Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds
Volume Number: 18 (2002)
Issue Number: 10
Column Tag: Reviews
Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds
by Michael R. Harvey
Ed. Note - This is only going to hurt for a second, then a little pressure, then it's going to hurt really bad, so just try to breathe. You might smell a burning smell, just ignore that.
What's this? A game review in MacTech? Isn't that one of the signs of the Apocalypse? Actually, no. Doing an entire games issue would be, and we aren't there, at least not yet.
No, this is more of an intervention than the end of the world (although it might feel like it at first). Have you looked in a mirror lately? You're pale, your posture has gone to hell, and the IV of Dr. Pepper isn't helping your complexion out. It's high time you stopped coding for a bit, and do something else with all the processing power at your fingers. Something frivolous. Notice we aren't recommending you actually turn the computer off, and go outside for some sun and fresh air. We can't expect miracles right out of the gate. We'll start with baby steps. You can still have the bad posture, and the Mountain Dew injections, but let's try some completely wasted fun time. Let's play a game. And why not play one ported by those geniuses at Westlake Interactive and published by the folks at Aspyr, the company that has published some of the best titles the Mac platform has seen the past several years.
Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds is a recent release from Aspyr. As you might have guessed by now, it is a game from the LucasArts guys centering around everyone's favorite space opera, Star Wars. This game is from the real time strategy category, similar to Command and Conquer or StarCraft. Built on the Age of Empires 2 engine, you are able to take command of one of six different factions, from the evil Galactic Empire, to the Naboo, to Wookiees. You are then tasked with missions, and complete them through managing your resources, trading with your allies, building your forces and defeating the enemy. Good times!
The system requirements for the game are actually quite tame. A G3 processor, 64 MB RAM, a video card capable of displaying 256 colors. Not too taxing for almost anyone, is it? Network play can be done over a LAN, or even with a 28.8 modem (although more is always better when it comes to gaming, as it is with most things). The graphics look great. Units, and structures are rendered with good detail. It is easy to discern who is who. The sound is quite nice, as well. You can see, and hear, the effort that went into the details to make the Star Wars universe come alive on your screen.
If you are already familiar with Age of Empires 2, this article is not for you, go outside already. If you're still with me, and have played Age of Empires 2, you are pretty much ready to go. Galactic Battlegrounds uses many of the same interface controls and command keys. As with Age, having a multi-button mouse really helps out. That right button gets a work out in this game. Control clicking so often gets to be a drag, and we just can't have that.
If you are unfamiliar with this type of gaming, you might want to start out with the Basic Training missions. In these, you will be led by Qui-Gon Jinn in how to establish your base, gather resources, build units and structures, and conduct battle. It's not absolutely necessary, though. The controls really are quite simple, so you can jump right into the game if you wish.
Game play revolves around either single player or multi-player use.
In single player mode, there are a few options for game play. You can choose to play the Campaigns. These are a series of missions you are tasked to complete. You become one of several characters from the Star Wars universe. The campaigns take you through much of the mythos of Star Wars, not only the movies but the novels, as well.
You also have the option of playing stand alone missions. In these games, you set the parameters, such as number of opponents, type of map, and starting resources. The game then puts you on a map, and you fight it out based on the rules you established. Included as part of the game is a scenario editor in which you can create your own maps, and play conditions. These can be shared with other gamers, as well as you being able to play scenarios created by other users.
There are two ways to engage multiplayer action. One is where the host sets up the games rules, and other gamers join in. The others access the hosts game either over a LAN, or over the internet. All connections are via TCP/IP. If the gamers are on the hosts LAN, they will see the game automatically. Users coming in over the Internet will need to know the IP address of the host to join the game.
The other method of play in Galactic Battlegrounds is via Game Ranger. Game Ranger is a freeware application that helps you link up with other Mac players, and set up online games. Recently, Scott Kevil, Game Ranger's author, released a public beta of version 3.0 which adds support for OS X. If you do not want to load up beta software, you will need to boot into OS 9 to play online via the current version of Game Ranger. However you access it, Game Ranger is a very worthwhile tool to have for gaming. It currently supports over 50 game titles, and is Mac only.
This game is a great ride, and wretchedly addictive. The many detailed options you can change and tweak will allow you a vast array of game possibilities. You will definitely waste a goodly amount of time on this title. Plan accordingly. The only drawback you may run into is with the difficulty settings. Easy is too easy. There isn't much challenge. The enemy just waits for you to come mop the floor with them. Jumping from there to normal could be a shock, as the normal setting will smack you around handily if you're not ready for it. Hard is, of course, hard, but it keeps your pulse rate up.
It is unfortunate that so many of the games created around the Star Wars universe don't make it to the Macintosh platform. It is always a treat when companies like Westlake and Aspyr secure the rights to one of the many great titles LucasArts produces. Galactic Battlegrounds is no exception. Hopefully we will get to see more of these games in the near future. And in fact, we will very soon. Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is currently in development for release later this year. Galactic Battlegrounds has an MSRP of $50, and is available from almost anywhere Mac software is sold.
One last note. Kudos to Aspyr for their packaging of Galactic Battlegrounds. The box is small, and compact; just big enough to hold the CD, manual, and technology chart. Not one of these 47 pound monstrosities that hold one CD. They saved a tree or two. Good for them.
Michael R. Harvey