Universe at War: Earth Assault
How many times hasn’t Earth been used in some intergalactic war against some evil looking aliens? At the start of each story, Earth forces are being overrun and the end seems nearby. However, for some strange reason we always have some smart or courageous person who can find the perfect weapon or weakness against the invaders. Universe at War: Earth Assault, the new RTS from Petroglyph Games starts off the same as all these stories, but after a wile it becomes a lot more interesting!
Like i said, in this game mankind is almost completely wiped out by an alien races called the Hierarchy. These have only one goal: purge all weaker races from of the universe. Just when they’re about to succeed in doing this to the population of Earth a second alien race, called the Novus, arrives on our little blue planet. They completely exists out of robots except for one lone organic that has survived the Hierarchy Purge of its race. Of course you want to have revenge and go and fight the Hierarchy between the remnants of mankind. Petroglyph didn’t think this was enough though, and introduced a third race to the story, called the Masari. These held a hibernation of 10.000 years at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean after their creation ‘The Hierarchy’, betrayed them. The resulting war almost annihilated the entire Masari Race and knowing that their refuge has been found they’ll protect it till their last breath!
As you could read, the main enemy is the Hierarchy whos complete race is based upon destruction. As they purge all the weaker races from the universe, they have no use for static bases, except for a command centre and defensive structures. The key units in their army are the walkers. These are gigantic robots that serve as mobile factories. But of course that is not their only function in the game, they also pack some serious firepower. You can upgrade several key points with massive lasers or other extensions. Besides these behemoths, they also have several other terrifying units, for example a unit that can spread a toxic cloud which mutates humans and livestock. You get the resources for this race not only out of existing buildings and vehicles but also the human survivors. In other words, this race likes to get dirty!
Their arch enemy are the Novus, a cybernetic race. The build up of this race is the complete opposite of the Hierarchy. While their enemy is all out brute force, the Novus needs to be played a bit smarter. The Novus has weaker, but more technologically advanced units, which in turn change the tactics drastically. This change makes you attack the enemy less head on, but rather lets you flank and do hit and runs on them. A structure which will help you significantly with this is the Flow Tower. You can build these towers anywhere on the map and when connected they will transport your units super fast from point A to point B. Perfect to flank the enemy! Since they exist completely out of robots, the only resources they need are non-organic materials and as the good guys you are, let the human remnants stay alive.
As the third and final faction we have the Masari, a race based upon Greek Mythology. Unlike the two previous ones they don’t need to go and look for resources, since they can build specific structures which generate an unlimited amount of them. The way their units fight is again completely different in comparison with the others. Every unit has a Light and Dark mode. Depending on your choice they will be able to have more offensive power and less defense or just the opposite. Certain skills can also only be used in a specific mode. This gives you some extra edge when you’re outnumbered and need to change your tactics drastically.
Besides the three races, Petroglyph has added some more features to their game. Each faction has three heroes with their own set of skills. You will have a hero aimed for fighting, one for support and one for stealth and infiltration. In the singleplayer you will first play two normal campaigns as in any other RTS game, but after that you will play a final campaign where you need to conquer the entire world. You can compare this with the boardgame Risk or the tactical mode of the Total War games.
For the multiplayer they use the Windows Live service and not everyone is going to like this. The first issue is logging in on it. While Live for the Xbox 360 works perfectly, this can’t be said for the PC. You will be declined several times at the log in window even when you already have an Xbox Live Gold subscription. Of course you can always play without this, but then you’ll miss several features of the game. You won’t be able to receive achievements as on the Xbox 360, won’t be able to play ranked matches, and “Conquer the World” for example is not available for ‘normal’ players. In this mode you need to conquer the entire world online with the help of other players. Another one is called ‘Defcon’ in which all research is being done automatically. This makes sure that every player in the game is at the same tech level so that they can have some balanced fighting against each other. If you use Live and have a Gold subscription, you can play against people who own the game on the Xbox 360. Whether you play better with an X360 controller or a mouse and keyboard is your job to find out!
Regarding graphics the game looks very nice. All units and buildings are beautifully rendered and show a real retro style. The environments are quite diverse and you will see plenty of human survivors run for their lives when a fight is about to start in their surroundings.
The interface is sadly enough a lot less impressive for the PC than on console. While it seems to be suited perfectly for a controller, it’s far too simple for a mouse and keyboard. The productin of units for example doesn’t always run so smoothly and important orders like ‘hold position’ are missing. The sound on the other hand is just beautiful. Reason for this is Frank Klepacki, a famous componist who built up his reputation with the soundtrack of the famous Command & Conquer games. The sound effects of the units are varied enough, so you won’t get irritated by their voice overs.
You can compare Universe at War: Earth Assault with a rough diamond. While it has several beautiful features like three races, innovating gameplay and cross-over multiplayer, it sadly also has some negative points. The Windows Live service is a bit of trial and error and the interface is too empty for an RTS game on PC. But if you can ignore these negative points, you can expect a more than decent RTS experience.