Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Empire Earth: Gold Edition

Daily PC Game Review Score: 7.5 / 10
Game Category: Real Time Strategy
Date: 9 Feb 2011

Empire Earth: Gold Edition is a collection of two games - Empire Earth, the main game by Stainless Steel Studios (now defunct) released way back in 2001, and Empire Earth: The Art of Conquest expansion pack by Mad Doc Software (who were bought over by Rockstar New England) released one year later.

To describe the Empire Earth in a single game would be... EPIC!

This game is truly huge. As you watch the starting movie, you first get to see a stone-age caveman rallying his tribe for war, which then transits to an admiral issuing commands to his men aboard a ship caught in a frantic battle, which then transits to a World War hero ordering his tanks to fire at an approaching formation... and finally to a space age soldier (who looks suspiciously like Arnold Schwarzenegger) fighting a desperate war amongst men and huge lumbering machines.

In fact, if you survive the four campaigns from the main game, you would have travelled from 10,000 BC all the way to the end of the 21st century.

Welcome to your Time Machine!
When you start up the game proper, you will notice you have the option of Single Player and Multiplayer.

Previously you were able to play on Activision's online server, but the service was terminated in Oct 2008. Multiplayer mode is now only available for LAN and Direct Mode. There is an attempt by some great guys attempting to revive multiplayer gaming for Empire Earth, but I was not able to join a session to comment on the multiplayer aspect today. I would recommend awarding another point to the score if you do get Multiplayer to work.

The good stuff

Fortunately for us, there is still the Single Player mode available for play. Now, this will truly be worth all your time and devotion. Don't listen to the naysayers, the game is fun especially after you finish the earlier missions in each of the campaigns.

There are a total of 7 campaigns in the entire Gold Edition with the first four on this list coming from the main game - Empire Earth.
  • You get to play the ancient Greeks and eventually be able to lead Alexander the Great. I thought the Trojan War map was the highlight for this campaign.
  • The medieval British campaign focuses on the Battle of Hastings as well as the magnificent Battle of Waterloo.
  • Next you get to play the Germans as the game takes you through World War I - fancy blowing up the Eiffel Tower? Well, you can in this campaign.
  • The last campaign in the main game allows you to follow our fictitious hero, Grigor Illyanich Stoyanovich, on his quest to return mother Russia "to its rightful place as a powerful and respected nation".
The Pacific Campaign of World War II
The Art of Conquest expansion provides these three great campaigns:
  • Ancient Rome and Julius Caesar features in the first campaign.
  • The Pacific theater of World War II features four great Battles - Midway, Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf, and Iwo Jima.
  • The last campaign is a futuristic one that brings you into outer space and features an Asian background.
Are these the renowned Knights of the Round Table?
As for the game play proper, you get a whopping total of 15 epochs to traverse in your slow and arduous climb from the ancient past to the modern day and into the future. Each epoch requires you to build key buildings before you can progress to the next one. The epochs include the following Ages: Prehistoric, Stone, Copper, Bronze, Dark, Middle, Renaissance, Imperial, Industrial, Atomic (comprising of World War I, World War II, and Modern), Digital, Nano, and Space.

Each epoch has their own special units. Let's take the selection of Infantry units as an illustration... according to the large tech tree PDF provided with the game, you will get the phalanx in the 4th epoch, the halbardier in the 8th epoch, and heavy mortar in the 12th epoch.

Did you notice the 3D view angle can be tilted?
You can also assign yourself a civilization template to receive bonuses during a game. There are a total 23 Civilizations to choose from. If you are brave, you could even design your own with the Civilization Builder.

The tech tree also contain the all important relationship diagram that gives you an idea of how to win in battles. Again, let's take an example, for the first two epochs, it states that a spear will beat a sword, a sword will beat an arrow, and an arrow beats the spear. Kind of like scissor, paper, stone for the first two epochs. But, rest assured, it gets complicated after that.

Rome wasn't built in a day...
The stirring music featured in the game is pretty good - here's a sampler. Voices are also decently acted out.

I think the only problem I had with the single player mode are the cutscenes. These use the game engine and basically show close-ups of a buildings and the units arrayed around them. Sure the voice acting lends some weight, but it could all have been done better.

Besides the 7 campaigns in the entire collection, there is a good Learning Campaign that explains the important concepts in a Real Time Strategy game as well as introduce you to the intricacies in Empire Earth. To top it all off, you also get a Random Map Generator as well as the Campaign Editor, Scenario Editor, and Civilization Builder, all of which when combined together, would literally give you game play to last a lifetime.

Game over... game over, man!

This game has set a lasting legacy in terms of its epic size, and that has not really been bested for quite some time already. I strongly recommend that you get the Gold Edition to play through the 7 campaigns. And additionally, you can also download maps for play from the Internet; they are mostly available here.


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