With my personal gaming, I’ve been on a pretty serious 4X kick lately. Started with Civ IV, then I rediscovered Master of Orion II. Yesterday, however, I hooked up a really old favourite, that I played the shit out of with my friends in high school- Star Wars: Rebellion.
Its such a simple premise- run the Rebel Alliance or the Empire and do battle in the Star Wars universe, vying for supremacy over the Galactic Empire. It’s a little shocking that more SW games didn’t do that- except for the one RTS and I guess you can count the Battlefront series?
The game is immense in scope to match that premise, though. Both the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance have over 30 recruitable characters and about 20 different starships each, drawing from both the orig trig and the expanded universe (and even adding a few new ships to the EU). There are potentially over 200 different star systems to colonize, woo with diplomacy or conquer with force (depending on the size of the game).
Events can play out in a rough outline similar to the trilogy (there are special events for Luke going to Dagobah to train, learning of his heritage and telling Leia she’s his sister, and having a final showdown with Vader and the Emperor. Similarly, if Han is captured he’s sent to Jabba Palace and Luke drops everything to go rescue him- including abandoning his Dagobah training!) but they all have different triggers and you can encounter these events in any order. More importantly is what happens when you off the rails- it’s entirely possible to win the galaxy through diplomacy, or blow up the Death Star with infiltrators, or start a new Jedi Order(!) by searching for force sensitives among your allies.
The game is not without it’s flaws, however. The resource system is shockingly complex for having to manage a single resource- you have to mine, then refine “resource points”, but every planet has only a limited number of buildings they can have, so you have to decide early if you’re going to have a mining planet or a productive one, and that is a harder choice than it sounds when there are three different kinds of production to choose from. The game is also pretty heavily unbalanced in favor of the Rebels, since they have a mobile headquarters, better starfighters, troop types that are more specialized to different roles, and quickly catch up in terms capital ships. About the only thing the Empire has in it’s favour is having to jump through far fewer hoops in order to start training new Sith warriors and having to build fewer kinds of mission specialists.
Speaking of which, the “Empire” starts out as anything but- only a handful of systems are under Imperial control at the beginning of the game, and the Imperial fleet is less than impressive. It would have been nice if they made the different sides more extreme in their differences, highlighting the Rebels’ reliance on guerrilla warfare and the Empire’s military and control dominance.
Still, if you like Star Wars, especially as it was before the prequels fucked everything up, Rebellion is pretty good. It’s not quite there in terms of the mechanics and GUI, there is not much animation, and the non-union Spanish equivalent of Anthony Daniels somehow makes C3PO even more annoying. But pretty good nonetheless.