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Lew
01-19-2006, 12:09 AM
Hi all,

Here's my Demo Review after playing through the tutorial and the "mini-campaign" twice (medium, and hard). It will be in a couple parts as I get time to finish it

Necessary background: I've played, and still play (and even played while the demo was downloading ;) ... Warcraft III (WC3) and Rome: Total War (RTW)as my main two RTS titles. So yeah, I'm comparing it to some top RTS games.



INTERFACE: GALACTIC

Pros:
-Tight feel to controls (good response)
-Good use of droid tooltips. They are helpful yet not nagging or an annoyance.
-Good zoom options.
Cons:
-Font choices in pre/post battle screens look a little dated, the post-battle wrapup unit icons look dated as well.
-More clicking than required. You can't "see" what is being produced, what structures are present, or what units are present at a glance without zooming in. The better interface is to provide this information on a simple left-click select of a system.
-No keyboard shortcuts. Wow, this is the one rant I'll do here: Blizzard has been putting a simple highlighted letter to indicate a keyboard shortcut (all in the left hand, since the right is on the mouse) for almost a decade. Why hasn't everyone else figured this out yet? In a game like RTW it doesn't make sense, since you can build a dozen kinds of troops and a dozen more buildings. But in a game like EAW where there are only a few choices, please put some shortcuts in, and tell us what they are in the tooltip.

INTERFACE: TACTICAL
Pros:
-Same tight feel to controls
-Clear look/ graphics
-Good tooltips
Cons:
-Zoom? Anything more than mousewheel? One time I got WAY zoomed out somehow.
-Camera angle cannot be shifted or rotated (at least I'm guessing here, not covered in 5 tutorial missions, and no interface).
-No keyboard shortcuts.

AI: TACTICAL (only, since there is no demo galactic AI)
Pros:
-Very aggressive
-Seems to use abilities well (speeder bombs on inf, etc)
-Limited examples, but pathfinding looks good (units don't seem to get stuck on each other- the fact that everyone is ranged does help here).
Cons:
-Nearby (by nearby, I mean about 1cm out of weapon range) units do not move to aid friendly units that are getting beat on.

SOUND: EFFECTS
Pros:
-Uses sounds we expect, good mixing and balance (award quality)
-Appropriate "bass" sounds near a big cruiser (Acclamator), can't wait to hear a real ISD.
Cons:
-None, the sound effects are really top-shelf.

SOUND: MUSIC
Pros:
-Good choice and use of original John Williams scores, they picked the good parts from the new and old scores.
Cons:
-The new music for EAW. This is on two counts: First and foremost, it's on a MIDI synth, and no matter how good the music is, it sounds like crap when played right after the London Symphony Orchestra (no matter how good the synth sounds are). Second: John Williams created the SW sound by connecting and weaving the themes together- the totally new EAW material doesn't sound like Star Wars because the composer breaks this convention in his/her scoring (not always, but too often). It is pretty good game music, but the talents of an award winning multi-Oscar film composer and a game composer are not equal.


GRAPHICS
Big "Pro" here because of the scalable nature of the design. Every developer should follow this example.
Cons:
-Interface icons and fonts.



GENERAL THOUGHTS: TUTORIAL

This is very well done. Good voiceover and walkthrough of most of the game concepts (except camera functions, if there are any?). The way the sections of the tutorial are linked is superb. There is plenty of content and length to the tutorial.

GENERAL THOUGHTS: MINI-GAME (that which is not the tutorial)

You can only play as one side. Enough said about that :smash:

The ground maps seem to be WAY too small (maybe the demo maps are the smaller maps). There is no room for manuver. Tatooine ground felt a bit "dense", there were Jawas, Rancors, the pit thing, tuskan raiders, three human bases, a mercanary camp, three control points, an imperial base, and a few defensive towers all in a tiny area.

The "Zerg Rush" is possible and a viable way to win. Make a zillion hovertanks. You can't lose.

Air strikes in the tutorial looked overpowered (one run took out an ENTIRE base), but in the mini-game they balanced out.

The planetary bonuses seem to be too over the top- so much so that playing the game will mean certain planets are necessary to hold EVERY time. Example: on mouseover the benefits of the planet pop up. These include: added armor for unit types, added health for unit types, added speed (I think?). Fine, except that the bonus is 25% and greater! 25% Health Bonus to all my Stormtroopers for holding Ryloth? I think the bonus is a great idea, but 25% is so much that it throws the whole strategic concept out of whack. It just doesn't feel right. Ten percent, fine. Twenty-five percent, crazy.


The Bottom Line:
EAW will likely be a good game. Great, no. Game of the Year 2006 contender, no. It is a solid and fun RTS game, but nothing amazing. It does have a high "cool" factor (SPOILER: take Han/Chewie for your land assault, and use their special abilities on you-know-what. Yep, it works, and yep, it's as cool as you think it is :) If this were not a SW game with known subject matter, this would not be a noteworthy game. The gameplay as demonstrated in the demo just isn't that compelling.

Buy/Sell Recommendation:
Wait for reviews of the full version to be released. I smell a stinky fish since there was no Galactic AI included (ie: something's wrong with it). For the uninitiated: AI programming is just code (no big-file graphics), and the size of adding that code to a 750mb download is small (think how well text zips). Advise a Buy for a fun, solid RTS. Advise a Hold for those expecting a WC3 or RTW, which I believe are one notch higher (to greatness) than EAW.

Scores out of 10:
Graphics: 9
Sound: Technical and effects: 10, Music: 8
Gameplay: 8
Value (download vs demo fun): 5 (not much there for nearly 1GB)
Tilt: 8 (saved by good material)

Mezza Mezza

nisomer
01-19-2006, 12:47 AM
good in-depth review. i havent dled it yet cuz i am waiting for the weekend, but after reading your review i already agree with u on certain things! (like hotkeys and sythesized music)

Admiral Sith
01-19-2006, 07:40 AM
That sounds like a decent and fair review, i dont have the demo and wont get it(dail up) so i have to wait a month to see how it will be. But review like this help provide details on how the game will be, thanks

xysvenxy
01-19-2006, 08:05 AM
Did you read the readme file in any way?
You wouldn't complain about missing keyboard shortcuts and not being able to rotate the camera...

Lew
01-19-2006, 10:42 AM
The point on shortcuts: they should be in the tooltips, it's just better design that way. RE camera: why wasn't it covered in an hour of tutorial missions? Or the shortcuts? Why no camera control on the interface then? The good thing is, tooltips are easy to change, they're just strings.

Still a "B"

More:

AI: SPACE COMBAT

Space AI is mixed. It controls capital ships well, keeping them grouped and near the protective fire of the space station. Attempts to lure the capital ships away from the station usually are unsuccessful. Whether this is coincidence or by design remains to be seen. It does not do as well controlling fighters. Even though my entire fleet was pounding on the AI space station (and surrounding fleet), the AI sent off about half of it's fighters on what looked like close recon patrols (fighters and bombers are sent for these scout missions). The fact that the AI scouts is good, but it's not good that it continues to scout when it's base is in mortal danger. Hangars are the most critical part of a ship/station, because while they are active a steady stream of TIEs is going to be coming at you.


GALACTIC: STRATEGIC BUILDs/MOVEMENT

It takes only a few seconds (less than 10) to build almost any ship, troop, or structure. Why have a build timer and the little "clock diagram" when the times are so short?- just make them instantly "pop" into existance since that's basically what they do anyway.

Movement between systems takes just as long as a build. This is probably a good call from a gameplay point, as spending all day having fleets pass each other in transit wouldn't be very fun.

Smugglers and Bounty Hunters, a neat concept. I'm curious if they will be used in actual play, since smugglers are instantly recognized, and bounty hunters instantly neutralize them. The smuggler is lost, the bounty hunter remains. Unless smugglers are really cheap, there really won't be any reason to have them. The defender instantly notices, uses a bounty hunter, and the smuggler is instantly gone. In practice, smugglers will be a drain on the BUILDER's economy- in wasted credits in producing them and watching them instantly die.

Still, a fun, solid game. Not top tier, but a fun way to pass some time. If you're interested in the source material, you'll be statisfied (you won't feel ripped off). If you're looking for the greatest RTS on the market and have no interest in the source material: it's a fun game but there are better examples out there.

xysvenxy
01-19-2006, 11:26 AM
What I'm wondering about is that the controls are off when zoomed out to the max. They still could be visible...