Before I start my review, I have to get one thing out of the way: one of the new units you can purchase in Forces of Corruption is called an Ewok Handler. What does he do? He actually straps a bomb onto the back of an Ewok and sends him running towards the enemy! Trust me, seeing those cute little furballs get blown to smithereens never gets old. Good times.
Forces of Corruption is the first expansion pack for what is widely considered the best Star Wars RTS in existence: Empire at War. This game was quite a lot of fun, thanks to the fact that it felt like it was just oozing that essential Star Wars feeling – but it also suffered due to a shoddy user interface, somewhat dry land battles, and a campaign that some felt was a bit lacking.
But what’s an expansion back for if not to right the wrongs of its predecessor, and pack in a whole heap of exciting new things to do? Forces of Corruption definitely succeeds with the latter part of that sentence, but some of the more fundamental issues with the game are still there.
The expansion introduces a third faction to square off against both the Rebels and the Empire. As the title implies, this faction – known as the Consortium – is intent on corrupting either of the other two sides in order to further their own goal. The Consortium is made up of a rag-tag bunch of criminals, smugglers, and bounty hunters, held together by the long-haired villain known as Tyber Zann. The campaign follows his progress as he takes revenge on Jabba the Hutt and undermines the efforts of both the Rebel and Imperial forces. The storyline here stays further away from the events depicted in the movies, which has given the folks at Petroglyph more creative freedom – and for the most part, this pays off, as the storyline is generally quite enjoyable and involved. Having said that, it may leave you wanting more – although this is perhaps a deliberate ploy to build anticipation for a second expansion pack.
From a gameplay standpoint, the new faction adds quite a lot to the game. Rather than having to capture planets using sheer force (although that is still an option), the Consortium can instead choose to infiltrate and corrupt a planet from the inside, siphoning off valuable credits and resources from the opposition. This forces players to adopt new strategies, and be on the lookout for quite a lot of things at once. It also became clear that if you concentrated too much on one foe, the other one would sneak in and take advantage while your attention is elsewhere. This means a delicate balance must be maintained, leading to some interesting situations.
However, despite the fun new additions, the game is still let down by the same problems that plagued the original. The space battles are still far more fun than their land counterparts – when in space, it really feels like Star Wars, while things just feel a bit clumsy on the ground. The tactical section of the game still plays host to a very unhelpful interface that will often leave you scratching your head. And there are also still a few performance hits, unless you turn the graphical settings way down.
But in the end, if you’re already a fan of Empire at War, you’ll find a lot to enjoy in this expansion. It improves on several parts of the game, and while it would have been nice to see a more comprehensive overhaul of a few particular aspects, what we’ve been given is still pretty satisfying.