It was unanimous that the land battles were less interesting than the space conflicts, due in part to repetitive environments on the ground. Additionally, many reviewers had issues with the game's lack of strategic depth. However, Petroglyph has been applauded for presenting the Star Wars universe on a much grander scale than has been seen in any of the franchise's other titles to date, and it's quite possible they simply wanted to make Empire at War as accessible as the Battle for Middle-earth series.
- GameSpot (87/100) was impressed with the Star Wars authenticity and overall presentation: "Logical differences in the optimal playing style between the Empire and Rebellion, as well as an epic presentation befitting of the license, contribute to a fantastic overall package that any strategy-game player can appreciate."
- 1UP (80/100) enjoyed the Galactic Conquest mode, but had this to say about single player: "Campaign mode moves at a sort of jerky pace, and everything moves too quickly to really enjoy. It's climactic, yes, but the abruptness cuts short your time to enjoy finally accessing your ultimate technologies."
- IGN (76/100) would have liked to see larger maps, but enjoyed the action: "While the galactic management of the game is satisfying, the game really doesn't take off until you actually take part in the full battles. The space battles come damn close to capturing the excitement of the films. It should be mentioned that, while heroes can play a big role in space battles, they tend to be much more effective on the ground."
- GameSpy (70/100) had issues with the interface and too many hidden features that should have been more obvious: "It does a wonderful job of bending, breaking, and often reinventing the normal RTS rules to create as Star Wars a feel as you could possibly hope for... But the bad news is that it's not easy to play Empire at War so that it lives up to its fullest potential."