Empire at War: Forces of Corruption Review

In the original Star Wars trilogy, many of us were introduced to the primary characters and major themes of the Star Wars universe. The good guys were members of the Rebel Alliance, fighting for freedom in the galaxy and seeking to sever the tyranny of the bad guys: the Empire. As the films unfolded each progressive storyline, there was just a hint of a subplot going on in each of the films-that subplot being the criminal element. Han Solo, captain of the Millennium Falcon, was characterized as a rogue smuggler with heavy debt problems. Jabba the Hutt, a huge slug-like creature, wielded power and influence over shady characters and underworld figures. He was such a powerful figure that he was able to put out a hit contract on Solo,s life. As tantalizing as these little nuances were, we never really found out what motivated these individuals and just how much crime was actually occurring in the galaxy.

Now, fans of the RTS (real time strategy) game Star Wars: Empire at War can finally get a better glimpse into the other "Dark Side" with the release of the next chapter of Lucas Arts, successful RTS title. The new expansion pack, named Forces of Corruption, reveals the seamier underbelly of the Star Wars universe where power and control aren,t necessarily accomplished with weapons and battles, but with criminal tools and gangland methods. Think of the game as something like The Mob meets Star Wars. The big question is whether the melding of these two ideas work. Will Forces of Corruption prove to be an entertaining expansion to Empire at War, or will it blow itself up like a core chain reaction in the Death Star? There,s only one way to find out, so fasten your safety harnesses as we make the jump to light speed.

The core game, Star Wars: Empire at War, gave RTS gamers the chance to immerse themselves with all the familiar elements of the Star Wars universe, as players could choose to be on the side of the Alliance or the Empire. There was a plethora of weapons, vehicles, and space craft to choose from, in addition to several gameplay modes: Campaign, Galactic Conquest, Skirmish and multiplayer.

In EaW: FoC, the interface remains basically the same, but with the included addition of some new elements to the series, as well as a new character: Tyber Zann-leader of the infamous underground crime group, The Zann Consortium. Zann, who once was a cadet of the Empire,s Imperial Academy, was unceremoniously kicked out of the organization because of his "unconventional" ways of doing things. As a result, his life of crime is focused on getting back at the Empire for rejecting him. However, when it comes to gaining wealth, power or influence, Zann has no qualms about robbing or stealing from the Alliance, either. He truly is an EOC-equal opportunity criminal. Zann was once linked with Jabba the Hutt, but decided that having all the wealth associated with a rare icon piece was better than sharing with the greedy Hutt. Along with Zann is his right hand man, or should I say alien, Urai Fenn. Fenn is Tyber,s closest and most trusted confidant, and resembles a creature with the hybrid head of a shark and an eagle. Fenn is gravelly voiced; he’s efficient, and extremely deadly, but would unhesitatingly give his life for his leader and friend Tyber Zann.

The introduction of the Zann Consortium is novel in that you are no longer faced with just two factions to choose from-one that is "good" and one that is "evil"-but now have a third choice: an organization that is opportunistic and bent on taking control of the galaxy for the sole purpose of corrupting the economic, military and political centers of planets. In short, they are against anyone, whether they be from the Alliance or Empire, that stands in the way of their goal of owning the entire galaxy,s riches. (Hey, to be big, you,ve got to think big.)

This scenario adds more depth and complexity to the game, because you are against everyone except your own Consortium. The gameplay of FoC grounds itself to many aspects of the first Empire at War game. You still control space craft and land-units to take over planets, and there are still technologies that you can buy. Of course, there is also still a lot of heavy-duty RTS battle action. However, the main aspect where this expansion differs from the original is in the use of criminal tactics. During a land skirmish, I was not only able to fight and destroy the enemy, but I could also turn them to my side with the use of bribery. So instead of facing a horde of maniacal Storm Troopers, I converted them to the Zann Consortium. You cannot use the bribe function in all circumstances, but when you are able to it will give you some extreme delight as the Empire,s best join your organization for a mere payoff of cash. As Tyber Zann put it, "Everyone has a price."

On a larger scale, whole planets can be corrupted by means of kidnapping, black market activity, slavery, bribes, intimidation, extortion, sabotage, racketeering and piracy. Each of these tactics is carried out by "defilers." The purpose of these characters is to infiltrate a planet and carry out the desired criminal effects. This can be done through peaceful means, or through direct battle with the forces of the planet in question. Win over a planet and you receive a congratulatory message that tells you that the planet has been successfully corrupted. (Not a bad accomplishment for a hard day,s pillaging and plundering.) The task of corrupting a planet and keeping it in this state, especially in the Galactic Campaign mode, is not an easy task by any means. Often, you are faced with battles to fight in order to keep the planets you have corrupted in line. And planets that you have conquered are constantly challenging your rule by trying to rebel.

This aspect of the game raises the level of the original EaW game by keeping you on your toes in not only maintaining the corruption status of planets (which, by the way, sends you additional revenue), but it is essential in the building of your forces in order to take open other missions. Corrupting a planet essentially leaves that planet under the control of enemy forces, but allows certain benefits that help both the enemy and the Zann Consortium. Missions give you the option of an outright takeover of the planet or just corrupting it.

The various means of corruption are dependant on what you have achieved previously on other levels. In order to use the black market feature, which enables you to steal technology, you must commit the act of piracy. Each criminal act for use in the game is unlocked in a similar manner, and each feature presents benefits to the Consortium. If slavery is utilized on a planet, the inhabitants are forced to fight for your side. In the case of racketeering, a corrupted planet generates more money for your organization, and so on. However, if you are on the side of the Rebels or the Empire, you,ll have your hands full in trying to remove the corruption from your planetary systems.

In addition to the different means available to you in order to spread your criminal element throughout the galaxy, there are new attack features that you can access. If you find yourself in a tight land skirmish battle and are outnumbered by the local planetary forces, all that needs to be done is to call up your local neighborhood space fleet and order one hot orbital bombardment. This nifty upgrade can be purchased at your land base, and can totally ruin your opponent’s day, to say the least. The feature is time dependent, so having visions of using this attack with abandon is out of the question. The inclusion of this attack, however, is certainly entertaining. In addition, previous criticisms of the land battle sequences being too pedestrian in EaW have been hammered out, to a certain extent, with the inclusion of new land units, vehicles and devices to make surface melees more interesting and fun. If the battles become too easy, the difficulty option can be switched to accommodate the player,s skill level.

Other features in FoC are new spaceships, land units and the debut of a new destroyer class. The Eclipse super star destroyer sports the fire power of an entire Death Star, and is the Empire,s new flagship of destruction. New hero figures also appear for the first time with Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Bossk, IG-88, Grand Admiral Thrawn and others; each hero has their own special ability. In the case of Bossk, he is able to use a devastating flame thrower against enemy troops and structures. The effect is quite satisfying, especially if your attack forces are small.

The campaign mode is where the meat of the story occurs, and is not only effective in setting up the missions, but also explains some of the connections between the various characters that have not been discussed before. Tyber Zann actually hires Han Solo to bring stolen goods to him, while Jabba the Hutt and Zann are sworn enemies because of a double cross. The storyline is good and fills in some of the holes in the original Star Wars plot. The Galactic Conquest mode is very challenging as you must multi-task quickly in order to accomplish goals.

Skirmish Battle mode gives you a selection of pre-determined scenarios and lets you choose the battle of your choice; land, space or land control. There are variables that you can change before the game starts, such as how many credits you start out with, which land units are available, whether heroes are allowed at startup and the allowing of super weapons.

The learning curve is a little steep because of the new elements incorporated into the game, and may be a bit confusing until you get accustomed to the features. While using the in-game tutorial is definitely a way to understand how this expansion pack works, having the game manual by your side is essential — although it could use a lot more work in explaining the mechanics of the game. Sometimes, you,ll be going through repetitive game moves because of your lack of understanding how the mechanics of the game operate. Not everything is made entirely clear, and a certain amount of experimentation is needed to figure out things. Some planets (which appear open for corruption or conquering) cannot be accessed, but the game doesn,t tell you why.

Graphics for FoC are comparable to EaW and still give that great visual Star Wars: Empire at War experience fans are accustomed to. Sound is well-done with the ever present musical score, along with very good voice acting. The character voice for Tyber Zann seems to be in a rush to get his lines read, but out of all the voices, this was the only one that seemed to be a little on the weak side. Signature sound effects related to the Star Wars weapons and a generous helping of screaming troops as they are annihilated by your plasma grenades round out the sound effects palette of the game, making a very tasty experience.

Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption brings a new dimension to the EaW series, and provides a novel perspective of playing as the underground criminal element in the game. There are a great number of Galactic Conquest and Skirmish missions and the campaign mode — while relatively short — is still a very solid game. The game,s complexity may ward off some casual gamers, and the instances where the game doesn,t explain or clarify why certain actions on your part work or not is a bit annoying. However, the overall experience of entering the Star Wars universe via an RTS game certainly qualifies Forces of Corruption for serious consideration for purchase by any strategy game lover.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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