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Preview Round-up 1


Written by Mark Isaacson

To be honest, when it was announced last year that LucasArts would be teaming up with some of today's hottest video game development houses, I jumped for joy. No offence to LucasArts, far from it. They have developed some great Star Wars and other games in the past (Monkey Island, Jedi Knight, to name but a few). But it was becoming obvious towards the end of 2000 that something new and fresh was needed in the Star Wars fold.

How quickly times have changed then. Within a year the likes of Bioware, Ensemble Studios, Verant Entertainment and Raven Software have turned LucasArts fortune upside-down. And awards and appreciation just keeps on coming.

Over the next few paragraphs, I'm going to take a little closer look at how each company is going, and what you can expect with Star Wars: Episode II just days away.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Developer: Bioware

Thanks to the recent release of information, the hype surrounding the first Star Wars RPG from Baldur's Gate developers Bioware has increased ten fold.

Although many of you were hoping for something similar in graphic presentation to BG, what you can expect is something along the lines of the Myth series with a huge sprinkling of BG detail. You control a party of 3 characters, that can range in species. The ever favorite Wookiees will be a key factor, as will (of course) the Jedi Knights and Sith Lords. You can also add a droid or Twi'lek to your team.

One particular piece of information that has taken my interest are the locations in the game. As usual, Tatooine appears on the list (no surprises there really), but here's where it gets really interesting. For the first time ever in a Star Wars game, we will actually get to walk around the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk in full 3D. I know some of you will be really keen on that. The Sith world of Korriban and the Jedi Academy on Dantooine are also included.

After the update the other day, I'm really looking forward to this. However, some of you aren't all that impressed with the release dates for KOTOR. Although the recently announced X-Box version will be out this year, PC fans will have to wait until Spring 2003. Why is that? Well, for starters, LucasArts have Star Wars Galaxies on their minds towards the end of the year, so releasing two big games on the PC at relatively the same time is a big no-no. It has upset many of you, but since we have only just hit March, a lot of things can happen between now and then.

Temperature Meter: Hot

It's looking good so far, and knowing Bioware's record, this should be a big hit.

Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds: Clone Campaigns Expansion
Developer: Ensemble Studios

I mentioned at the end of my review of Galactic Battlegrounds that "Let's hope this isn't the last". Well, LucasArts have heard my prayers, and I'm sure many of yours, with the Clones Campaign Expansion set in development for a May release this year. Based on Episode II, you can expect cloned trooper units, hero units Anakin Skywalker and Senator Amidala and plenty more.

Something to keep a close eye on is the campaign structure itself. We here at TFNG are delving deeper into LucasArts to find out how close the campaign's will be to Episode II , and what surprises can be expected.

Here's something to ponder. Since Episode III is in development, and there is so much in the expanded universe, further updates to Galactic Battlegrounds would be a good step. But how would you implement them? Episode III, at the most, is three years away. By that time GB will be in the bargain bin (possibly) and the mod scene will be slowing down. This begs me to ask the question: A Sequel?
The only thing that I've been disappointed with in this series so far is the presentation. Since Ensemble have developed a new graphics engine for their upcoming Age of Empires sequel, Age of Mythology, I would have liked to see it implemented here originally. A sequel of some sort would be the perfect opportunity to implement such an engine. By then, there maybe even further improvements in graphics cards. Who knows, really. It all comes down to how well we support Ensemble and LucasArts. So start saving (or buy GB if you are yet to).

One thing is for certain, CC will be a great addition to an already great game.

Temperature Meter: Hot

I've played GB to death, so I know what to expect from this expansion: Great gameplay and solid multiplayer LAN's. Ensemble and LucasArts are a great team.

Star Wars Galaxies
Developer: Verant Entertainment

Little new info has been mentioned about this game since the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in LA last year, but the fan base for Galaxies continues to grow. I've noticed that it constantly sits in the top 10 of many computer game websites and magazines most wanted lists, a good sign indeed.

One major topic of conversation that has been doing the rounds is the possible release of Galaxies on multiple systems. Since Sony have a major hand in the products design (and the website), a PS2 release could be on the cards. Possible, yes. Whether it happens or not is for the Gods to decide.

With my interests lying with Rogue Leader and Galactic Battlegrounds these last few months, I've actually lost touch with the Galaxies crowd a little. I'll endeavor to keep up-to-date with this more as that release date draws ever closer.

Temperature Meter: Warm

The hype has cooled off slightly, but expect a climb up to red hot towards the middle of the year. It's still well worth the wait.

Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
Developer: Raven Software

What hasn't been said about Jedi Outcast. It's stunning, gorgeous, beautiful and destined to be a hit. Simple as that. And with less then a month till launch, now is the time that the hype meter will hit fever pitch.

Personally, I think Raven have done a brilliant job. They have kept many of the areas that Jedi Knight was well known for (such as the mixture of 1st person and 3rd person perspectives), improved on areas (lightsaber combat and force moves. Oh, and the graphics) and added new features to make a complete package that is making me itchy with temptation. Really, it is. I have a rash on my arm (or maybe that's the Australian summer sun attacking my skin. I can't really tell).

Anyway, keep a close eye on LucasArts.com for the latest updates. I just can't wait any longer.

Temperature Meter: Red Hot

Hurry Up, release it all ready. I'm dying here.

Starfighter 2: Jedi Starfighter
Developer: LucasArts

Another game many of you have been keeping a close eye on, and is just days from release, is Jedi Starfighter. Not only will it improve in many ways over the original, but it will also give us an opportunity to fly a Jedi Starfighter for the first time. As you know, Obi-Wan will be spotted in this sleek looking craft in Episode II, with R2 by his side I'm sure.

Once again, the 'conversion to other consoles' rumor has been flying around JS. Supposedly we may see a Special Edition, much like the original, on the X-Box. Makes sense, really, doesn't it. Then again, I can't help but feel sorry for PS2 owners. Cheated again, it just doesn't seem right.

An area that may make or break JS is the multiplayer component. Starfighter SE's modes were enjoyable, for a time, but hopefully there will be further improvements for JS. I'm actually a little surprised that the I-link technology has not been thought of for JS. It would allow four (or more) players to use separate TV screens, making for some great dogfights. We'll see.

Temperature Meter: Hot

After Starfighter PC, I'm looking forward to some new action in the skies.

Indiana Jones (Tentative title)
Develoeper: The Collective

I'm not surprised that a new Indiana Jones title is on the list, but I'm glad that LucasArts are keeping Indy fans in mind while working on so many Star Wars titles. The Infernal Machine was a great game, although more on the N64 then the PC. Speaking of which, it will be interesting to see which platforms LucasArts and The Collective choose for this title. I'm putting my money on at least the Gamecube, since only one LEC title is on that system at the moment (that being Rogue Leader), with the PC, X-Box and PS2 to possibly follow.

Temperature Meter: Warm

Little is known about it, but when the time comes expect red hot anticipation.

Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Right, here's what is known. THQ are developing a Game Boy Advance conversion of the movie, which should hit around movie time (aka May). The Galactic Battlegrounds expansion pack will be based mainly on Episode II. And Jedi Starfighter we already know. But will LucasArts push out an adventure game similar to Episode I on the PSX & PC? Doubtful, since the response wasn't so crash hot. What other games could they make out of the license? Jedi Power Battles II maybe? Whatever LucasArts decide upon, there will be a broader and better range of products compared to the Episode I collection. I can guarantee that.

Well, that's it for the first Preview special. As time goes on, future previews will go into further detail, so keep an eye out for the next Preview Round-Up over the coming weeks.

Catcha.

Mark

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