Empire Earth: Is it Better Than Age of Empires 2 or Rise of Nations? (4 out of 5)
Empire Earth (EE) was an ambitious endeavor from Stainless Steel Studios at the time when Age of Empires II was one of the most popular real time strategy games. Released in 2001, the game borrowed ideas and graphics from the AoE series, but added many innovative features, units and campaigns. It went beyond the “Ages” and added its own “Epochs” beginning with the Neanderthal to Nanotechnology age. The timeline of this game was more outreached and advanced than Rise of Nations--a game released 2 years after EE. Players not only have the opportunity to experience the World War II era, but also see the future. With fourteen different Epochs and very huge maps, the game allowed gamers to relive historic battles and have a glimpse of unnerving futuristic wars.
Gameplay (4 out of 5)
Empire Earth offers a good amount of variation in gameplay. There are different modes including single player skirmishes, campaigns and an extensive game editor. The single player mode is divided into standard and tournament game types. The main difference between these two is the speed and costs. Standard mode allows players to gather resources at lesser speeds whereas the costs of creating units and buildings are less in tournament mode.
Victory conditions in EE are not diverse. You will have to capture territories or kill each unit and destroy buildings to achieve victory. Thankfully, there’s an exception to the standard victory conditions. Players can build six different wonders of the world and defend them from other civilizations. If you destroy all wonders, you win the game.
The game has four challenging campaigns associated with different civilizations and nations including the Germans, Russians, ancient Greeks and Medieval British. The campaigns range from historical Hundred Years Wars to the intense Trojan War of the ancient Greeks. A huge game like EE should have added more scenarios. Fortunately, there is a mod site called EE Heaven offering ambitious scenarios and custom maps concerning historical and fictional battles.
Although Empire Earth has over 20 civilizations to select, the difference in them is limited to economic and military benefits. Real time strategy games like AoE and Rise of Nations have different civilizations, each with unique technologies and bonuses, which unfortunately is not available in this game. However the lack of bonuses and extra abilities will not hamper your gameplay experience. You will have many different units with their own unique ways to defeat enemies. Your ability to create units and place them in strategic positions will determine how you tackle your opponents. Towers and defensive walls have to be built to avoid enemy infiltration at the earliest. The defense walls, also seen in the AoE series, evolve from a simple brick wall to laser fortifications in the modern and nano age. The walls, towers and the Anti-aircraft guns placed at the right place makes the game pretty engaging.
Gameplay–Features (4 out of 5)
Although there are unique units and variety in gameplay, the graphics is not up to the mark. The units and buildings in Empire Earth lack detail and the terrain looks very flat. The sound effects of war-cries or battle guns are pretty well conceived and are similar to real battles.
While the prehistoric epochs are more like a scissors-paper-rock game, the later epochs, particularly the atomic and the digital ones, offer depth and strategy. The strategy in the final epoch (Nano age) may not impress some RTS fans since it relies more on those heavy mech warriors and aircrafts. The more you have the better chances of winning the last epoch, thus belittling the possibility of any strategy.
The variety in units makes the game very colorful. For example, the Modern Atomic Epoch has 6 different types of aircraft units ranging from F-14 fighter/bombers to A-10 anti-tanks. There are many infantry units such as snipers, bazookas, machine gunners, marines etc. The battleships and submarines also add to the variety. The Nano-age has the most awesome advanced units ever imagined. You will encounter strange hero units like Cyborg Molotov and Molly Ryan and the coolest Cybers including Hyperion and Hades. These units can walk over cliffs and under water, whereas other Cybers are reminiscent of the Transformers. The Hero units have special abilities. They can don the role of a medic or can reduce unit damages inflicted by enemy units. This science-fictional aspect of Empire Earth is very impressive, yet you will have to rely more on cybers and futuristic aircrafts such the Sea King and Phoenix fighter to win skirmish battles.
Although this game may remind you of Age of Empires or Rise of Nations, the huge maps, different units and infinite hours of gameplay makes it a solid real time strategy game.
Graphics (3 out of 5)
Empire Earth is a 3D game with units and buildings rendered with utmost dedication and hard work. But compared to games like Rise of Nations or AoE 2, the graphics fall a bit short. The terrain looks very gaudy and the buildings lack any level of detail. They look plain toy structures with no impressive features.
The zoom option in EE is pretty impressive as it lets you zoom right up to a unit’s face. But this feature has its own disadvantage. The more you zoom in the worst the graphical experience. The 3D units look very blocky and their faces look very flat, like paper cutouts.
EE has different types of maps ranging from the small, mid-range, large and huge. But there are empty spaces shown at places where the map ends. The black void shown at the end of the map makes it look very untidy and more of a table top strategy game. The non-infantry units are pretty good compared to infantry, particularly the ones in the Atomic and Nano Age. Overall, the graphics are not up to the mark if compared to its rivals.
Sounds (3 out of 5)
The music is quite similar to Rise of Nations and AoE series. The mood changes with different circumstances. The soothing melody switches to something melodramatic when war strikes between you and your opponents. However, you may get bored after some time and switch off the music because of its repetitiveness.
The sound effects are pretty impressive. The units in each Epoch will respond to your commands in a different way. The prehistoric units’ response will be more gibberish and won’t make any sense, but as you progress you will hear responses in better English like ‘Yes Sir’ or ‘I Will’ from your units. The sound effects of the mechanized units sound similar to their real world counterparts. Overall, the sound department fares pretty well than the graphics.
Fourteen different Epochs, vast maps, different units and futuristic robots—Empire Earth serves everything in one platter. While the graphics may let you down, the gameplay is promising. You will have many strategic options to defend your civilization and attack enemies. The campaigns and skirmishes let you recreate history and guarantee hours of non-stop fun.
Processor: Pentium II or Higher
Operating System: Windows 98/XP
RAM (minimum): 64 MB
Hard Disk Space: 413 MB
DirectX 8 compatible graphics and sound card