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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Real-time Strategy

 

Publisher

Activision

 

Developer

Stainless Steel Studios

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q4 2003

 

 

- Deep, deep game for strategy fans

- Easy to dive in if you’ve played Empire Earth

- Huge battles

- Moves toward refinement of the genre, rather than revolution

 

 

- New players will be overwhelmed

- In-game cutscenes could have used work

 

 

Review: Empire Earth (PC)

Review: Empire Earth - Art of Conquest (PC)

Review: Rise of Nations (PC)

Review: C&C Generals (PC)

 

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Empires: Dawn of the Modern World

Score: 8.5 / 10

 

It’s next to impossible to write about Empires: Dawn of the Modern World (DMW) without mentioning Stainless Steel Studios’ last project, Empire Earth (EE) – a real-time strategy game that stretched across many millennia to provide the length and breadth of warfare, from the Neolithic to the atom bomb.  While DMW is more focused than EE – a mere 1,000 years is trekked – the basics remain the same, so much so this could easily have been a sequel.

 

empires dawn of the modern world pc review          empires dawn of the modern world pc review

 

New players will be overwhelmed with learning DMW.  This may be the most unapologetic real-time strategy (RTS) game ever.  But if you had a firm handle on EE you’ll have no problem jumping into DMW because the controls are practically identical but for the inexperienced, the complexity is pretty high.

 

Also not changed to any drastic extent is the engine powering the game.  There have been improvements made but they’re mostly cosmetic – the original engine was pretty versatile.  There’s good camera control but with the size and scope of some battles, you’ll feel too close to the battlefield no matter how panned-out you are.  Sometimes it’s handy to zoom in and select specific units but it’s probably easier to learn the shortcut keys and create groups of units before running pell-mell into the opposition.  The in-game cutscenes are just okay – there’s no hi-res CG animation, which would have been a better way to highlight the stories told through the campaigns.  Of course, the upside is that anyone making scenarios can also include their own cutscenes.

 

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In the campaigns, you’ll face opposition across a thousand years, through five different time periods and in a variety of environments.  Like most other RTS games, three campaigns can be approached in any order.  Unlike most other RTS games, the three campaigns are radically different from one another – there’s not much in the way of “same unit, different skin” – so you have to re-align your tactics as you progress.

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Stainless Steel managed to the mix-up the gameplay options – it’s not simply a matter of building a huge force, a giant economy, a Wonder then flattening the opposition.  (Although, there is a fair amount of that.)  For example, there are careful cause and effect choices to make that, get this, actually effect the level of difficulty.

 

empires dawn of the modern world pc review         empires dawn of the modern world pc review

 

You’ll still run into common problems seemingly endemic to RTS games such as the “my buddy just got shot, but maybe if I stand still no one will notice me” syndrome and some path-finding “quirks” but the frequency of these problems is relatively low (particularly when you get your hands dirty with setting unit behaviors).  Be warned though, I have the feeling that the computer AI cheats on occasion.  It remains a feeling simply because I never had any solid proof, but it has been reported by other players.

 

Multiplayer is a great way to while away the hours (as are the single-player skirmishes) in two different modes: Action (or as they refer to it in the manual, Deathmatch) and Empire Builder.  Action games can be finished in a reasonable time limit, under 60 minutes.  But Empire Builder games can be truly epic.  Resources are plentiful, maps are huge, and battles are insane – when they happen.  None of my games have ever lasted this long, but I’ve heard some games lasting upwards of six hours.  Fortunately, epic face-offs can be saved and picked up again when all the players are online.

 

Empires: Dawn of the Modern World is an undeniable solid gaming experience that should be in the library of hardcore strategy fans.  Any failings are mostly made up for in Empire’s shear depth.

 

- Omni

(December 8, 2003)

 

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