Empire Earth: The Art of Conquest Review
developer: Mad Doc Software
PII-300, 32MB RAM, 500MB HDD, 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Sep 17, 02
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The original Empire Earth game, created by Rick Goodman and his team at Stainless Steel Studios, delivered the ultimate RTS ride, spanning through almost all of the significant ages of mankind's existence. This aspect made Empire Earth one of the best strategy games ever. After all, where would strategy games be without the endless inspiration provided by historical facts? Now the time has come to check out the latest expansion pack, which unravels three new chapters of human history.
Slicing up the barbarian horde.
Hey, no smoking in mid-battle.
Elaborating more on the illustrious Roman Empire and the various parts of its existence, the first campaign begins with the era of Sulla's reign; one of Rome's most ruthless leaders. As you progress, you'll get to lead Julius Caesar, challenging Sulla, fighting against Gauls, invading Britain, etc. Even though there were other RTS games that focused on the mighty Roman Empire, I have to say I wasn't all that disappointed with the idea of playing through the Roman Age once again. Some large-scale battles really got me going for a while and I was captivated by the atmosphere. Unhappily, this may not hold the attention of a majority of gamers, who might be hungering for freshness and originality in terms of RTS gameplay.
Next off, you'll get to play the Pacific campaign, which takes you back to historic battles of Guadalcanal, Midway, Iwo Jima, and such. Here, while participating in huge battles on sea and in the jungle, outnumbered, players will have the task to survive way behind enemy lines. Sadly, most of the missions here do not allow for any particularly interesting tactics and maneuvers, since they're all pretty much linear.
Finally, the Asian campaign offers you a number of interesting missions set on Mars, Earth, and in open space. The story in this particular campaign presents quite an original vision of mankind's future (even though it's somewhat grim). The newly emerged possibility of out-world colonies caused all-out war between the remaining forces on Earth. Interestingly, you'll be playing alongside the so-called U.F.A.R. (United Federation of Asiatic Republics). Fighting for resources, political influence, and your very own existence, you are destined to lead the newly formed dynasty, which currently rules the U.F.A.R. This campaign let's you engage in battles that take place in open space. But, thanks to masterpieces like Homeworld, it's higly unlikely gamers will regard this as a revolutionary gameplay concept. The players will get to try out some new space units, such as cruisers, transports, and so on. And... That's about all there is to it.
All of these campaigns have one thing in common. They all leave very little room for you to taste the enhancements that were supposed to improve the gameplay. Again, this is where the game's linearity steps in, preventing you from advancing your civilizations. I really miss the enjoyment of slowly advancing your society, watching it thrive, and then kicking the living shit out all who oppose you (i.e. Age of Empires). Also most of the options, units, and buildings are not available in several missions. That sucks really, considering how short the campaigns are in actuality - six missions all together in each campaign. On the plus side, the missions were well-composed, and although they are somewhat linear you'll have your hands full with each individual task placed before you. Every conflict that goes on during a mission is intense and thrilling enough, from the smallest skirmish to the clashes of huge armies.
Wanna dance? Let's all get with the beat!
On my signal, unleash hell!
However, if you're looking for radical improvements and innovations, you'll be disappointed to hear that they've practically remained concealed throughout the entire game. These additional features include a few bonuses and some new units here and there. For example, in the Roman campaign, players may now regain a portion of resources when a unit is lost in battle. This new option is called insurance and can prove quite useful (provided, of course, you get the proper chance to test it). Some missions in the future display a particularly interesting feature like the ability to cloak units or even larger buildings. Also, some new units were brought to the whole picture. But, none of these small additions seem to make even the slightest effect on the gameplay.
One of the most discouraging facts about this expansion pack is that the AI still wasn't tweaked properly. No matter how you adjust your unit's behavior, they still act aggressively; blindly rushing forth to battle and disregarding the orders they've been given. Plus, I was disheartened when I saw that some units can still have severe difficulties finding the right route. For instance, the battleships, frigates, or similar huge units, could sometimes have a hard time getting into the appropriate formation; they can simply block each other's path (which is kind of funny to watch). This is a really bad point in the game. Say one of your armies is outnumbered and in dire need of assistance; by the time you figure out why the reinforcements didn't arrive, every unit in you army will be lost.
Visually, no improvements were made. Although, extra effort was obviously put into the terrain design. Various elements like higher ground, forests, and huge plains were carefully placed, so players can use almost any possible tactic during battle. The cute little in-game models still look excellent (no reason why they shouldn't). Although, they still have that special paper-cutout kinda thing goin' when you zoom in on the action. The sound left similar impressions. Nothing new has been issued. The tracks and most ambient effects are completely the same. BTW, it's interesting to hear crickets singing and wolves howling on Mars and in outer space (?!?)
To be totally honest, the game doesn't possess the overall quality any decent expansion pack should have. One tends to notice how quickly these add-ons keep cropping up, bringing absolutely nothing new to the core of gameplay, while demanding money from us poor-old gamers. Most of these add-ons just manage to ruin the glamour and style of the previous game without enhancing its good points (one of the most recent examples for that would be Alien vs. Predator 2: Primal Hunt). Although that doesn't mean you won't have any fun while playing The Art of Conquest (particularly if you're a hardcore fan of the previous game). The additional campaigns managed to awaken some nice feelings I had while playing the original game. But, I'm afraid those brief moments of reminiscence still don't justify the game's 30 dollar price tag.
The Asian campaign has an intriguing story. The game's generally fun, if you were keen about the original;
Nothing new to enhance the fabulous gameplay from the previous title.
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