reviews\ Nov 28, 2001 at 7:00 pm

Empire Earth - PC - Review

Civilization games are nothing new to the world of PC gaming. In fact, even Sierra has published its share of games in the genre – everything from Acropolis to Homeworld.

So what makes Empire Earth special? Maybe it’s because is spans 500,000 years of human history, beginning in the distant past and carrying through to 200 years into the future. Maybe because it’s high quality graphical elements give a vivid cyber-life to the different time periods. Maybe because – though the first release from Stainless Steel Studios – it had the talents of Rick Goodman (the lead designer of Age of Empires) on the project.

Whatever the reason, this is a game that, while employing many of the same elements of other civ games, manages to come across with a freshness that will entreat fans of the genre.

Resource gathering is important to advancement of your civilization. And you really cannot live in harmony for long.

There are several different ways to play the game. You can select an open-ended format, where you pick a civilization and then try to guide it successfully through the ages. Or you can play one of the four campaigns (Greek, English, German and Russian) included with the program. There is a scenario editor, random map boards, a tournament mode, and multiplayer options (which basically are of the ‘last one standing’ variety).

You want heroes? We got heroes …

In a game where domination away from home is exceeded only by contentment at home, it is wise to have leaders that the people can look up to, respect, perhaps fear a bit, but will follow. Enter the hero. In Empire Earth, heroes stand as symbols of the civilization. They lead or guide troops, and can often make the difference in a battle’s outcome.

Empire Earth allows players to generate historic heroes at a town center or capitol. There are two types of heroes: warrior and strategist. One leads on the front lines, one leads from behind them.

Because the game in translated into epochs, certain heroes are appropriate for the epoch the game is in. For example, in the copper age, you can generate either Gilgamesh (warrior) or Sargon of Akkad (strategist).  As you move into the Bronze Age, you can upgrade to either Hannibal (warrior), or Alexander the Great (strategist). Get the idea?

The game even has heroes created for future epochs, like the Digital Age, and the Nano Age. Each comes with a complete bio so you will be able to choose which hero is the right one to guide your civilization.

One if by land, two if by sea, three if by air …

Graphically this game is rather well done. The three-dimensional environmental graphics read well, and the mapboards are covered by the fog of war that can only be lifted through exploration. Add to the many flavors of eye candy the different units – including sea vessels and aircraft – and you have a visual delight.

If there is a drawback, it is with the camera zooming in on a scene. The graphics look fine when pulled back, but tend to get blurry the closer you get to the object of the zoom. And there doesn’t seem to be any way to rotate the camera to allow a better view of a single object or citizen. During gameplay a citizen was behind a building that was just built, in fact, the character was so close to it that it is almost impossible select the character without selecting the building.

Musically the game is very strong, and the battle sound effects are well rendered. This program uses narration to advance the missions and years. At times the narration was well behind what was happening onscreen, and the voice acting was a little suspect at times.

It ain’t heavy, it’s the manual, and yes, it is heavy, or at least thick …

The manual, all 238 pages of it are quite entertaining. It is well illustrated, and does a very nice job of explaining the fundamentals of the game.

However, if you have played other civ games, you can use the manual as light reading material only. This game plays like the majority of the better civ games. The player interface is intuitive and if you hover your cursor over them, what each button does is explained. You send citizens of your civilization to work gathering resources by selecting the citizen, then clicking on what you want them to do. You can group select by dragging your cursor over the citizens you wish to band together.

To build a structure, pick the building you wish to construct (assuming, of course, that you have enough resources to pay for it) and then position it on the revealed map. If the building is red, it can’t be built there. If it is green, release the mouse button and workers will begin the construction.

Empire Earth has scope, it has many of the elements that have made other games in the genre successful, and it has a nice fresh feel to it all. There are, obviously, subtle differences between this game and a game like Age of Empires, but the general game play is still there. This is a solid game that is enjoyable to play.

Install: Easy
This game takes up 407 megs of hard-drive space, but goes on easily.

Gameplay: 8
Once you are into a scenario, this is nonstop resource gathering and battle.

Graphics: 7.8
The graphics are terrific from a distance, but once you zoom in, the graphics become blurry.

Sound: 7.5
The music is very good, but the narration can fluctuate between very good and very poor.

Difficulty: 8
This game is designed so that players of other civ games can jump in and play with little help. The AI is extremely well designed, and if you play at the harder difficulty settings, you will be in for a rough time. The player interface is designed for easy access.

Concept: 8
The civilization genre is certainly nothing new to the PC world. This product does add to in several areas, provides a few more challenges than some, and must be regarded above average in this category.

Multiplayer: 7.5
The game has several options for multiplayer gaming, but they are mostly of the kill-or-be-killed variety. The single player game is much more involved.

Overall: 8
This game is very deep, with some solid graphical elements and, at times, suspect vocal characterizations. This is a good civilization game, capable of taking on the elite and exceeding them. If you enjoy this genre, this is a game worth looking into.


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