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Star Wars: Force Commander lets you join the Dark Side

Action Shots

April 5, 2000
Web posted at: 9:05 a.m. EDT (1305 GMT)

(IDG) -- Every kid who has seen The Empire Strikes Back has dreamed of reenacting the famous battle on the ice planet Hoth. So when LucasArts announced Force Commander, a real-time-strategy game set in the Star Wars universe, many fans spent sleepless nights imagining themselves in the cockpit of a mighty AT-AT, trudging through the snow, blasting away at rebel scum.

Unfortunately, Force Commander doesn't quite live up to the expectations that many fans had for the game. Although Star Wars fanatics will surely enjoy recreating battle scenes from their favorite movies, diehard RTS addicts will likely be disappointed with the results.

Force Commander does introduces some good ideas to the RTS genre. For example, instead of resources to gather, command points are strategically placed throughout the map to be captured and held by the player. Whoever controls these areas earns points for deploying units and building structures. Also, the ability to storm and take over enemy turrets and command centers adds a strategic element to the game.

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However, it seems as though not much thought went into several aspects of the game. Many of the scenarios consist of a basic crawl over the map while capturing command points one by one. Some missions can take a long time to complete and become tedious after a while.

Controlling your armies can be a bit of a chore, often requiring a combination of keys and mouse clicks, though it gets easier with practice. Try not to get confused when, during training, your commander describes every usable key and its function; most controls can be done with the mouse and the shift and control keys. The interface takes up almost half of the screen, and although it can be removed completely, to play without it is nigh impossible.

When viewed up close, the units can look pretty cool, particularly bigger units like the AT-ATs, but when viewed from afar they get blocky and smaller units can disappear completely into the surroundings, making them difficult to spot. Also, some planets are brutally ugly (the red planet with the fuchsia sky is particularly vile) while others, like the snow planet, really embrace the feeling of the Star Wars universe. The menus, meanwhile, look like they were designed on an old 8-bit NES. The sounds are pretty much what you would expect from a Star Wars RTS game, with big-screen style explosions and blaster shots, and first-class voice-acting, although some of the music would be more appropriate for a racing game.

All in all, Force Commander feels incomplete. While a lot of care has gone into certain parts of the game, much of it seems to have been thrown in without a second thought. Star Wars fans will certainly get a kick out of reliving scenes from the movies, like hunting for the droids on Tatooine, but the game's many flaws prevent Force Commander from bringing the ultimate Star Wars battle experience to your home PC.

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LucasArts Entertainment Co.

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