Anthony "Tony" Magestro--or known on the field of battle as Metzge--is an avid writer, gamer, and entrepreneur. When he's not writing, gaming, or entrepreneuring, he enjoys cooking, trippy movies, and trying to be awesome to varying degrees of success. Feel free to check out his LinkedIn page, especially if you need freelance help with content writing or digital marketing. Or just like to network, that's fine too.
May the Fourth be with you, friends. I know this is a little late in the day, but–and in fairness–I’m not gonna be writing about anything new. In fact, this classic game from LucasArts might prompt some of you to dust off some old CDs (or find a digital copy on GOG or something like I did) at the mere mention of it. Indeed, I’m talking about none other than Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds.
Well, to be more precise, I’m talking about Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds Saga which is simply a bundling of the original game plus its Clone Wars expansion. Fans of Age of Empire II who’ve never heard of this game might scratch their heads in confusion as something seems awfully familiar. That’d chiefly be the game’s use of the Genie engine that powered Galactic Battlegrounds’ medieval cousins. Though I’ll be forthright in saying I’m very much a fan of both franchises, this review might be a little biased. That being said, I think Galactic Battlegrounds is easily one of my favorite strategy games–even eclipsing Age of Empires. Again, that’s just my humble opinion.
To start off, the game has aged well as far as gameplay is concerned. Granted, I was just barely 10 years old between the releases of Galactic Battlegrounds and its Clone Wars expansion, but I played them so often that the dialogue from all the mission briefings came flooding back to me like suppressed memories from back in ‘Nam. Normally I don’t remember a game for its voice-acting but LucasArts outdid itself with its impressive roster, including a lot of actors from the movies themselves. Honestly, between Qui-Gon Jinn walking me through the tutorial and the epic cinematic score, even now I find it easy to get lost in a galaxy far, far away.
What I (personally) believe makes GB superior to AoE II is that the missions were more exciting. Where AoE II has some variance in objectives and starting positions, GB offers some maps where the player doesn’t build a base at all. Instead, they must capture certain points and are rewarded with reinforcements or a support building to act as a forward base. AoE II had some of those kinds of missions too (like the first in the Mongol campaign where the player tries to unite or subjugate a few of the nomadic tribes), but for some reason, they did not have the same replayability.
Being a pretty big nerd in both the sci-fi and historical realms, I guess GB speaks more to me as it had a chance to finetune what AoE II might have overlooked. Overall, the combat feels a little more balanced and units are varied enough to not require your basic rock-paper-scissors countering logic. Even now, there’s still a bit of satisfaction watching the blaster shots from Heavy Attack Droids tearing through lines of Naboo infantry. Perhaps there’s some truth to everything being better with lasers.
On the topic of Naboo, I will say that my biggest disappointment with this title is that there was no campaign dedicated to that faction. I’m not gonna complain too much; you have a bunch of major factions across all the major episodes of the series. Most are content with the Trade Federation, Wookiees, Rebel Alliance, Empire, Gungans, as well as the Galactic Republic and the Confederacy in the expansion, but I just really, really want to play as the Naboo (if someone knows of a mod or how to mod, hook a brother up, eh?).
It really doesn’t matter though what faction you play. Much like its medieval kin, GB’s factions are different in appearance, but play virtually the same way. This might rub some people nowadays the wrong way, but back in 2001/2002 when these games came out, not every faction had to be a completely different experience in order to be considered fun. Hell, the immersion provided by the music, voiceacting, and storyline of the missions was variance enough to keep the game fresh, even a decade and some change later.
For less than the price of a Chipotle burrito (’bout $6, actually), you can snag a copy of Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds Saga on GOG.com. Obvious biases aside, this title is both a staple in the Star Wars franchise as well as the RTS genre. For us 90s kids (and even those outside that decade), this game oozes nostalgia. Even now though, I still think it’s strange to see Disney attached to the franchise… but even as this world changes, at least some of the best things don’t.