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Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (Windows)

74
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.7
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  vedder (20152)
Written on  :  Jan 31, 2010
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars3.5 Stars

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Summary

A guilty pleasure

The Good

  • Successfully conveys the Star Wars feel
  • Nostalgically reminds me of the (far superior) Dark Forces series
  • Nice variety in level types
  • Cool story and cut-scenes

The Bad

  • Limited control over the camera
  • Some very bland and empty levels
  • Badly thought out level bosses

The Bottom Line

At the time of this game's release my PC did not live up to the minimum requirements. So even though I was quite a Star Wars fan I had to let this title slip by. I did have the chance to play the first level at a friend, but it stayed at that. Until 2010 when I finally got around playing this game.

Interestingly for an early Windows 95 game it installed without any problems whatsoever on my Windows XP machine. I could just jump straight into the action. Unfortunately I was staying at my parents where I did not have a gamepad at my disposal, so I was forced to play the game with mouse and keyboard. I must say that I preferred playing it with just the keyboard. Except for the boss fights where quick circle strafing seemed to be the dominant strategy. More on this later.

The game sucks you in immediately with splendid Star Wars music and sound effects. The menu interface is obviously designed for consoles, but hey we're kind of used to that in 2010. Might have been a shock at the time.

The first mission is immediately one of the best. It's a re-imagining of the Battle of Hoth from Star Wars Episode V. The player controls a Snow Speeder and has to take out Probe Droids, ATSTs and ATATs (2 legged and 4 legged walking tanks). The controls are very easy and very arcade like. And even with the keyboard it's quite easy to aim at your targets even with the lack of a cross-hair.

The Snow Speeder scene is the only level in which you get to fly on land. There are some other missions where you fight in space, but most of the missions are third person shooter levels. Although the camera is configurable. It is also possible to play in first person, top-down or with a stationary camera. But even though I'm a big fan of first person perspectives I found that 3rd person works best for this game. Mainly because you can't look up and down.

Dark Forces and its sequel Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight count themselves as some of my favourite games of all time. And I think that in the end those games are the reason I started liking this game. Because in reality it is far inferior to those two games. Continuously throughout the game I was welcomed by warm nostalgia. Textures and 3D models that were reused in Jedi Knight, rooms which had a very similar layout to rooms in Dark Forces and other similarities forced my mouth into a smiley at a regular interval.

But while there was a lot of recognition and the art was quite good for the time, there's not much positive to be said about the actual level design. Most levels are very straight forward and plain to look at. There are some interesting levels that try to do something completely different. For example a train level in which you need to jump onto passing cargo trains. And some levels feature slightly more elaborate switch puzzles. But nothing to tease the mind.

The controls for the third person sequences work, but pale in comparison to Quake, which was released some months earlier. The fact that you can't look up can be annoying, because often levels can be quite vertical.

The vertical aspect is further explored in some of the levels where you have a jet pack to your disposal. This jet pack seems like a lot of fun at first, but soon turns out to be a chore. The reason for this is again that you can't look down or up. So you can't really see where you are going.

The story of the game is pretty cool. It follows the story of the book and graphic novel of the same name and ties in nicely with the films. In-game the story is told in high quality rendered full motion videos which are quite a reward for finishing a level.

The worst part of the game is arguably the level bosses. There's quite a few of them, but most battles don't seem very well thought out. Take the ATST for example. This mini-boss has to be defeated several time. The ATST has 1000 hit points and hitting it with the laser pistol does 1 damage. When circle strafing around the ATST it's impossible for it to hit the player. But it takes a couple minutes before your damage adds up to a thousand. The game usually assumes you still have some missiles left which do more damage, but that's not always the case. Often I missed a few of my missiles and got the ATST to 500 hit points. leaving me to circle strafe for two minutes before it would collapse.

Many of the other bosses can be killed in the same way. They will never be able to hit you. Others can fly and you need to use your jet pack to get to the same height first. Which is again annoying due to the poor camera system. The final boss can be killed in three hits because at that time you find some really powerful weapon.

The game sees re-playability through its different difficulty levels and the challenge points which can be found in each level. Frankly I didn't bother with them. The game is great for a single run-through, but doesn't really invite for a second play-through.

The game is remarkably short. I finished it in roughly four hours. By no means is this a really good game. And quite frankly I think that people with no relationship with Star Wars will not find any satisfaction in this game. The main elements that make this game fun is how it reminds of Star Wars and Dark Forces similarly to the way Outlaws reminds of Dark Forces (compare the sewer levels for example). Hence the guilty pleasure. I had a lot of fun this weekend with this game even though there are so many better games around.