Empire Earth 2
The original Empire Earth contained some flaws that made it fail to become one of the classics amongst along the lines of Command&Conquer and Total Annihilation. With tons of options, lots of hours of gameplay and great graphics, Empire Earth 2 is supposed to close the gap with these titles named above. Will they close the gap this time?
To start off, there’s three major campaigns that should keep you busy for quite some time. You start off with the Koreans which you have to unite and finally create an empire that can take on the Chinese. Once you’ve done that, you can start creating the German empire (no, not the Third Reich ;p) to finally end with the Americans who even go beyond our current timeframe. So as you see, it’s even goes further qua timeline than Civilization which is quite impressive.
Once you’ve finished the campaigns, the single player experience isn’t finished. You can replay some “Turning Point” battles like the landing of Normandy, set up some skirmish games against the computer or load a scenario.
This of course already accounts for tons of hours of gameplay and it doesn’t even stop here because there’s also a multiplayer option through Gamespy which offers no less than seven game modes (Conquest, Crowns – time or number, Capitols, Allied Capitols, Regicide, Hotspots and Territory Control).
Last up, if you’re fed up with the pre-created maps, there’s the map editor which allows you to easily create any battlefield just the way you would like to have it.
So, when it comes to playing time, everything is taken care of, but for you to stay interested, the game itself must be fun as well of course.
There’s several difficulty levels present in single player but the AI does contain some glitches. First and most irritating is the pathfinding. More than once, I found units blocking the way for entire armies and especially bridges tend to be a pain in the butt. Example: I want to send a small army over a bridge. A larger unit goes first and gets stuck in the middle. I back off the rest of my units so that that one unit could get back. However, for some obscure reason it remains stuck where it stands…
Your units can be upgraded, a feature that comes in very handy. However, the AI doesn’t really seem to know this option very well. If you spend your resources in the beginning to make sure you upgrade all units as far as possible, those will be more than adequate to defend your cities while you build a second army that can take over your opponent without a problem. Only in the later missions during the American campaign you can expect some decent opposition.
Also, you’ll always have to make sure you follow the mission objectives as the AI isn’t flexible when it comes to that. For instance: During one of the American missions, I had conquered the entire map but the last objective was to hold the bridge over the Rein for 6 minutes. Despite the fact that I had destroyed all German forces and had a huge army, I still had to build some outposts after which the time finally started counting down and suddenly some Germand appeared out of nowhere and started attacking my units despite having not even half the force of my army… If I hadn’t built those outposts, time wouldn’t have started counting down and I could have stayed with my soldiers wandering around the map for eternity…
The camera viewpoint is pretty good, but the big problem is that you can’t zoom out enough. Your screen is filled with all kinds of windows with options, making the actual playing field rather small and if you’ve got a big army to control, being able to zoom out more would have been a very welcome feature. Especially when part of your units are stationed on a mountain as the camera doesn’t keep the same distance to the ground. Go over a hill and your units will be bigger. Say bye to your overview…
Now, this may sound like the game is awful but that’s not true. I’ve been playing Empire Earth 2 for over 30 hours already and I’ve enjoyed it quite a lot. The thing is that the amount of options is so immense that a lot of people will be overwhelmed at first (do not skip the tutorials, you’ll need them!) but once you get the hang of it, it’s a really great game and things aren’t as complicated as you might think at first. A lot of the options aren’t even necessary if you want to finish the game, although some of them come in quite handy.
Let’s get to the technical side. Graphics have and always will be quite important for a game and Empire Earth 2 does a fairly nice job. Zooming out might be a problem, but zooming in isn’t. You can go so close that you can actually see all your units on ground level like if you were walking next to them. Don’t expect to see a lot of different faces though, as each unit only has one “skin”. But I doubt anyone will take offense on that. After all, we’re playing an RTS here and normally you’ll be watching things from above to keep a good overview.
A small disappointment for me was the fact that you can’t upgrade your buildings. Ok, you can proceed to the next epoch in some missions and your buildings will change in looks when you do, but when staying in the same, there’s no possibility to make them better, unlike your units. Also, upgrading your armies won’t make them look any different. Whether you’ve got a Veteran tank or an Elite tank, they all look the same.
The soundtrack is nice, with each campaign having a different type of music, and the effects are good as well. However, they’re not really anything special either.
In general, Empire Earth 2 takes the basics of most of the top RTS games and combines them al together into one huge game. And it does it even very good, something that’s quite an accomplishment. Resource gathering, diplomacy, war plans, citizen manager, tech tree, … it’s all in there. Mad Doc even added a “Crown” system that gives you the possibility to improve certain things for a fixed amount of time if you’ve completed all research in a certain area (Military, Economic and Imperial).
Empire Earth 2 is a game that might scare of newcomers to the genre due to the large amount of options and windows, but don’t be overwhelmed as you’ll quickly get the hang of things once you actually start playing. And playing you will. The game is massive and will keep you occupied for many hours, and isn’t that something we always want ?
However, there are still some minor glitches that keep it from being ranked amongst the best RTS titles ever created. For that, the AI falls short, the zoom options isn’t worked out enough, and the battles aren’t as epic as we’ve seen in other titles lately.
Maybe Empire Earth 3 (if it gets created) will solve these things and become a game that will make us forget Starcraft and Total Annihilation. The potential is certainly there!