Empire Earth II Review
|Developer:||Mad Doc Software|
|Genre:||Real Time Strategy|
|Release Date:||April 29, 2005|
|Reviewer:||Craig Dudley (Mani)|
|Buy now at Amazon.co.uk|
There has been a fair few historical RTS games in recent times, some good, some bad and some indifferent. On paper, Empire Earth 2 would appear to be the daddy of them all, spanning millenia and including over 500 types of unit, Empire Earth II certainly shouldn't lack variety at least.
When a game has such an incredible number of individual units and buildings, it simply has to be impossible to spend as much time as you'd like on making them look state of the art in a graphical sense, not unless you have a small army of artists or unlimited time. No game these days can really have either of these things and that shows in Empire Earth 2. The game has a slighlty retro and somewhat basic look to it, it's by no means bad though, just a bit plain when compared to the really attractive RTS games that have been released recently, The Settlers: Heritage of Kings or Dawn of War for example.
Weather effects are implemented quite effectively, however some particularly nasty winter weather makes the game almost impossible to play for short periods. While I'm sure this was the plan, and it does add an interesting gameplay dynamic, I personally found it a bit annoying as well as a major resource hog, still, you can turn weather season off in multiplayer games.
Sound is not one of Empire Earth 2's better features, frankly it's average. But as with graphics, there are an enormous number of different units, buildings and associated sounds, it's simply not possible to apply to same massively fussy production values, the games' budget would have gone through the roof. As it is, there aren't any really annoying problems with the sound, it's just, well, average.
Voice acting is just about ok as well, although most units do have an American accent which is a little disconcerting when you're playing with Medieval Knights in central Europe or even late iron age Koreans. It's not a terminal spoiler though.
Empire Earth II is essentially a battle for control of territory, let's face it, most wars have been. The more territory you control, the more cities you can build. Amongst others things, each city is capable of supporting a university which in turn generates tech points. These are just one of a number of resources you must collect, the much more usual wood, stone, iron, food, tin and gold are also essential. With so many things to collect and manage, it's easy to see that resource collection could soon become a major hassle. Fortunately for us all Mad-Doc thought of something really quite unique, the citizen manager. This innovative new tool integrates with your list of resources, while moving your mouse over the resources pane, a pop up tool tip appears showing which workers are currently assigned to collecting each resource, then while hovering over each resource you can left click to assign a new worker to that resource, he will then find the closest place to take up his new role. Likewise, if you right click, you will remove a worker from that task and he will become available for other work. All during this time, you cursor is a bubble which contains the number of free workers throughout your lands. It's a simple, effective and very welcome way of helping you manage your citizens without trying to find them on the map all the time.
In larger multiplayer games diplomacy may also play a important role, options for such alliances are also extensive. For example, you might not be too sure about forging and alliance with your neighbour, but if he gives you one of his territories as a sweetener it could be a match made in heaven, at least until you common enemies are defeated that is. You can use units and resources as such bargaining chips also if required.
The main reason for having an alliance is surely to defeat other players, Mad Doc have helped here too, introducing the war plans screen, here you can draw up detailed attack plans and submit them to your allies you can accept the plans as is, reject them or edit them and respond with a new plan. This adds a whole new level of military planning and co-ordination to an RTS game and can be devastating.
Trading is also represented in Empire Earth II, you have the option of building markets and ports which can both be used to setup trading routers with other players. Adding actual traders to these routers in the shape of trading ships or carts and later trucks. Active traders on trade routers will earn gold over time, you can also buy resources you are short of in your markets, for an ever increasing cost of course.
The game spans 15 epochs, ranging from the stone age to the near future. Advancing an epoch is achieved by gaining tech points from your garrisoned universities and temples and using those points to research a minimum of 6 out of 12 available technologies per epoch. You can choose to research all 12 if you wish to gain their extra bonuses. This may or may not be wise however, you'll have to decide that for yourself given the circumstance and your general tactical plan. Should you decide to stay at a particular epoch for a while it might be beneficial to upgrade some of your military units to veteran status, this obviously costs resources but may be all that's need to tip the balance of power in your favour.
Generally there aren't a huge number of building types but each serves an important purpose, each territory you control can hold a full set of buildings with some limitations, I don't think I dare go into too much detail here as this review is already turning into a monster. Suffice to say that all the buildings are needed and you do get more building options as the epoch's pass. Each society can also build wonders, these are special buildings which endow the player with usually quite hefty bonuses in certain situations, they do vary quite dramatically from race to race so choosing a civilization to match your playing style will probably be quite important.
Military units in Empire Earth 2 use a rock, paper, scissor method of balancing, it's therefore a gamble to become too specialized. Again, you get a large number of military options, 3 or 4 Infantry units, 3 to 4 artillery units and 3 or 4 mounted or mechanized units too, and this is just the land forces. Naval of air forces are also available later in the game, naval quite early, air not till very late. These units too also use the rock, paper, scissor balancing system. Theres clearly no end of ways in which to obliterate your enemies. In addition to this little lot, you can also build priests who can bless your units or attempt to convert the enemy and spies who can be used to gain information about the position and number of enemy building. Other special units can be built in various epochs, such as repair mechs in epoch 15 and medics slightly earlier.
Empire Earth II also features a system of crowns for performance in game, these are military, economic and imperial. Holding each crown entitles you to a bonus of your choice, for example you can gain increased tech point research speed by holding the imperial crown.
Given everything I've talked about so far, you wouldn't expect multiplayer options to be limited would you, and you'd be right, there are up to 9 game types some with sub options too. Map sizes, weather, populations, truce periods and starting resources are all highly configurable too, did you expect anything less? You can of course choose your civilization too
Fortunately Empire Earth II includes 4, yes 4 tutorial missions as well as an extensive online encyclopedia which covers just about every building and unit within the game. It's needed a fair bit too.
We do actually get a single player campaign or two, these seems like extensions of the tuutorials however, they are a little dull and are really only of use in helping to learn to game before you attack skirmish mode and or your friends.
Although incredibly complex and deep, you can play the game reasonably well whilst learning, it's basic premise is quite simple really. Namely, control more territory than your foe and you will most likely win, as long as you manage each territory effectively.
Mad Doc threw a myriad of different options, strategies, units, buildings and technologies together into a single game and then allowed it to span more than 2000 years, they ended up with perhaps the most comprehensive strategy title ever made. Maybe there's just a little bit too much game here for most people though, it's quite honestly like 5 games in one and would probably take as long to master as five normal games, Empire Earth 2 certainly isn't deficient when it comes to value for money.
Ultimately, Empire Earth 2 misses out on joining the ranks of all the time great RTS games by virtue of not really looking or sounding quite as good as a number of recent offerings. However, It has more depth and play options than most of them combined so if your a real strategy nut, this is the game for you. You won't get bored any time soon as Empire Earth 2 has a truly astonishing array of options.
- Incredible Depth
- Huge number of different units
- Massive replayability
- A number of innovative features
- A lot of game for your money
Not so good stuff
- Long learning curve
- Some average sound effects
- Graphically a little plain