The ultimate goal of Star Wars: Interregnum is to add several Star Wars factions that are both unique and fun to play while being balanced with the factions of Sins of a Solar Empire Rebellion. Accordingly, each faction will have its own set of unique gameplay mechanics that will to a large degree determine that faction's playstyle. The first of these for the Empire, the Rank System, has already been covered in a previous article. The the Morale System is the second unique gameplay mechanic for the Galacitc Empire, which serves as its Achilles' Heel to help balance an otherwise very powerful faction.
Origins of the Morale System
The Morale System is very much rooted in the lore of Interregnum. Immediately before the Battle of Endor, the Galactic Empire was perhaps the greatest power the galaxy had ever seen. So great was its territory, that no official source from Lucas Arts has ever bothered to map out exactly how much of the galaxy the Palpatine's Empire ruled. Minus some hard to reach backwaters like the Hapes Cluster and Hutt Space as well as extremely distant areas like the Corporate Sector and the Chiss Ascendancy in the unknown regions, the entire galaxy was more or less an Imperial province, regardless of how much trouble those Rebels caused. In the years following the Battle of Endor, that began to change, as invasion and fragmentation rapidly took their toll.
By the year 9 ABY (the year the mod is set in), 5 years after the Emperor's death by the Triple Alliance at Endor, the main Galactic Empire under Darth Vader (Blue on the map) has been pushed back to the colonies, with only a small pocket left in the Mid Rim. The entire Outer Rim had to be abandoned early in the Interregnum after the Battle of Eriadu, a humiliating event that also began the fragmentation of the Empire in earnest. Whether driven by genuine doubts of Lord Vader's ability to rule the Empire or by simple opportunistic grabs for power, several high ranking Imperials like Grand Moff Ardus Kaine, Warlord Zsinj, and Director Ysanne Isard have broken away of the Empire to form their own regimes, taking vital planets and warships with them. To make matters even worse, the war and political infighting has forced the Empire to halt serious attempts to destroy the Rebellion, which has grown much stronger after key worlds like Mon Calamari and Bothawui united much of the fringe of Imperial Space into the New Republic. The old fashioned Rebel Scum have substantially improved their fleet as well, leading ever more ambitious strikes into the heart of Imperial territory. The Empire still has the single strongest military in the galaxy and control over the most important planets in the core worlds, but with so many enemies attacking its much reduced borders, optimism is a hard thing to find in the Empire these days. And for an Empire founded on security and order, that is a damaging blow to its claim that it alone has the authority to rule the galaxy.
The Gameplay Mechanic
So now, what exactly is this Morale System you may ask? In a nutshell, it is a gameplay mechanic that severely punishes Galactic Empire players for losing control of planets. With both the Imperial Navy and the civilian population at the brink of despair, any bit of bad news can be enough to seriously impact your war effort. The moment a planet you control is lost, every single ship and planet you control will get some very nasty debuffs that will seriously undermine your military, cultural and economic strength.
Let me repeat that. Whenever you lose a planet, whether it is your capital or an insignificant asteroid in the middle of nowhere, every planet you control will take substantial penalties to tax income, shipbuilding time, and culture spread rate for a long period of time as the resolve of the overworked civilian population begins to crumble. There's also an immediate hit to allegiance, so losing several planets in a short period of time might even cause revolts and revolutions against Imperial rule. The Imperial Navy is no less impacted, as the morale of your military plummets with each setback, reducing damage and durability of every combat unit in your fleet. Worse, for ships this is a stacking debuff, so losing multiple planets might reduce the mightiest fleet to a herd of sheep heading to the slaughter house, not unlike what happened the Imperial fleet at the canon Battle of Endor.
Implications of the Morale System
If these penalties seem excessively severe, they are supposed to be. Galactic Empire players have a great military and economy at their disposal, but they cannot use it to all out attack their enemies and hope to crush them quickly. It is vital that the Empire secures all the territory it recaptures, else they will be vulnerable to a single capitalship or siege frigate sneaking buy and taking the momentum out of the entire Imperial War effort. If you cannot even provide security to your people in these treacherous times, why do they bother surrender their freedoms and wealth to you? The end result is that the Morale System serves as a check on reckless Imperial Aggression and as an anti-snowball mechanic, as even the most powerful Galactic Empire player might see their faction crumble as they lose planets.
Ways to deal with the Morale System
Fortunately, Imperial Commanders have several tactics available to mitigate the potentially disastrous implications of the Morale System. Cheap planet health upgrades, shield generators and starbases can be used to make your planets difficult or impossible to take by force. Imperial Capitalships are extremely good at preventing revolts by repelling enemy culture, and while Imperial culture and oppression may not be appealing to foreign worlds, fear does make your culture more resistant to being pushed back. Finally, later in the game Imperial Admirals will have access to an important tech called "Symbolic Victory", which will remove all negative morale penalties from a fleet above a planet you retake, giving you a way to get your main combat force back to full strength. Hopefully it will be enough to fight off any enemies still attacking you while you wait for those other negative penalties in the other parts of your Empire to wear off.
Finally, if you hate this entire mechanic and think it is a terrible idea, don't worry, you can still get your fix of dagger shaped warships. The other subfaction of the Empire, the Imperial Warlords, are not influenced by the Morale System, though they have other weaknesses you'll have to deal with.