The Haus

Review: Force Commander

Real-Time Strategy by LucasArts

April 3, 2000 -- Review by Wraith

Ok. I'm gonna finally admit this in public:

I'm a Star Wars freak.

Yup. I've seen A New Hope over 3,000 times (really). My Star Wars action figure (and miscellaneous toy) collection takes up 10 boxes and an entire closet (don't have a spare room to display them in). My cat is named Het N'Kik, after a Jawa featured in A New Hope, right before the Cantina scene and on the screen for a grand total of something like 0.25 seconds.

My mother calls me "obsessed". My girlfriend says that "I have a problem". Most of my friends find it strange that I will gladly sacrificed food, nicotine, caffeine, my computer and sleep (not necessarily in that order) for a new Star Wars action figure.

I can recite most of the original three films, word-for-word, from memory. When Episode One comes out on video, I'll start working on that, too.

So, needless to say, I was pretty geeked when I saw LucasArts' Force Commander at Best Buy, for $29.99, no less! I decided that I could go without cigarettes and coffee for a few days. My co-workers at my programming job would probably be trying to kill me by Thursday, but I would be one with the Force! Destroying Rebel scum with my almighty AT-AT's! Visions of Stormtroopers, endless Stormtroopes, as far as my TNT2 could render . . .

I got the game home, opened up the box and installed that sucka. Normal installation, just click the button, pick a directory, and sit back. A largish install, but nothing out of the ordinary, and under 600mb for a full installation.

Now, the moment of truth: fire that bad-boy up, and see how she plays.

Before we go too much farther, I'd like to admit that I have a lot of experience with LucasArts games. Not all of them good. Dark Forces rawks. The Dig, in my opinion, is a blight on the face of the planet, when it comes to the most god-awful user interface ever created by human hands. But I digress . . .

The intro CG rawks. I rarely watch the introduction movies when I buy a new game. I have the attention span of a gnat. And I drink lots and lots of coffee and chainsmoke Camel filters. I wanna PLAY, damnit! But this one hooked me in and locked me down. I watched the entire movie, which played smoother than just about any game CG I've ever played on this machine (see my machine specs at the end of the review).

And now . . . the menu system. One word: cheese.

LucasArts have never been known for their interfaces, but the sci-fi, metal menu setup is kinda cheesy. It's not laid out bad, and it works fairly well. It just looks goofy.

The music isn't bad. The menu music is this kinda rock-techno Star Wars takeoff. Not horrid enough to be blasphemous, and tastefully done enough that, I have to admit, I kinda like it. The in-game music isn't bad either.

As for the game itself, it's pretty good. Not spectacular, but good. The camera system, though difficult to use, can be both a powerful tool and a hindrance at the same time. Once you learn how to use it, playing the game is almost like directing your own little Star Wars film. That effect alone is what really does it for me with this game. And since the game takes place during the first three films (the first mission, in fact, has you looking for C3-P0 and R2-D2's escape pod on Tatooine), it really makes you feel like you're part of the action. It was really cool to be able to "jump into" the movie, as it were, and try my hand at defeating the Rebels at the Battle of Hoth, for example.

Other than the complicated camera controls, the rest of the controls are pretty standard-issue RTS controls. Drag to select multiple units, double click to select all of a certain type of unit, that sort of thing. Nothing too revolutionary.

One thing that is immediately noticeable, however, is resource management. No more harvesting Crystals or whatever. You get Command points for capturing bunkers, winning battles, and the like. You use those Command points to purchase units. So . . . instead of a mad rush to capture the resources, the focus is on the gameplay. That was one of the major turn-offs for me with RTS games; I got sick of StarCraft fast, simply because I realized that I was spending most of the time farming, not killing. If I wanted a "farming" game, I'd buy something like "HogCraft: In Search Of Farmer Jones". My only beef with the Force Commander method is that you can only purchase 6 units at a time, be they AT-ATs or Stormtroopers. My visions of endless Stormtroopers quickly faded. And I did seem to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find places for the shuttle (carrying said units) to land.

Graphics-wise, the game is a bit lacking. Nothing too spectacular, but it works well for what the game needs to do. Zoom in too close, and you'll notice that the models are very low-poly. From a distance (where you'll honestly spend most of your time), however, they look good and move smoothly. Overall, this game ran beautifully on my system; fast and very responsive.

The sound effects are fantastic. The AT-ATs sound absolutely evil, giving me the same feeling I had in that movie theater over 15 years ago . . . The boys at LucasArts have spent just as much time on the SFX for the vehicles as most other game houses spend on the weapons. They are simply incredible.

Overall, if you're looking for mind-blowing eye-candy, look elsewhere. If you're looking for nice, fast, smooth graphics, you're gonna love this game. Though the interface could use some work, the camera system is unique and really adds an extra dimension to the game. The sound effects are simply wonderful. Out of a score of 10, I give this game an 8.

Review system:
433mHz Celeron
224mb RAM
eVGA 32mb TNT2 M64
8.4gb Fujitsu UDMA HD