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Empire Earth – PC

Empire Earth – PC

256px-Empire_EarthPlatform: PC

Developer: Stainless Steel Studios

Publisher: Sierra Entertainment

Release Date (NA): November 12, 2001

Genre: Real-Time Strategy

Nerd Rating: 9 out of 10

If you’ve been looking for a top-of-the-line real-time strategy game that pulls you in and makes you want to create history by blood and fire, then you can do no better than Empire Earth. Made at the end of 2001 by Stainless Steel Studios, this title broke new ground with pioneering design choices that later games would copy to great success. However, it also broke the mold, as when Mad Doc Studios inherited the rights to the series, they failed to effectively capture the true elements that made the original game so immersive and beloved. Just what makes this game more powerful than most titles that had arrived before or since? Grab your citizens and follow me into the fog of war as we learn what lies within.

Every civilization has its humble beginnings. Today, a pile of rocks and bone, tomorrow, a city of marble!

Having the technological advantage over your enemies is vital to your success. Last one out of the Prehistoric Age is an evolutionary dead-end!

Among its competition, Empire Earth stands out almost immediately by virtue of its scope. You begin with a small tribe of prehistoric cavemen and gather resources to see them through to the next stage of human evolution, building important structures, researching helpful technologies, and training warriors to protect your people. If this was simply Age of Empires, you would be able to do that just a few times and then your game would hit its zenith. Not so in this title, however. You can advance through every technological epoch yet seen by man, through the Bronze Age and the Middle Ages and the Atomic Era and even past modern day into the not-so-distant future. When this game was released, only the Civilization series could match it in scope, and those are turn-based. This allows the level designers a lot more to play with and makes the replay value only limited by your historical imagination. You can build armies of archers and shock troops headed by a famous hero to besiege enemy kingdoms, invest in some very powerful prophets to visit calamities upon your foes, or simply wait until your first atomic bomb is ready and make them pay for their insolence. The civilizations in the game should give you a wide range of options to choose from, and if that’s not good enough, there’s a Civilization Editor that lets you customize your unit strengths across a wide variety of unit and economy bonuses.

Calamities are VERY powerful and thankfully not limited to the age you're in. Which is good, because volcanoes are always in style.

Calamities are VERY powerful and accessible in all ages. Curse enemy armies with plague and malaria and destroy their buildings with earthquakes and hurricanes! Just be careful where you aim them…

Empire Earth also had more trailblazing elements, many of which helped it stand out from the pack in a more concrete fashion. It was the first game to utilize three-dimensional unit and building models, rather than the sprites preferred by real-time strategy front-runner Age of Empires II. Combat follows a rock-paper-scissors hierarchy that evolves over time, reflecting the historical changes in warfare brought on by new technology. This means that you get a natural progression of technology in warfare, and are able to see with your own eyes how the conflict changes on land, sea, and air. Along with this, there’s also the optional advantage of spending some of your own resources to customize the strengths of your unit types, up to ten points of which can be bought, with certain upgrades having considerably more weight than others based on their effectiveness. This lets you retool your army to take advantage of a certain opponent’s weakness, or simply cover some of your own, which is a very nice privilege in an ever-changing battlefield.

The selected medieval trebuchet has improved attack power, range, and hit points.

The selected medieval trebuchet has improved attack power, range, and hit points, making it more useful in the long run.

The story of Empire Earth comes in the form of four main campaigns, from the Ancient Greeks and the medieval English to the World War-era Germans and the futuristic Russians, and all of these campaigns are masterpieces in my eyes. The maps are laid out accurately for the purposes of their levels, the units and buildings are placed appropriately, the distances used are meaningful and the triggers are planned to an exact degree. The designers certainly left no stone unturned, making all of these campaigns full of very fun levels that play out exactly as they should with no grey areas. The game also has very good voiceacting talent for the cinematics and triggered lines spoken by certain in-game characters, taking the missions to another level of immersion. Where any other game may just be content to get the point across, Empire Earth puts you in the moment like I believe no other game has. If you want an idea of just how good the voiceacting is in this game, watch this rendition of the Saint Crispin’s Day speech from the English Campaign. Every other mission has the same attention to the dramatic, even if they don’t have the Shakespearean delivery, and I’m sure that it will make just as much of an impression on you as it did for me when I first saw it. I only wish that more games were this dedicated to their craft, then maybe more games would be worth coming back to.

I don't think Novaya Russia is very appreciative of the subtext, unless laser cannons are how they applaud. Then they REALLY like it.

When you can afford to field a platoon of airborne and ground-based cybermechs with a full complement of laser cannons, your problems are pretty much over.

As I’ve mentioned before, a very strong game has to have a very strong soundtrack to match, and Empire Earth has one of the most powerful soundtracks I’ve heard in a real-time strategy game. Right from the title screen, this tune is thrown in your face, and by thunder, is it a strong first impression. When you jump into the actual gameplay, you’ll find very strong tracks like Balance of Power and Rivers, tracks that are relevant no matter what age you’re in. There aren’t just passive versions of these songs either, as most of them have combat-specific renditions that cut in seamlessly whenever there’s conflict on the screen. One of my favorite examples is Honor, which is deceptively calm in peacetime but ramps up to a very strong battle theme once the action starts. All of these tracks are empowering and decisive, putting to mind the tough decisions that govern your peoples’ survival and the ultimate cost of war, and it really helps to set the tone in any scenario.

Caption here

Resource buildings can be garrisoned with citizens to improve their effectiveness, while houses give your units morale close to your home base, making them tougher and stronger.

When you look at all of the elements that Empire Earth has to offer, it can be easy to see why it had the mettle to stand up to the competition upon its initial release. Even today, it stands out by virtue of simply being a fundamentally-solid, exceptionally-presented, and relentlessly addictive video game. In my opinion, it’s one of the best strategy games, and one of the better games overall, that most people have never heard of (or at least never bothered to play). I heartily recommend it to just about anyone, no matter whether they usually like strategy games or not, as this one deserves to be seen and appreciated by its own merits. The Gold Edition, which also includes the Empire Earth: Art of Conquest expansion pack, is available on personal favorite Good Old Games for only $5.99. If you think you’re ready to fight some of humanity’s bloodiest and vital battles, give this game a try and make your own footsteps on the path of history.

Written by Action Zero

Action Zero spends his time relaxing in his Stratocaster-pink Starjammer, listening to New Retro Wave tracks and planning to get back in touch with the Hell Riders of the Milky Way for some beers and an intergalactic drag race or two. Played by Reb Brown in the historical documentary “Space Mutiny”.


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