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Graphics: Most of the graphics in Rebellion are static SVGA scenes, and as such are pretty good. There are pictures for just about every action and event in the game, from inciting an uprising to sending a fleet into battle, and all of the encyclopedia entries have accompanying pictures. But so what? This can be expected from any game, and isn’t much of a plus. There may be plenty of pretty pictures, but there’s almost no animation in Rebellion outside of the tactical battle
sequences. Every other space strategy game I can think of, from Pax Imperia: Eminent Domain to Master of Orion 2, makes extensive use of animation (no matter how small) to flesh-out the game world, and give the sense that the galaxy under your command is actually alive. Not so in Rebellion. Even worse, the graphics in the tactical battle sequences are abysmal. When viewed from the maximum distance, the ant-sized ships look just fine. Zoom in, though, and you’ll discover low-resolution graphics that are just about on-par with those of the VGA version of X-Wing. No, I’m not kidding. Nobody expects a space strategy game to sport Quake 2-like 3Dfx graphics, but come on already — this is a Star Wars title, based on a rich, thriving galaxy of creatures, places, and ships, and a decent visual experience should have been factored in from the start. Sadly, it wasn’t, and Rebellion will leave your eyes squinting for more.
Interface: Rebellion’s interface is downright awful, and simply put, ruins the entire gameplay experience. The control model is windows based, much like Windows 95 itself. Choosing an item from one of the game’s many menus will bring up a window containing the selected information, like a mini-map of a sector of the galaxy or the fleet selection screen. Multiple windows can be open at once, but unfortunately the player is limited in where on the screen they can be moved to. As a result, it’s quite possible to have five or more windows open at once, one on top of the other, creating a hodge-podge of information that’s insanely difficult to sort through. Each window can be minimized, and placed on a sidebar, but that feature really doesn’t make the task of organizing all the information any easier. If my description of Rebellion’s interface sounds more like that of a spreadsheet program, you’re on the right track. The whole thing just doesn’t feel like a game — it feels like a spreadsheet. The player is presented with reams of information, all of which is organized and separated into different windows and menus. While playing Rebellion, I felt more like I was sorting through Lotus Notes than I did controlling the fate of an entire galaxy. There’s a lot of information to sort through in Rebellion, as there is in all space strategy games. But the way in which that data is organized, and must be used by the player, sucks all the fun out of the game. Within the tactical battle sequences, things improve, but not by much. It’s great to be able to control a fleet of starships in real 3D space, but shaky camera controls and very limited combat options nullify that positive rather quickly. My biggest gripe with Rebellion’s interface, however, is something I just cannot comprehend, no matter how hard I try. In every Star Wars game to date, from the original X-Wing to Rebel Assault II, any tactical representation of Alliance and Empire forces has portrayed the Rebels as green symbols, and the Imperials as red symbols. But in Rebellion, the designers took this convention and reversed it! Now, Alliance forces are portrayed by red symbols, while the Imperials are portrayed by green symbols! Why in God’s name would the designer’s of Rebellion take such a simple thing and totally screw it up? Throughout the course of the game, my years’ experience of playing Star Wars computer titles came back, as could be expected, and completely betrayed me. When glancing at any map, I had to try and think in terms contradictory to any other Star Wars game I’ve ever played, and see the green symbols as the Imperials, and the red ones as the Rebels. I found myself floundering through most of the game, forgetting which side was which, and my enjoyment of the title suffered significantly as a result.
Gameplay: As previously mentioned, playing Rebellion is a lot like sorting through a Star Wars spreadsheet program, due to the numerous in-game menus and windows. There are plenty of options available to the player, like bombarding planets from space or sending special forces out on secret missions, but doing so is mainly a matter of transferring data and making choices on a menu. There’s just no payoff, no sense of excitement. Any game can have cause and effect; the trick is in translating those elements into an enjoyable gameplay experience. Rebellion fails on this level, and is just plain…boring. It’s Star Wars, and it’s space strategy, but it’s just not a heck of a lot of fun. The only people who may find Rebellion enjoyable are fans of the Star Wars card game, since the gameplay is similar in the respect that everything is based on information, statistics, and static screens.
Sound FX: The sound effects in Rebellion are pretty decent, based largely on the fact that many of them have been taken right from the Star Wars movies. Any event in the game is accompanied by the appropriate sounds. For example, turning another planet to your cause will bring up a victory screen complete with cheering crowds. In the tactical mode, the sound effects are at their best, as Alliance and Imperial ships battle it out using all the familiar Star Wars weapons, like Ion cannons and blasters. Oddly, though, the sound effects change depending on which ship you currently have centered in the view, as if you can only hear the sounds of the battle directly surrounding that ship. There was one aspect of the game’s sound effects that nearly made my skin crawl — C-3PO’s voice. If anything, C-3PO has become sort of a Star Wars in-joke, a whiny, annoying doomsayer whose only purpose is in the trilogy is to cause the other characters grief. In Rebellion, you’ll quickly discover that the only thing more grating on the nerves than Anthony Daniels’ C-3PO voice is the C-3PO voice of the guy in this game. Try to imagine KITT from Knight Rider as the effeminate droid. I kept waiting for him to yell out, “Michael, look out! The Imperials!” Remember LucasArts, digitized speech in a game is supposed to be a good thing….
Musical Score: The music in Rebellion is a given — the John Williams’ score from the trilogy. I never thought I’d commit such sacrilege, but I think it’s time LucasArts put the venerable score to rest, and started including some original music in their Star Wars games. Don’t get me wrong; Williams’ soundtrack is just as a powerful as ever. The problem is it’s been used in all of the recent Star Wars games to a point of overkill.
Intelligence & Difficulty: This is the one area of Star Wars: Rebellion that stands on its own. There are three difficulty levels in the game, with the first offering players some extra help courtesy of KITT…ah, I mean, C-3PO. I always found my games to be very evenly balanced, with victory dependent on how well I managed my resources and controlled the actions of my characters. Within the tactical ship battles, defeating the opposing forces is largely a matter of understanding the capabilities of the different vessels. Anybody with even the most rudimentary knowledge of the Star Wars universe knows that it takes one hell of a ship to defeat a Star Destroyer in head-to-head combat….
Overall: A galactic disappointment, Rebellion fails on so many levels I can’t even count them all. This could have, and should have been a great game. As it turns out, it’s the weakest Star Wars title to date, and one that’s already been wiped from my hard drive. As Avault’s resident Star Wars junkie, I was expecting to really enjoy Rebellion; I figured the late release meant they had taken the time to really pick the game apart, and make it everything it should be. The bottom line is that Rebellion is a dud. If you need your Star Wars computer game fix, pick up Jedi Knight and the Mysteries of the Sith add-on. But do yourself a favor and leave this catastrophe on the shelf.
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