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Star Wars Battlefront week: Nick's impressions

All this week, the writers of PS Fanboy will share their impressions of Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron. Make sure you come back every day, as we'll be giving away five limited edition Darth Vader PSP-2000 systems.

I'll be quite frank: this is the first time I've played a Star Wars game on my own time since Shadows of the Empire on the Nintendo 64. It was bitchin', sure, but I only played stuff like Knights of the Old Republic on a friend's system. Before Shadows, I think the only other Star Wars game I had was on the NES -- it was hard. Very hard. So, unlike Andrew and Colin, I have no prior experience with the Battlefront franchise, so its move on PSP is less of a surprise to me, more of ... an initiation into something fantastic.

I don't know why Andrew and Colin are so dismissive of the controls -- maybe they're used to something completely different, but as a Battlefront virgin, I found my cherry popping experience delightfully intuitive. [Wow, strong imagery there! - Ed.] The basics are this: you don't move your cursor around -- you press and hold the R trigger to lock onto nearby enemies. The longer you lock, the stronger your shot. When you're locked, instead of running, you strafe. I think you can cycle through enemies with the D-pad during a lock-on, but I'd just tap the R trigger and move onto the next closest target. Actually, you know what, the controls are exactly like Mega Man Legends. Maybe that's why I love them.

I wasn't fond of the vehicles. No real reason, but the larger ones got stuck a lot and controlling your aim was more cumbersome than rewarding. Leave the vehicles for your AI peons to handle as you wreck an enemy stronghold all by your lonesome. This is especially true in the Galaxy Conquest mode, which I'll be chatting about for the remainder of this impression.

Galaxy Conquest is a turn-based strategy version of Star Wars Battlefront that is like a cross between awesome and stellar. GC takes place on a map with four planetary quadrants, each quadrant with a certain "Hero" to unlock. At the beginning, you're assigned a random grouping of planets and you start off in the first phase: Treasury. You accumulate purchasing credits through the number of planets under your control and if you have any quadrants under your belt. So this phase basically entails your allocation of purchasing credits for that round.

The second phase is Purchase. In this, you can purchase troops to assign to each of your planets, or buy upgrades. Upgrades come in three flavors: the amount of troops you can assign to each planet, your ground forces' strength, and the vehicles available in space battles. When you control an entire quadrant, you can purchase the services of that quadrant's Hero and subsequent abilities (Leia cuts the cost of things in half, for example). It's simple, it's intuitive, it's strategy.

The third phase is Movement -- the attacking phase! Well, you can occupy a neutral planet, too, but the bulk of the game will be attacking the enemy planets. When attacking, you can assign a certain number of troops to assault the planet (if you have 50 stationed on one planet, you can move up to 40 to another planet ... you need to leave some behind just in case!) and either let the conflict resolve itself, or take part in the battle personally. If you want to conserve troops and cash, going in yourself is the best option. Depending on the planet you attack, either a ground battle or space battle will ensue -- I prefer the ground battles. Even now, I'm the complete suck at space battles.

The final phase is Reinforce, which is exactly what it sounds like. You get to move troops from one planet to an adjacent one; choose wisely. Then the enemy does its rounds -- rinse and repeat.

I found this mode to be extremely fun, obviously. Since Andrew and Colin have talked in excess about the ground and space battles, you know how they go. The ground battles are basic "kill everyone" or "take over all strongholds" while the space battles require you to destroy everyone or take out the enemy starship's defenses. Nothing fancy, but it doesn't need to be. There's no story, either, which is very slightly disappointing. What's your motive for taking over a galaxy, you know? It's no big deal, the micromanagement options and strategy should easily win over people not necessarily fond of the main game. An issue is the lack of randomization of the galaxy itself -- it's always the same planets in the same place with the same quadrants. You're assigned different ones, yes, but it would be nice to make the galaxy larger or smaller to increase difficulty.

The graphics are nice, the controls are fine by me, and the gameplay, specifically Galaxy Conquest, is quite entertaining. I feel like I've been missing out on the Star Wars action since the N64, so I hope enough of you find our impressions worthwhile and pick up the game to play with us. This is definitely a game to keep your eyes on, as we all seem enamored with what Rebellion has put together.

Stay tuned for impressions of the game from the other PS Fanboy writers.

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