the player decides to start with, the more rim planets there are (hurgh hurgh hurgh - he said 'rim'). The ten core sectors are always the same, and hence the resources are always known for those planets. By double-clicking on any sector, a window will open up and show the layout of each planet. Each planet will have two meters, and various icons surrounding it denoting fleets, facilities, characters and more. By double-clicking on any of the icons around a planet it is possible to organize and deploy fleets, manufacture new units, set up new facilities, and other actions. Cappiche?
Scrap, scrap, scrap
When two opposing fleets meet over the same planet, the tactical component automatically kicks in. This is a separate game element where players can join ships that have been deployed into taskforces or fighter squadrons, and assign orders or targets. All of this takes place in a real-time 3D space-combat engine that's moving as soon as the conflict is joined. The player can arrange fleets in certain formations, give orders and watch the ensuing skirmish from a choice of camera angles. If it becomes evident that you're taking an absolute hiding, there is always the chance to run away. Depending on players' skill, tactical sessions can last up to 20 minutes each, but if you don't fancy your chances, it can be placed on auto-run, enabling you to concentrate on the strategic side of things.
Who you're fighting for - Alliance or Empire - has a great bearing on the outcome of a battle. There's a big difference between a Star Destroyer and a Mon Calimari Cruiser. For the game to work, LucasArts will have to ensure that the two sides are fairly evenly matched. In the films, Star Destroyers are big, heavy, armed to the teeth and very dangerous. The Rebels should therefore have speed, agility and guile on their side, if there's any justice in the cosmos.
Characters are also very important. A significant part of gameplay consists of missions that must be assigned to achieve specific goals. You might have to send characters on diplomatic trips to sway a system's loyalty, get them to sabotage planetary defences, or rescue another character who has been captured. By assigning a character with suitable attributes, the chances of that mission succeeding are greatly enhanced. For example, if a player seeks to convince a planet to be loyal to the Rebellion, and wishes to take a more diplomatic tack to achieve that loyalty, the player might assign Mon Mothma, card-carrying politico and leader of the Alliance. At the same time, precisely because she is a diplomat and thus not militarily powerful, she's vulnerable to capture, which would then necessitate a rescue mission.
LucasArts have pretty much taken carte blanche with the characters, which could upset rabid purists. For instance, Lando may not begin the game on Bespin, which could cause some fretfulness. Certain characters, such as Luke and Darth Vader, have the use of the Force, which they can use to increase their other abilities such as combat, sabotage and diplomacy. When the game begins, Luke is not yet a Jedi and at some point he leaves the game to go log balancing in a swamp with that ridiculous puppet. While he's gone, the player doesn't have the use of him.
Furthermore, there are relationships between characters. When Vader and Luke occupy the same sector, they will be able to sense one another. Often the two will be drawn towards one another, leading to a conflict that can result in one or the other being captured, depending upon their abilities at that point in the game. Should Luke get captured, Han Solo and Lando may want to make a rescue attempt, even if the player doesn't. Such a scenario can end with the other characters getting captured, and so on it goes.
Victory conditions are clearly specified. For an Alliance win, the player must capture Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine and seize the Imperial Seat on Coruscant. To win for the Empire, the player must capture Luke Skywalker, Mon Mothma and destroy the Rebel headquarters, which is randomly placed at the beginning of each game and has the advantage of being mobile. Neither of these are easy tasks, and hours of play are I required before you even get a sniff. There are varying difficulty levels for novice and veteran players, and it's possible to go head-to-head across a LAN or a pair of modems, providing some hot two-player action.Internet possibilities are also being investigated.
So it looks like LucasArts have got all to play for. Hopefully they'll get it right with Star Wars Supremacy and not have to depend solely on the kind of people who'd gladly buy everything with Star Wars written on it.