Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Star Wars: Imperial Academy

Way back when when online multiplayer in Halo first came out, I loved it.  Loved it.  Played online constantly, really.  As the series evolved, I slowly came to recognize one of the key features that every online shooter seemed to possess: live voice chat.  And boy, did I have fun with that.  You know, some people seem to get some type of power trip when they realize that all that the person on the other side of the screen can hear is your voice, and because of that they think it's quite funny to drop every cuss word in the dictionary down the proverbial toilet of their microphone.  This, of course, got me thinking of a great way how to shut those guys up, and that great way came in the form of a voice modulator.  Darth Vader, anyone?  Usually the response was simply either a disconnect or an eery silence, but at least I got my point across.

And while that's nice and all, at this point you're probably wondering what the heck this has to do with Star Wars: Imperial Academy.  Well, let me tell you.  A, Darth Vader is on the app's insignia, and B, this app is an online FPS.  There you go.  That's about where the similarities end, though, because unlike a hefty bunch of other FPS titles out there today, Star Wars: Imperial Academy is a rather weak entry into the genre.  And no, it's not because I can't use my voice modulator to shut cussing idiots up, either.

Quite honestly, SW: IA is a pretty fun jaunt when you first open it up.  Let's face it: While the quality of apps has certainly increased over the years, the FPS genre has still been left practically untouched aside from a few exceptional titles like Nova or Battlefield: Bad Company.  SW: IA capitalizes on the fact that it is an FPS (especially a Star Wars one), and because of that it features many of the amenities that most people would expect from the genre.  Essentials such as multiple levels to treck across as well as a few gun and armor modules to equip are all present, as well as an extremely basic single player mode to fool around in if you do not have access to an online connection.  The menus to get online are simple enough to navigate, and after you input your initial info, starting a match is a breeze.  After playing the game for a few minutes, though, the problems that are present truly begin to rear their ugly heads.

Firstly, the controls on SW:IA are simply horrid.  Terrible.  Trash type.  Controls are handled via two virtual sticks, and while that sounds good in theory, in practice it's really not simply because your thumbs will take up 1/3 to 1/2 of the screen.  As you can probably imagine, this makes playing the game quite the chore, especially when you're trying to see who's shooting at you from around a corner.  Secondly, while there are a couple of levels to play, none of those levels are extremely large except for one or two sparse ones.  It was almost as if the developers purposely made the levels small in order to allow players to rack up more kills, which takes some of the skill of playing away.  Thirdly, the weapon balance in SW: IA is extremely flawed.  Every player online will probably use one of three weapons, all of which have the potential to kill you within a shot or two.  While there are multiple weapons to choose from, you know full well your online opponents won't cater to your need for variety.  Finally, the way in which players are allowed to level up is daunting if you're not willing to shell out a few dollars in order to recharge your "Elite" (bonus EXP modifier).  Leveling literally takes forever, and the time needed in order to recharge your elite without spending money is excessive.  

Each and every one of those problems contributes to making the mess that is SW: IA.  The concept of playing as a trainee in the Imperial Academy is pretty cool, but the fun basically stops there.  While I realize that the app is free, do yourself a favor and avoid this game.  The force just isn't really strong with this one.


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