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Journeys with a terrible game: Star Wars Rebellion

Richard Naik's picture

Star Wars: Rebellion Screenshot

The year was 1999. A plucky young lad fresh out of the 8th grade, I had just finished reading Timothy Zahn's fantastic Thrawn trilogy a year earlier, which began my immersion into the Star Wars expanded universe. There's a lot of good stuff to be found in said universe-the aforementioned Zahn books, the Rogue Squadron series, the Crimson Empire comics and so forth. So you can imagine my anticipation of The Phantom Menace, the long awaited beginning of the prequel trilogy.

The aftermath was...disheartening.

At first I tried to convince myself that it was still good, that it was just different. I tried to unsee what I has seen. Alas, I eventually succumbed to the realization that the excrement George Lucas wanted to call a film was the signal of the downfall of what I held dear. Combined with the collective crappiness of the Black Fleet books and the Dark Empire comics, I was ready to officially declare Star Wars dead to me. But then, something happened. You see, having had my Jedi fill with Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight, I was now harboring a desire for some sort of Command and Conquer-type of Star Wars experience, where I could literally dominate the massive galaxy depicted in so many media. And on a trip through the game section of K-Mart, a little game by the name of Star Wars: Rebellion caught my eye...

"What is this?" I thought. Was this some part of the great universe far, far away that was somehow untainted by Phantom Menace's sin? I looked at the box, emblazoned with the underside of a massive Star Destroyer. Fleets of Rebel and Imperial starships raced towards each other preparing to do battle above a blood-red planet. I was hooked. I happened to have enough cash on hand for the purchase, but wait! PC-only, the box said. I would not have a computer of my own until two years later, and since an RTS requires many, many hours of constant play, simply using my school's computers wasn't an option. This presented a very serious problem.

My grandfather is a sucker for gadgets, even if he doesn't really know how to use them or what they're even for. The 50-inch plasma TV that is used mainly to watch golf in standard definition speaks volumes to this fact. As luck would have it, the day I bought Rebellion he had just gotten a brand new PC for "world webbing", which proceeded to only be used for golf sims and my grandmother's custom holiday greeting cards. I would spend the night at their house every now and then, and my grandfather's toy became the vessel for my galactic conquests.

I fired up the game and instantly liked what I saw. Here was the universe I was so attached to, not the garbage currently being spewed forth by LucasArts. Massive fleets of ships under my control, worlds to conquer, and all sorts of characters from the films, books, and beyond ready to perform their tasks. This was what I wanted. Naturally, I started as the Imperial side first. Honestly, what's a Star Wars 4X game if you can't build a damn Death Star? I took a look through the large Prima guide that came with the game and the ships and troops I would have at my disposal. Good memories came back. Star Destroyers, Mon Calamari Cruisers, X-Wings, TIE Defenders. These were mighty vessels, not the silly toys in the new films.

Big Meanacing. Lethal. Nobody who isn't named Arvel Crynd is going to screw with that.
Big. Menacing. Lethal. Nobody who isn't named Arvel Crynd is going to screw with that.

What the hell? Are we supposed to fear the evil space cherrios?
What the hell? Are we supposed to fear the evil space Cheerios?

Things went well at first. I went, I saw, and I conquered. Planet after planet fell to me, and my armies grew ever stronger. I mean, I had legions of Dark Troopers at my disposal-those are like Stormtroopers but robots, which means they're ten times as awesome. The Rebels were on the run, and my new Death Star (!!!) was well on its way to completion. Hours upon hours went into the game, and my grandparents were satisfied enough that I wasn't on "the marijuana" or listening to "the rap music" that they let me be.

But then, disaster struck. Quite literally.

A completely unanticipated natural disaster wiped out almost all of my primary shipyards, and my new death star was now slated for completion in about 1100 days. What. The. Fuck. And not an hour later, the same damn thing happened to my secondary shipyards, and my brand new Super Star Destroyer (which was to be aptly named the Boon Doggle) was now cared for by only one shipyard instead of the thirteen that had been there until the game decided to cross-check me face first into a concrete wall for no goddamn reason! The Rebel scum started getting more aggressive shortly after that, slowly encroaching upon my hard-conquered worlds. It was as if they were conspiring with the game against me. Cursed Rebels-is there no manner of devilry to which you will not stoop?

The management & ruling side of things, the game's saving grace, was now wrecked and adrift in space. Ship-to-ship combat was a dud, with its clunky interface and extremely unintuitive controls causing me to go straight for the option to auto fight the battles. I was dumbstruck. Never had I been so into a game only to see my enthusiasm completely dashed by one broken mechanic. What could I have possibly done to deserve this? I had plenty of maintenance points. I hadn't angered any gods recently that I was aware of. And so, with the threat of completely fucking random natural disasters always over my head, I turned away. Star Wars had betrayed me once again, and my disillusion with the franchise was now even greater than before I had picked up the game.

So fuck you Star Wars: Rebellion. You're a dick.

The coming months proceeded to dash all hopes I had that LucasArts was somehow not going to succumb to the deluge of prequel-related crap that was now being shoved down fans' collective throats. I never picked up another book, read another comic, or expended currency on another game. The Star Wars from the original films, from the likes of TIE Fighter and Dark Forces, was gone. Gone forever.

Fast forward five years. I hadn't touched anything even remotely related to Star Wars since the Rebellion incident aside from the token viewing of Attack of the Clones. Then one day, my next-door neighbor in my college dorm told me about a new Star Wars game he was playing, and how it was "pretty good" so far. I scoffed a scoffing scoff and said I'd maybe try it later, when I in fact had no intention of doing so. However, it's difficult to ignore what your friend is playing when he lives literally twenty feet from you and has his door open all the time, and I had to admit, this Knights of the Old Republic business did look rather interesting...

Category Tags
Platform(s): PC  
Developer(s): LucasArts  
Series: Star Wars  
Genre(s): Strategy/Sim  
Articles: Editorials  
Topic(s): Pop-culture   Humor  

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You really hated this game

You really hated this game this much from one attempt to still hate on it 10 years later?

The beauty of this game lies in overall functionality, quite a few of these funtions appear worthless at face value, especially in single player environment. Playing against another person on LAN or Internet delivers quite a fulfilling experience. You'll find that ship statistics, character statistics, and starting points and goals for each side are exceptionally balanced. While the AI is rudimentiary in it's implementation, having a human opponent emphasizes the need for the Espionage and Sabotage missions. Gathering details of where you opponent be amassing a fleet or ground troops for a potential invasion of one your fortified systems can give you the chance to intercept an enemy fleet on it's arrival day.

The battle system was the most heavily criticized component of this game, the low resolution models and inability to access hardware rendering or change the resolution irked many players. The game also suffered from a debilitating bug that would occassionally crash the game (so save often) that was never addressed by the developer, it routinely occured between the tactical and galactic battle mode transistions. The system itself, was well implemented. Ships had a variety of tactical options, standoff or surround (useful for tractor beams), movement patterns, automatic targetting of capital ships or fighters if desired, and most importantly navigation points. Luring an opponent into a tactical disadvantage, utilizing multiple ships in surround mode to prevent escape with combined tractor beam power, using your ships faster sublight engines to attack and withdraw to allow repair time can turn tides in tactical mode.

Regarding the single player AI, yes it's very bad, and becomes even noticably worse as the game progresses. It was sensible to script events such as natural disasters to force the player into engagement sooner rather than simply waiting for the AI script to self-implode. Beating the game in under 200 days is an easy feat, even sometimes under a 100 is possible, dragging it out to 1100+ with pull tech tree was pretty pointless, against AI or human opponent.

Give the game another spin.

@budious For the record, it

@budious

For the record, it was a lot more than one attempt. I spent a lot more hours with the game that I probably implied-I'd say around 100, but that's a guess since it was so long ago. I also never tried the two-player component, as I didn't know anyone else with the game at the time.

The resolution of the ship models actually didn't bother me. It was the system of positioning ships and giving orders that turned me off.

I totally disagree about the natural disasters. The idea that I could lose so many resources to a (seemingly) random event is absurd. If the intent was to force me into doing something there were certainly better ways to do it, like shifting public opinion against me if I became idle for too long or causing the CPU player to become more aggressive if I wasn't on the offensive. The concept of losing 12 shipyards for no reason should have never left the drawing board.

Sorry, but this one isn't going on my to play list anytime soon.

But still, haven't seen such game developed...

Personally I liked the game, and if not the incompatibility with newer windows, I would still play with it...

Actually the main reason is that there is still so such game, after almost a decade passed... NO similar all around strategy game that would allow such gameplay in Star Wars universe. I never cared about grephics, I was grown up on C-64. F* graphics if the game is playable, entertaining and unique. My problem was also stability, and the lack of ground battles and the "calculated" character mission types.
Yes... there is Empire at War. And that thing, Forces of Corruption with stupid Zann consortium.
(I used to play the way I eliminate Zann, then I let Rebels or imperials to take that territory, save the game as Starter position and then I can play normally with two factions)
While it is finally something that closes to a strategy game, and provides quite enjoyable battles. But the possibilities are limited, battles (due to graphic engines) are small limited to a few vehicles, and there is an extremely limited range of characters and special missions...

Star Wars - excellent game

Richey richey richey, you'll never know how close you came to the best multiplayer game ever invented. try it online with someone of the same skill level and you'll have a ball

You only played single player?

I can't believe you call this game terrible and only played against the computer.

How hard is it to burn the disc and play multiplayer with a friend? This is the best multiplayer Star Wars game experience ever made.

An Enduring Epic: Intelligent, Unique and Multilayered

Not perfect but all the criticism surprises me, especially as noted as it's still coming in 2010!

It is true the AI and the graphics are nearly 20 years old, but the design depth, options, GUI are pretty uniquely well balanced and playable/ enjoyable. I feel the '1000-clicks' complaints come from arcade players not from resource management & strategy enthusiasts. I think it gives great control without a micro-management burden.

I'd like to find more head to head players, because it changes the game onto a whole, brilliant new level.

My game v1.1 is 100% stable on XP.

There is nothing like it, and I feel while not quite as classic as Sid Meyers Civilisation 2, it will be one of tthe top all time classic games.

Now let's hope Disney thinks so too and looks at an update!

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