R.S. Hunter

Science Fiction & Fantasy Author

Tag: star wars

Conquering a Galaxy Far Far Away: Star Wars Rebellion

Star Wars Poster

In honor of #StarWarsDay, I want to take the time to reminisce about one of my favorite Star Wars games of all time. A game that you won’t see mentioned alongside your Rogue Squadrons, your Jedi Knight IIs, your Knights of the Old Republics. I’m talking about Star Wars Rebellion–a real-time strategy game that mysteriously came into my life and took over my imagination.

Star Wars Rebellion

I don’t know when or how Star Wars Rebellion ended up in my hands. I know it was sometime before my family’s move to Southern California. I mean, it had to have been at least 1998, as that’s when the game was released. But other than that, I have no clue who bought the game, placed it in a fuzzy, Velcro CD case, and made it part of our collection.

We had a computer that we kept in the den. While my dad used it mostly for work, my brothers and I were allowed to play games on it. We kept the boxes the games came in on a bookshelf in the den. I remember looking through the shelves; it was mostly full of odds and ends: the aforementioned PC game boxes, some books my dad read, a copy of the DOOM Hacker’s Guide (or something like that), and then this instruction manual for some game called Star Wars Rebellion. Next to the manual was a black, fuzzy CD case–the kind that has multiple “pages.” The Rebellion disc was its only contents.

Star Wars Rebellion screenshot

For a kid that loved the spaceships and battles in Star Wars more than anything else, Rebellion was perfect. Not only did you get to mess around with the galactic map–full of planets and star systems only mentioned in the Expanded Universe (EU)–but you also got to engage tactical fleet battles. Homeworld did this much, much better a year later, but for 10 year-old-me, it was like bringing my LEGO battles to life.

Part of Rebellion’s brilliance is that it let you maneuver your ships–glorious groupings of Mon Calamari Cruisers, squadrons of X-Wings, and formations of Imperial Star Destroyers–in three dimensions. Most other strategy games only operate on a 2D plane. But in Rebellion, you could order your ships to go above or below the enemy. I spent so much time, way too much time drawing battle plans and stuff in my notebooks at school while I waited to get home and put them into action in the game.

It’s Good to be Bad

Let’s be honest: the Empire was cool. Darth Vader (before the prequels) was cool. Yes, yes I know they were the bad guys. But I always wanted my own Star Destroyer. Star Wars Rebellion made that happen. This was the first Star Wars game I played that let you choose the Empire as your side. Finally! I was able to have Darth Vader hunt down Rebel spies. My admirals patrolled the galaxy with fleets of Star Destroyers, cruisers, and endless waves of TIE Fighters under their command. It was amazing.

Star Destroyer

I never actually won a game in Rebellion, but I certainly got close. I painted the galactic map that bright, almost neon Imperial green.

It’s Only Cheating if You Get Caught

According to the movies, books, comics the Empire is supposed to be powerful. It’s supposed to have hundreds of ships under its command. Unfortunately, in the interest of “balance” and “giving the Rebels a chance” (ugh), the Empire starts out with a pitiful number of ships. Enter the glorious world of game editors!

Much like my time with Red Alert and the Tiberium series, I spent many a happy hour tinkering with Rebellion’s innards. I’m not ashamed to admit I completely broke the game in my favor. Imperial Star Destroyers are supposed to have ion cannons according to the Essential Guide to Vehicles and Vessels? Okay! Mod them in! Of course they’re supposed to have more shields. You know what? I’m pretty sure all the Rebel ships should have no weapons. Sound good? Of course it does!

I wasn’t playing multiplayer–as far as I knew, nobody else had ever heard of the game–so what was the harm? Did I care about winning fairly? Absolutely not! Even though I completely unbalanced the game, it was still horrendously fun.

Talon Who? What’s a Bane Nothos?

Another one of the best parts of Star Wars Rebellion is the fact that it included a bunch of characters from the movies as well as the EU. For somebody who voraciously read any Star Wars novel he could get his hands on in elementary and middle school, playing a game where characters like Thrawn, Talon Karrde, and Borsk Fey’lya were included was a dream come true.

Sidebar: I played Rebellion before I ever saw any of the Thrawn trilogy graphic novels, so the game’s version of Talon Karrde is the one I pictured in my head. Seeing him bare-chested and long-haired in other media just weirded me out.

Darth Vader

All the characters in the game came with encyclopedia entries about them, so if you had no clue who Jan Dodonna or Pellaeon were, then the game was there to help you out. I loved the fact that I got to play around with people I recognized from the books in ways that didn’t have to follow established canon. I always paired up Thrawn and Pellaeon though. Couldn’t break up that duo.

Control a World. Command a Galaxy

Was Star Wars Rebellion a great game? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t even rank it among the top Star Wars games. Parts of it were extremely boring. And aside from the space battles everything else happened via info cards. Still, the ability to spread fleets of Star Destroyers across the galaxy goes a long way toward winning my heart.

If you’re looking for a Star Wars game that’s more grand strategy than Empire at War, Galactic Battlegrounds, or Force Commander, then give Rebellion a try. Just be willing to sit through some outdated game design.

A Love Letter to the Battle of Endor

Battle of Endor

As I saw this Star Wars tattoo yesterday it made me think: if I was to get a Star Wars tattoo what would I want? (OT only of course) Obviously, since this is hypothetical–let’s go big, insanely big–I’d get a full sleeve of my favorite part of the entire original trilogy: the Motherfuckin’ Battle of Endor. (That’s what ol’ Jorge called it in the original script, you know.)

So here it is: a love letter to what I think is the greatest space battle ever put on film. Star Trek (the rebooted movies) had some fancy CGI and the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica had some great dog fights, but they all owe some of their coolness to the OG BoE.

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Sci-Fi Space Battles and Submarine Warfare

Want to know one of my favorite sci-fi space battle scenes of all time? Definitely in my top five is the space portion of the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi. Even if you’ve seen it dozens of times (and if you haven’t seen it shame on you) go watch it on YouTube real quick and get reacquainted with it.

Still awesome, right? Nothing like that CGI mess at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith. Despite the Battle of Endor being one of my all time favorite space battles, there’s one thing wrong with it: space combat will never be like that. In fact, I have a feeling space combat will be more like submarine warfare.

It’s no secret that George Lucas based a lot of his space battles off old gun camera footage from WWII aerial battles, and it shows. X-Wings and TIE Fighters behave more like airplanes than ships fighting in a vacuum. In fact it’s not until Empire Strikes Back that you actually see a ship do something “spacey”. While trying to escape from Hoth, the Millennium Falcon is being chased by a Star Destroyer and two more are moving to cut it off from the front. This is a good move…if they were on an ocean. In space you have three dimensions to work with, and finally it seems like Han realizes that. He dives the Falcon straight “down” at a 90 degree angle. Because of the Star Destroyers’ mass and inertia they’re unable to make the same maneuver in time and end up crashing into each other.

But that scene still isn’t a very “realistic” depiction of a space battle either. (Yes I know “realistic” isn’t quite the word because to this day there hasn’t been an actual space battle. Just bear with me.)

The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica series gets it a little better. The Galactica resembles a submarine more than anything else. Its bridge isn’t exposed on the top or front of the ship. It’s buried in the middle under layers of armor. The crew has to rely on a vast array of sensors and projections to keep track of enemy positions. Still because it’s a TV show, the space battles have to be exciting, so most of them take place at very close ranges where the Galactica and Cylon Basestars. This allows the viewer to see the two ships firing conventional kinetic weapons at each other along with barrages of missiles. Still some aspects of the combat feel more like naval vessels fighting each other than space ships.

However, given the vastness of space, it’s unlikely that two ships engaging each other would ever get close enough to establish visual contact–especially given that light can only travel so fast. If you were far enough away, any visual you’d receive would already be outdated. Therefore space combat will probably take place at great distances and based around highly sophisticated guess work.

Instead it’ll be like two submarines trying to outmaneuver and outguess each other. Submarines have to rely on sonar and other instruments to figure out where their enemies are. My guess is that space combat will be more like that. More like a chess match than two heavy brawlers punching each other in the face. Still that kind of fight doesn’t make for very entertaining movies and TV episodes, doesn’t it? So while my head knows that space battles will happen one way, my heart will still be fascinated by swooping fighters, flashing lasers, and big explosions. I think I’m going to go watch that Endor clip one more time.

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