*** Numerous Dialled-Down Yields! ***
I couldn't help but giggle. Not only are there massive, voluminous cannons with the output of pea-shooters (come on, guys, where's the earth-shattering kaboom?), but they constitute such a threat to Separatist forces that a retreat is issued. And, there are so many atrocious tactics here that I scarcely know where to begin.
But just as a first rough pass, let's look:
1. No air support: There are at least five jetpack-laden clones, but the jetpacks get only brief use in a cavalry-style raid. And even then they don't do it right . . . they just land on the ground in the open beside the enormous walker and start running and shooting like morons.
2. No use of high ground: With the quasi-exception of the cavalry raid, everyone is parked on ground level.
3. No perimeter scouts or spotters: Despite the presence of tall buildings useful for spotting, it appears that the Separatists, with dozens and dozens of droids and multiple ubertall walking weapon platforms, surprised the Republic forces by walking up the road to within half a mile before anyone really got wind of their attack.
4. No sensors: Carrying on from the above point, a tricorder would've been pure awesome here, since it seems that neither side knew what the other had even when they were within line of sight and half a mile away. The Separatist leader seemed astonished to learn that the Republic forces had those pea-shooter cannons, for instance.
5. Inconsistent use of cover: Multiple Republic AT-ST-style walkers just go meandering toward the Separatists right in the middle of the line of fire . . . little surprise that we see two of them blow up. Later, Obi-Wan orders a charge, and a group of clones go running right up the line of fire. The extraordinary thing is that some of them live, only to walk right up to droids and start smacking them around while the other droids scarcely notice. It's like fighting Civil-War-era Borg or something.
But surely it is I who must be mistaken. I mean, SW forces are all uber-elite, y'know, with kiloton-yield hand weapons, making them more than capable of spanking the pants off pajama-clad UFP hippies.
More seriously, there are instances of clones being flung backward by weapon hits, which speaks well for SW firepower . . . but it appears that those shots came from the big Separatist walkers anyway, which returns us to the "awful" category.
Now, I can revise and extend those remarks somewhat, and add (A SPOILER-STREWN) review of other issues:
Read forward at your own risk.
Last chance to not be spoiled . . .
1. First, let me note that indeed, the Republic soldiers did take up spotting positions later. There is no evidence of any sniping in use, but at least spotting did occur eventually. We can excuse the early lack of it as perhaps not having had time to climb some stairs or something.
(You would think given the lack of sensor equipment that this would've been a first priority, but I guess not.)
1a. The above having been said, there is mention of sensors later. On Tatooine, Separatist or Hutt sensors detect three lifeforms crossing the Dune Sea, and are able to distinguish between different the different lifeforms.
(I would at first have assumed . . . given that the Separatists on Tatooine at the time were not in a base or with an obvious large vessel nearby IIRC . . . that those were the Hutt's own sensors. However, given the plotline at this point and one of the lifeforms they found, it seems unlikely that the Hutts ever had this info. Thus I would presume those were Separatist sensors hidden away somewhere, possibly on the ship or ships that I don't recall seeing).
2. As known from the trailer, the Separatist forces retreat under a withering Republic cannonade. So poor is the command and control of the Separatists that the alien commander is ignorant of the presence of the cannons even while having other Trade Federation tanks blown up by them right beside him. When he finally talks to a forward droid and learns of them, he orders a full retreat.
Later, however, he executes a new plan. The Separatist forces on Christophsis had a Gungan-esque shield generator (at a fixed location instead of on a creature), implying that the technology is not unique to Naboo's waterways.
From a location perhaps a handful of kilometers distant . . . I'd call it a mile or two, but it is within line of sight and not on the horizon, in any case . . . the alien commander activates the shield, and begins expanding its radius to cover a new advance of his forces.
The Republic forces consider the tactical situation grim. The cannons are useless against the shield. Without time to take out enemy forces with the four or five cannons as they advance, what will happen is that the shield will pass over the Republic forces and the cannons with the droids right behind, at which point they'll destroy the cannons and overrun the Republic forces.
Evidently the cannons themselves were not only unshielded, but also didn't have the range to take out the shield generator as soon as the shield passed over. One gun moved forward could have poked through and fired, but instead . . .
Anakin and his new Padawan volunteer to try to get past the enemy lines and take out the shield generator on what ought to have been a suicide mission. Remarkably, however, the Separatist alien commander did not leave himself any reserve forces nor any large force guarding the shield generator . . . The Jedi meet one destroyer droid. Near the generator a handful of very heavy combat droids were present, but by the time they came out of hiding and attacked the Jedi were a couple of dozen meters away from the critical (and easily destroyed) shield generator anyway.
This gives the Republic forces the upper hand again, as does the arrival of reinforcements.
2a. We learn that clones and Jedi and people hiding from droids in little boxes can pass through the shield without ill effect. Clone cannon fire, however, is deflected.
This, plus the large beam/spread shield emission pattern, suggests that the Gungan-style shield is of a very different nature than the ray shields that trapped Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Palpatine in Ep3. Besides a different look (e.g. without the watery shimmer when struck), that one was said to be able to kill, though that could merely imply a much greater energy level.
3. The overall plot revolves around the retrieval of a kidnapped Hutt child, who happens to be Jabba's son. Because, in a Republic with trillions of common folk and with uncounted quadrillions in the galaxy as a whole, there are only actually like a dozen interesting people.
The kidnappers take the Huttlet to the planet Teth, said to be in "wild space", outside the range of the fighting. This strongly implies support for the fact that there's a lot more of the galaxy than what is contained within the Republic or Empire.
4. Did I see an Acclamator?
5. There was more of the same sort of in-atmosphere combat between front-line starships like we saw in RotS, but this time even lower. And not a mushroom cloud to be seen. Funny that.
6. Unless I'm mistaken, a Republic ship drops shields over its main hangar entrance (which on this Venator was actually the portal on the side . . . those got used more than once I believe). Droid fighters immediately kamikazed it, which is funny really . . . perhaps the smartest droids in the picture were the ones who killed themselves.
7. Speaking of droids, just wow. Many of the clones weren't all that bright in combat, either, but the droids are definitely not intellectual powerhouses when it comes to tactics and strategy.
Interestingly, however, the battle droids do have some level of autonomous thinking. A commanding droid's semi-retarded companion (who couldn't remember 13376245 when spoken to him, if I remember correctly) frequently debates tactics with him, requiring reminders of who is in charge. Of course, the commanding droid is not terribly brighter, given that as the retard falls to his disassembly the commander orders him to "get back here".
8. The bit with Republic walkers scaling a wall is interesting. They basically push their toes in the rockface, from what I saw in the trailers, but I didn't notice that maneuver in the theater.
The tactical utility of the whole operation is suspect, though. Scout troopers (in camouflage, but still with the funny hat brim on their helmets) had indicated that there was no way to land at the structure's top. However, we later see that there are multiple landing platforms. Further, even as they flew in the Republic soldiers ought to have noticed that they could just drop in at the front door. The losses incurred scaling the wall could not have been fewer than if they'd just dropped right in the middle of the show, or used sensors to find the other landing platform. Instead, R2 had to find reference to it in the location's computer system.
Again . . . lack of sensors kills these people. But still, the walker climbing routine is an impressive feat.
9. The show may end up giving us EU-inspired faster speeds. The action was quick fairly often, i.e. "OMG we have to be there tomorrow", while no distances were given.
The trips here include Coruscant to Christophsis, Christophsis to Teth, and Teth to Tatooine. The Teth to Tatooine trip takes less than a day, and possibly much less than a day. However, whereas Teth is wild space, Tatooine is merely deep in the outer rim. This is suggestive of speeds greater than the AotC example, though we'll have to see more about where wild space is considered to begin and such.
10. We also see our first Star Wars starbase. It was a relatively simple design . . . a central shaft (with some sort of peculiar cylindrical ship docking along the outer part, IIRC), with a toroidal area or spokes about a third of the way down, perhaps (we only got a glimpse, and as I write this it is several hours later, so pardon my memory).
Republic ships dock with their noses against the station. Presumably the cylindrical vessels are base resupply rockets, a la Progress and the ISS.
11. The ship shots are rather nice . . . there are a few good old fashioned ship beauty shots here.
12. Last but not least, this is a really violent show. We get to see heads from a multiple beheading, clones getting their heads blown off, clones getting blown up, clones getting picked up by the neck, shot through the torso, then tossed aside . . . all kinds of disquieting stuff. In that sense I think it might be more gruesome even than the films.
More to come as thoughts come to me . . .