The other day I gave a friend of mine a game that I hadn’t played in years because she was looking for something else to play. Not an overly exciting event, but it got me thinking about the game all over again, so I thought I’d bring it up here. The game I gave was Empire Earth, and it’s one of the few RTS games I was ever any good at.
Turn based strategy has always been my forte compared to real time games. I just can’t keep up with the computer or another decent player on any RTS – Starcraft, Warcraft, Age of Empires, Battle for Middle Earth and I haven’t even tried the RTS version of Blood Bowl yet (it has the option to switch from one to the other, which is quite cool). On Empire Earth, I didn’t always win, but I didn’t always get crushed, and I think that came down to one thing – walls. Big walls, sometimes several layers of them. I could build a defensive system on that game to rival the Maginot Line, except it actually covers my whole border. But anyway, I should tell you about the game first.
Empire Earth is a cross between Age of Empires and Civilization, in that it has the same RTS, resource collecting, technology upgrading, unit building gameplay as Age of Empires, but on a time scale more appropriate to a Civilization game. Instead of the 3 or 4 ages you used to get in AoE, you take your culture from the Prehistoric Age through about 15 different ages all the way to the Nano Age with awesome cyber-warriors named after the Greek gods. It’s truly an epic-scale game – axes and death rays in an hour or two. I don’t really remember AoE that well, but I think Empire Earth’s units are all designed to look more realistic, more accurate, and there are a LOT of units. From clubmen to swordsmen to the arquebus and musketeers to riflemen to marines to laser-gun wielding guardsmen, and that’s just a fraction of one group of warriors. Again, its the scale of Empire Earth that really grips you. The graphics are smooth and pretty decent, which means that the units all look good, as do the buildings. The campaign mode is fairly entertaining even if it is very short. However, it is a game that is meant to be played multiplayer. The ZeroPunctuation review of Halo 3 gave it a mediocre rating because its campaign mode was rubbish, and stated that he wasn’t interested in the multiplayer, which I don’t understand. The Halo franchise is a multiplayer series, especially by the time of the 3rd installment. I think a game should be judged on what it was designed to do.
|Riflemen and Cannons (Halfway through Game)|
|Airports and Tanks (still only 75% through the tech tree!)|
Anyway, though the game has the epic time scale of Civilization, it lacks any ability to conduct meaningful diplomacy with the AIs, which again, is not the point of the game, so fair enough. Most multiplayer matches are a straight resource-grabbing, tech-maxing deathmatch, and it’s a lot of fun. My strategy for all such games has always been a low-military, high-resource and high-tech start off, and then build up a military once you have the superior capabilities. In Empire Earth, this means spamming workers until you get the ability to build walls, at which point I surround myself with massive defences and then let everyone else fight amongst themselves until I’m ready to fight with my tanks against their musketmen. This is generally a good plan, unless they get more resources... which happens. Still, I can usually make it a good fight, and the AI is good enough to provide a solid challenge at any level. I’ve certainly never felt like it was an easy game. Then again, if I’m so bad at other RTS’s, then maybe this game is actually too easy for most.
Generally, Empire Earth is a fun game because of the wide variety of units you can obtain, and the challenge the AI provides. I do like just creating 3 snipers, calling them the Last of the Mohicans, and sending them out to do as much damage as they can, or creating a group of knights, calling them the Knights of the Round Table, and going on a bit of a charge for a while. The Three Musketeers generally don’t last long. I’ve given the game away now and so likely will never play it again, which is a little sad. I’d played the game to death over the years, but still, I’m sad to see it go. So here’s me giving a salute to that game which gave me a real appreciation for the fun an RTS can be, and for draining away a significant part of my life. GG.