An RTS with a time span from prehistoric to futuristic... but has this technological RTS been outdone by the Age of Empires' steel and arrows?
Developed by Stainless Steel Studios, published by Sierra, Empire Earth was released late 2000/early 2001. With Rick Goodman, designer of Age of Empires, leading the design team it promised to be a brilliant game. With eager anticipation I awaited my copy and got it mid-2001, I ripped open the glossy box and stuck in to find...
Astounding graphics and a powerful soundtrack greet you as you start your first game. I chose to play around with a Random Map game at first, and after scratching my head for five minutes, searching for where I choose my race, I started the game. Straight away I cringed at this choice in design. No longer do you choose your race before the game, rather you may choose it at any time in the first five minutes during the game. This is wrong, it tends to emphasise the fact you are playing a game and detract from the fantasy realm it is meant to immerse you in.
Anyhow, I continued on without too much worry, choosing the Ancient Greeks. The game played out almost identically to Age of Empires. The buildings had obvious variances, but the basic units and structures remained mostly the same (Town Centre, Villagers, Clubmen etc.) Resources have very high quantities (a forage patch has over 10, 000 units) and this was a bad choice. As you advance through the Epochs (similar to ages in Age of Empire), you can still have the same forage patch from the Prehistoric Age in the Bronze Age. Dissapointing, to say the least, it detracts from both difficulty, need for strategy (i.e. Resource management) and realism.
As I mentioned before, however, the graphics are nice, and the motion is fluent. Battles are fun and look great, you can see each arrow setting out and lodging into the ground when they miss their target, and if you zoom in to the ground level perspective you can see them swining their swords and blocking, counter attacking etc. It is quite detailed and very fun to watch.
As you advance through the Epochs it is incredibly exciting to see your new units and watch your Empire spread, moving through from Prehistoric times to Modern and futuristic. There are an immense multitude of units, upgrades from previous Epochs mainly, however some Epochs do occasionally have a new unit unique to it and those after it. Also, Heroes can be built at your Town Centre and no longer are restricted to Campaigns and user made scenarios. The heroes provide the troops with morale and are often good fighters themselves, greatly enhancing your army.
Population Limits are huge, they can be in upwards of 600, and no longer require houses and Town Centres to increase your population limit to maximum. It is already at maximum to begin with, and houses and Town Centres instead provide morale like Heroes do, making your units tougher when defending.
Despite all this, Empire Earth is unfortuneately dissapointing. Once you reach the Nano Age (the final Epoch) and have completed the game, the next game lacks the mystery and excitement that the first one had. As I have played Age of Empires I and Age of Empires II to death, the game really didn't offer that much of a deviation from them. It felt the same, it looked similar, and the AI intelligence was both irritating and inferior to Age of Empires. Overall, Empire Earth offers little to old Age of Empires fans as it grows tiresome, however it is still a great game and will be welcomed by new players to the genre. I still reccommend Age of Empire veterans try this out, it lasted me a few months, and I definently reccommend anyone new to this genre consider this one.