Many true Star Wars fans had been waiting years for the strategy game Star Wars: Empire at War. Forgetting all about Jar Jar Binks and the prequel trilogy, Empire at War plunged you into the heart of the Galactic Civil War seen in the original trilogy, with its Imperial Star Destroyers, Rebel scum, and popular characters, such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Thanks to epic land and space battles, as well as an intriguing strategic campaign, Empire at War is one of the best strategy games of this year. So it was perhaps inevitable that we come to Forces of Corruption, an expansion pack that plunges you deeper into that galaxy far, far away with a distinct new faction and new content that allow for whole new strategies.
Crime doesn't pay unless you're a criminal overlord in the Star Wars galaxy, and then it pays very well if you can corrupt planets.
Forces of Corruption explores the seedy side of the Star Wars universe, the place inhabited by crime lords, bounty hunters, smugglers, and, yes, even Han Solo. You play as Tyber Zann, a criminal overlord with a grudge against Jabba the Hutt and the Empire, with no love for the Rebels either. After busting out of Kessel's infamous spice mines, Zann has to build a criminal empire to take down his enemies. Whereas the Empire fights for order and the Rebels fight for freedom, Zann fights for profit, which means that you tackle the campaign of conquering the galaxy in a unique way compared to the strategy that the Rebels and Imperials pursued in Empire at War. While the Rebels and Imperials fought for control of planets by engaging in epic land and space battles, you have another option open to you.
The consortium doesn't really seize planets but instead "corrupts" them, which lets you siphon off cash from their coffers. These corruption missions are one of the neat elements in the game, because to corrupt a planet, you have to execute a special type of criminal act, such as space piracy or kidnapping, which means you get to engage in a unique land or space battle. For example, you might need to take out a key vessel that is defending the planet or destroy a certain number of structures on the planetary surface. Once a planet is corrupted, you can launch sabotage missions to cripple the planet's defenses, unlock new ships and technologies by purchasing them on a black market, and more. Also, consortium fleets can slip past corrupted planets through bribery, which means the consortium is capable of launching strikes deep into enemy territory.
This corrupting style of gameplay takes a bit of getting used to, but thankfully the expansion's campaign does a good job of introducing you to all the basics while immersing you into the rich lore of the original trilogy and the aftermath as told in the various novels. Familiar faces, such as the bounty hunter IG-88, Prince Xizor from Shadows of the Empire, and the popular Grand Admiral Thrawn from the Timothy Zahn novels, make appearances. However, there are new faces as well, such as Silri, a Force witch with an agenda of her own, and Urai Fenn, a lethal alien sidekick. Also, Zann makes for an interesting antihero because he's incredibly ruthless but with a bit of a humorous streak in him.
Forces of Corruption weaves these characters into a campaign that's more cohesive and better told than the campaigns found in Empire at War. The expansion is set just prior to and after the Battle of Endor, and with the death of the Emperor and Darth Vader, there are opportunities for those who are strong enough to seize them. The plot takes you on a virtual tour of the galaxy, where you'll engage in various quest missions in orbit around planets and on their surfaces to uncover the secrets of the Emperor's vaults. One mission requires you to salvage data pods from the wreckage belt of the original Death Star, while another mission has you running through the Emperor's personal museum. This lets you explore some interesting parts of the Star Wars galaxy, though some of these missions are a bit drawn out. Thankfully, the speed buttons let you accelerate the gameplay, which makes it less annoying when you have to wait for your units to weave their way around the map.
The new corruption missions give you some leeway as to how to exploit a planet.