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Stainless Steel Studios



T (Teen)



November 2001



- A bottomless pit that will gobble up hours of your time

- Moderately accessible but hard to master

- Wide-open gameplay

- Good graphics



- A bottomless pit that will gobble up hours of your time

- May be a little to deep for some

- Some aspects so subtle you don’t know they’re there (i.e. Morale)



Review: WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos (PC)

Review: Battle Realms (PC)

Review: Empire Earth: Art of Conquest (PC)



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Empire Earth

Score: 8.7 / 10


As I sit typing this, I’m grappling with the thought of trying to review a game that attempts to model 500,000 years of human history.  From the far past to the not so distant future – stones to lasers.  I reach for the manual for some kind of possible guidance.  Catching my eye on page 141 is Strategist Hero unit Sargon of Akkad.  He looks uncannily like the most hunted man in recent memory, Osama bin Laden.  While this little tid-bit didn't help one bit grappling with the review I thought it was something to note.


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From that first thought of heaving rocks at people that you don’t like to deliberately dropping an atomic bomb to cause the maximum amount of damage, Empire Earth (EE) glorifies one of the basest aspects of human instincts: war.  Which is probably why it’s so enjoyable.


EE takes RTS games to another level.  With upwards of 200 distinctly different units, more resources to manage, a scenario editor, and much, much “history”, EE is going to keep you busy for years.  After putting in more hours than I care to mention, I can truly say EE’s one fine game.  Of course, every silver lining, no matter how big, has a cloud somewhere.





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Resource gathering has been upped to five different categories: stone, iron, gold, wood, and food.  So, if you’re comfortable with Red Alert’s one resource, EE will hit you like a ton of bricks.  You’ve got to be absolutely sure that all your civilians are collecting (or building or populating) something all the time or you’ll be SOL when you start amassing armies and upgrading them.  The actual upgrading process is very easy.  For example, clicking on a cavalry unit brings up a set of attributes that can be 


upgraded.  Each attribute is graphically presented (e.g. a shoe with wings on it for unit speed) so there’s never any confusion.  Provided you have the necessary resources the upgrading process begins (and you can que the upgrading as well).  This saves having to center on a building and seeing what upgrades are available.  You’ll be thankful for this because your attention will be pulled four different ways most of the time – trying to fight on two fronts while attempting to send a group around to the back door can get cumbersome.  There are hot keys all over the place, which alleviates some of the stress of managing such large civilizations but it means remembering which key does what.  It’s all just a tad overwhelming, especially if EE is your first RTS game. (Adjusting the game speed can help.)


Most conventions of RTS are included.  Waypoints, unit grouping, etc. are all readily available.  What I particularly like is the ability to modify unit behavior and put unit formations to good use.  Modifying unit behavior is achieved by selecting a unit (or group) of units then setting the behavior to Scout, Stand Ground, Guard, or Aggressive.  (The default mode is Aggressive, meaning your military units go rushing forward no matter what.)  The unit formation can spell success if used correctly.  Using artillery in tandem with smaller and quicker ground units is essential.  The infantry units allow you to have a line of site for the long range units.  (I always wound up forgetting this basic point and my artillery would try to defend themselves from infantry – usually shooting the shells straight up and destroyed either by the enemy or by the splash damage of their own shell.)  Fog of war is in full effect – even in the 21st Century.  Let me be totally clear about this – I hate fog of war.  Ever since the days of Dune and WarCraft I’ve hated it and it’s no different here.  (During the four campaigns – Greek, English, German, Russian – I came to loathe all aspects of the fog of war in EE.)


The interface layout doesn’t clutter the screen.  Everything is clear and concise.  Those familiar with Age of Empires shouldn’t having any problems coming to grips with how things work, but for the neophyte there is a learning campaign.  The actual gameplay graphics are good.  The 3D engine allows you to zoom in on the action – there’s nothing quite like pitting two massive forces against each other and zooming in to watch the carnage.  Zoomed in, the characters are necessarily blocky to keep the framerates up.  95% of the time you’ll be zoomed out as far as possible to see what’s going on – zooming in is just for thrills.  (The engine doesn’t allow you to rotate your view.)  The animations of everything – mechanized units, buildings on fire, the ambient environmental effects – add the eye-candy many expect.  While things can get confusing when your forces exceed 50 units this is no different than other RTS games and it has similar solutions so I can’t really take points off.  Sound is equally good and shoots for realism over the fantastic.


EE has many options open from the initial menu.  Multiplayer should be high on everyone’s list to try.  There are random maps (B-52s vs. stone-throwing cavemen, anyone?), four campaigns, and an option to play stand-alone user created scenarios.  Certainly more than enough for any RTS fan.  The included scenario editor will precipitate a torrent of fan maps.  Even if you only played the campaigns there are more hours to be had playing than some entire RTS games.  The enemy AI borders on omniscience.  Depending on the difficulty level you can expect the enemy to be extremely efficient at collecting more resources, building bigger armies, and kicking your backside six ways from the Paleolithic.  Some practice and proper troop placement can alleviate this somewhat, but playing on anything other than Easy you might find yourself cursing the game designers.


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With all the concentration on war, EE also allows for you to win by building a Wonder (and in some cases is necessary).  But considering the sizeable amount of resources required, building a strike force might be easier.


Empire Earth lives up to its name.  It’s epic in scope and every rabid RTS fan will probably love what it has to offer.  And it does have a lot to offer.  New players should approach with some caution and be ready to put in some time learning the various aspects like troop training, upgrading, effectively building walls, and managing the various resources.  It’s enjoyable, but because of the top-heavy resource management it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.


- Omni


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