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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Real-time Strategy

 

Publisher

Midway

 

Developer

Reality Pump

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2005

 

 

- Great looking game

- The basics of real-time strategy games are accounted for

- Customization options are good if you like to get your hands dirty with the details

- Once technology is researched it stays researched

 

 

- Campaigns are marred by bad localization

- Interface is only so-so

- Extremely difficult to defeat the alien species

 

 

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Earth 2160

Score: 7.0 / 10

 

As a real-time strategy game, Earth 2160 almost crosses the line from being an action-filled strategy game experience to an exercise in micromanagement hell.  The balancing act results in a definite oscillation between fun (the thrill of victory) and outright contempt (the agony of defeat) as you plod through the four very different campaigns. 

 

earth 2160          earth 2160

 

If you're new to the Earth games, the basic premise is that Earth has been destroyed and what's left of humanity is a ragtag bunch of freaks and robots allied with one of three factions: the Eurasian Dynasty, the Lunar Corporation (an all-female enclave) and the Union of Civilized States.  Earth 2160 throws in a fourth group, an alien species that constantly mutates into more powerful forms.  Unfortunately the single-player campaigns are marred by some very bad localization issues (i.e. bad translations) and some mediocre voice acting.  But that's small 

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potatoes in comparison to the play balancing when it comes to the alien species, 

which possess frightening power.  It's a catch-22 because they're super easy to win with, but when forced against them... you've got to show up in numbers and exercise some real strategy.

 

Earth 2160 features an extensive tech tree that players will either love or hate.  Research plays a key role in almost every aspect of the game and 

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the good news is that once a new technology has been researched, the technology remains available.  (No more researching again and again just because the setting has changed!)  Mostly the technology is used in the manufacture of weapons and equipment.  This allows the player to create a specific offensive strategy to whichever foe you're facing.  This ability to get your hands dirty with vehicle design is better-suited to turn-based strategy titles but it actually works in some part because the changes and upgrades of the various vehicles have measurable and visible differences.

 

The engine powering Earth 2160 is phenomenal at both the large and small details.  There are several layers of zoom, which are not quite of the Black & White 2 standard, but it's sufficient to offer a wide view of the battlefield and a tight view of only a handful of foot soldiers or vehicles (in all their customized glory).  The explosions offer much satisfaction with realistic lighting effects and the the small touches like smoke trails behind rockets convey a sense of real, explosive power.  Surprisingly enough, the game manages to move at a fairly consistent framerate, though this may have something to do with my tweaking and adjusting before even beginning the game since my PC falls in the gray area between the minimum and recommended requirements.  Even then, with the details toned down, there's still much to appreciate.

 

earth 2160          earth 2160

 

The real-time strategy standards of resource gathering (this time metal, water, and crystal), base building, and armament build-up is in full play.  The process to gather the resources, build the bases and create massive armies varies somewhat on the faction you're playing, but the triumvirate of real-time strategy still plays an important role.

 

Almost any real-time strategy fan will tell you that an interface alone can make or break a fast-paced strategy game.  Earth 2160 features an interface that is all over the map, literally.  Tabs for various functions are splashed to the four corners of the game screen which can make quick access somewhat problematic.  It also doesn't help that the building tab has a lot of selections which are practically buried.  Most of the conventions of grouping units, etc. are accounted for as is control of a "hero" unit(s), but when it's coupled with only a so-so interface it takes a bit of the fun out of the game.  However, I give some credit to the developer for including a picture-in-picture feature.  The player can lock a view of smaller area on the map which appears in the top left of the screen. (Most of the time I had this centered on my base.)  This really does help in keeping an eye on two places at once (and the radar display helps too).

 

The included multiplayer is just fine, if you can find a game.  Earth 2160 was released many months ago in Europe and from the online reports the game has a strong online following.  Not so in North America.  What games I have been able to play from start to finish (usually to defeat) were fun and stable for the most part, even if I did suffer through a bit of lag. (To Earth 2160's credit I think it was connection that was at fault.)

 

Aficionados of the real-time strategy genre might want to buy Earth 2160 even though there are almost too many options to consider when it comes to vehicle design and the lackluster campaigns could have benefited from a lot more attention.  The game still manages to pack in some thrills and tense encounters, but they may be too far apart for anyone other than a fan of the genre.

 

- D.D. Nunavut

(February 16, 2006)

 

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