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Empires of Steel - Civilization Wannabe or Genuine Strategy Game?

by: Christian Cawley ; edited by: M.S. Smith ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

A turn based strategy game of conquest, Empires of Steel features resources, city management and even a technology tree. Similarities with Civilization aside, does Empires of Steel have an identity of its own?

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    Turn Based 20th Century Conquest

    Utilizing resources, landscapes and alliances, Empires of Steel is a turn based world conquest game set in the 20th century that puts the player in charge of a major international power. At the disposal of the player are ground, sea and air units as well as various resources that can be used to build new units and traded with opponents.

    Although first and foremost a game of conquest, Empires of Steel is best described to strategy newcomers as “Civilization set in the 20th century" – the focus on resources, alliances and technology trees adds a dimension to the game that other war strategy games don’t have.

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    Empires of Steel System Spec

    The Empires of Steel technology tree grounds the game decisively in the 20th century   Requiring at least 1 GB of memory, 200 MB of disk space and Windows XP or later, Empires of Steel also needs a system equipped with a graphics accelerator. It was tested on Windows 7 Ultimate for this review, so users with new systems shouldn’t have any problem running the game. Older PCs or laptops without any form of enhanced graphics chips will have problems, so the publishers recommend that you download the demo first, available from

    Interaction with Empires of Steel is via mouse and keyboard.

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    Getting to Grips with 20th Century Strategy

    The main Empires of Steel play area - note the units and two cities   Decent real world strategy games are few and far between, and with Empires of Steel expectation had been for a game that would combine a quick-start mentality with the depth of traditional strategy games. While there is scope for scenarios set around the main conflicts of the 20th century, sadly the quick start element is non-existent.

    This isn’t of complete detriment of the game. The single player mode can be slow, but multiplayer games have the advantage of a real life opponent. However, there really shouldn’t be any strategy games released without at least the option of a quick start mode.

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    Graphics and Sound

    These units are available early in the game in Empires of Steel   Visually, Empires of Steel has a slightly cartoony feel which distracts slightly from the serious nature of the gameplay – an odd choice of colours and unit design that doesn’t sit well in a game of conquest.

    Elsewhere the game area seems to be a little sluggish, with fog of war lifted far too slowly by moving pieces, but generally the graphics and interface are functional and menus and buttons are well positioned and organized.

    The use of sound is minimal – a good thing as inappropriate soundtracks have ruined too many strategy games. Unit-specific sound effects dominate – a great opportunity to stick on a CD or MP3 of your favourite tunes while playing.

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    Where Is the Substance?

    Despite the concept and the visual and audio aspects of the game – not to mention the friendly system requirements – Empires of Steel is missing something vital.

    Visually it sets itself up as a god game of the Civilization/Sim City variety, with the tech trees of the former and city development of the latter, but there is nothing of any substance.

    Empires of Steel has no real identity of its own – no firm concept or mythos in which to place the action. Formulating the game as a WWI/WWII conquest mission with random maps also available would have been a better option than how the game is actually presented – random maps with real world maps available.

    While a disappointing game, Empires of Steel may be something of interest to hardcore strategy gamers.