Imagine a game where Age of Empires, Command & Conquer and even Starcraft merge together with a Civilization-like full history age evolving mechanism. From clubman and stone throwers to mechas, age after age. This is Empire Earth.
The strongest points are related to game innovating on RTS genre, by adding some new cool features. It’s also done right.
- Lots of ages to evolve and pass through, from prehistoric age to futuristic mechas age. Age evolving is simple: just build something from current epoch and spend the resources.
- Interesting in-game scenes during campaign. Those probably inspired Warcraft 3’s ones.
- The game incorporates a civlization builder (to preconfigure custom civilization for later use), map editor and scenario editor. Very nice.
- As Civilization games, the game takes a serious approach when dealing with game technologies.
- It mixes the epoch techs like happened in real world, with unit transitions on a single epoch. E.g. bow and arrows and early gunpowder units are mixed during Renaissance.
- Wars also get more deadly as time advances because of higher firepower.
- Game manual (printed/pdf) makes a great job describing all stuff that is shown in game, like the politics on every epoch, the heroes, the units, the buildings and more interesting things like city states.
- Great unit variety:
- Diverse units with specialization. Every unit is usually suited against some units, depending on the damage type, armor type, fast mobility, shoots over walls, cross forests and hills, stealthy, … Read more.
- Many interesting units on every epoch: Samson (anti-building stone age infantry), Elephants, stealthy Vikings, Byzantine ships, Arquebus, Dragoons, Heavy siege tower, Sharpshooter, Partisan, Trench mortar, Flamethrower, U-boat, B-52, Carrier Enterprise, Howitzer, Sub Trident …
- Temple units are cool and good to wreak havoc:
- Prophets: mana-based units that can cast special powers (calamities) to do severe damage to enemy units (infantry, ships) and buildings.
- Priests: the typical AoE priests, can convert units and (given a civ special power) even buildings. Luckily, there is no wololo!
- Unique stuff:
- Unique heroes from the Copper age to the end, divided on two classes: warrior (a very strong unit) or strategist (can heal and debuff the enemy).
- There are Great Wonders that grant special bonuses or powers.
- The soundtrack is memorable and the ambience music is modified depending on the current game situation (fighting or not), from more relaxed tracks to more belligerent themes.
- The graphics aren’t particularly amazing but the water render looks nice and game can be zoomed in and out, it’s very cool.
There is an expansion, called Art of Conquest, that adds some campaigns, civilization special powers, a calamity to destroy space units and a new age but I’ll just talk about it later.
Vanilla Empire Earth (without expansion) flaws
- Game graphics looked already aged back in the 2001. 3D models look like PSX graphics but it was released on PS2 era. This was done on purpose, as the game supported hundreds of units at same time, but the result is visually unappealing.
- AI has got some issues:
- High resource games should be fun but it make the AI very annoying. It doesn’t know when to let ground as lost. Sometimes it’s constantly sending suicide citizens to rebuild towers or other lost structures and mounting attacks to get the area back on control. Others, it does an on mass rebuild while sending troops to recover ground, taking advantage of being an AI.
- The scouting logic is too random and ineffective, doing things like sending the dog to scout far away passing near an enemy tower, instead of scouting well near base for easy to grab resources.
- Game warfare gets complicated as the epoch advances and the last epochs are particularly hasty and chaotic.
- There seems to be an imbalance between building resilience VS unit firepower, depending on the epoch.
- Lack of in-game tooltips on UI.
- Empire Earth games tend to be longer than other RTS, with a slow start and spawning for many hours. It’s not bad but it’s not what it’s expected on RTS games.
Empire Earth expansion Art of Conquest flaws
- Art of Conquest expansion adds little to gameplay. You only get the new civ powers, unless you play the Space age.
- Space age is meant to be played only in a new map type, planets, where there is actual space between flat planets.
- Space is played like in Starcraft, where there are space areas too, but space is limited to space units (not air units). Nothing very interesting.
Why to play?
Empire Earth is a solid game, very interesting and wide in gameplay options to develop the game. The game has a bunch of campaigns (more if you play the expansion) for single player and random map generator for both single player skirmishes and multiplayer. The game lets you choose the epoch and other settings, making it great as you may prefer some epochs over other.
Shadows, best drums ever:
How to acquire
You can acquire it on GOG and it’s the Gold release that comes with the expansion, free of DRM and fully working on Windows 10.
Version / Platform
I focused my review on the vanilla game but I also mention the expansion on the review and almost everything applies to both versions.
You can play the vanilla game even if you have got the expansion installed, as there are two separate binaries.
There were two sequels for Empire Earth but every sequel has been less successful than the other. Given that the golden epoch for classic RTS games is long gone, it’s very unlikely there will be a new remake or reboot.
Games like Empire Earth
I’ll recommend other RTS that are focused on few ages:
- Age of Empires 2. The classic game is very similar on the bronze to dark ages.
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert. This other is very similar to the atomic age and great anyways.
- Starcraft. You may prefer this if you enjoy the Space age of EE:Age of Conquest. Otherwise, it’s still a great game.
In the other hand, I’m aware of other game similar to Empire Earth in full-history RTS concept:
- Rise of Nations. The game isn’t played exactly the same as Empire Earth, it’s more on the Civlization side with concepts like national borders, but still is RTS and very popular.
Empire Earth is a fun RTS game, very interesting and unique. It’s particularly addicting on the first games but, of course, it isn’t as deep and addicting as a 4x TBS like Civilization, which belongs to other genre. I consider C&C or Starcraft better games but I just like Empire Earth over other bronze age to dark age games like AoE2.