Life as you know it is over and the world is locked in a post-nuclear fight for survival. The year is 2140, World War Whatever is over, and now it is time for the last "war to end all wars." You can play as the Eurasian Dynasty (ED) or the United Civilized States (UCS) -- and yes, you've heard this all before … Earth 2140 is yet another another faceless post-apocalyptic slugfest, and one without much to interest the average real-time strategy gamer unless perhaps you haven't conquered the world enough times over.
The storyline, as far as it matters, is this: most of the world is trashed with only a small amount left that can be inhabited by either man or machine -- the other parts of the world are so toxic that even machines cannot function. That's about it. You just choose a side and go kill the other guys.
Gameplay and Controls
There is a lot to keep track of here, and although you can control everything with a mouse, learning some of the keystroke shortcuts can help in trying to play this game. Basically Earth 2140 is very much like Dark Reign, Dark Colony, etc., with differently named tanks, transports, missile outposts and that sort of thing.
One interesting note: in the field, you have three generals at your disposal to command groups of military units, but I would not use them if I were you since they seem to have graduated last in their class in military command school. The only time I used the generals was to stand and defend a position. Still, having some sort of command structure was at least a worthwhile idea.
As for the flow of the game, the pace seems confused. To keep from being bored during the slow times you need to play with the speed of the game set to fast, but then the battles are impossible to control. There does not seem to be a happy medium in pace of the game that allows you a chance to play without getting either bored or annihilated. Even at the slow speed the battles move too fast. I also wished each scenario would build more on what you did in the last one. It was just a bunch of mission shorts that did not link together in more than a very tenuous way, and this does not allow for any continuity in the game.
This is the most redeeming part of the game. The graphics are excellent, and the animations are among the best in the genre. I liked the detail of color and animation -- it made the fighting seem much more realistic than when a destroyed unit just disappears in a puff of smoke.
Gameplay was smooth on my system, but if you have the minimum machine listed in the system requirements I can imagine that during involved battles you may see some slowdowns due to the color detail and the sheer number of units to animate. The mission briefings have a very cool effect: it has a heads-up display as if it is being broadcast on your display screen and has an occasional screen flicker to add to the realism
This game has three difficulty levels; I found "easy" to be way too hard. It is not uncommon for me to play on the "easy" level to get a feel for the game and then once I have some experience to move up to "normal" or "hard," but with Earth 2140, anyone who isn't a grand master real-time strategy guru won't stand a chance.
The first three or four scenarios were easy, but then it got hard real quick. There does not seem to be any help in getting past certain levels, nor does there appear to be a way to skip a scenario without first finishing the objective. I checked the book and Interplay's web page for some help, but no luck. The bottom line is that the game is unbalanced in this aspect, and quite frustrating.
Installation & Setup
This is the worst part of Earth 2140. There is an entire section in the manual devoted to installing this game, which brings up lots of problems and ways to work around them. Instead of fixing the install program to work correctly, they gave a list longer than your arm of procedures to work around the errors you WILL encounter in installing. This seems to be an unfortunate trend in games these days -- release dates are pushed back at the expense of easy installation and the bashing of last-minute bugs. Earth 2140 suffers from a host of glitches in the process of getting it up and running, but once it's set up, it seems to run fairly well.
Compatibilty with your OS may be another matter: the box says it is compatible with Windows 95, but do not try to install it under a DOS session of Windows 95. I had to boot to DOS to get it to install. After installing I could coax it to run under Windows 95, but every time the game went to access the CD-ROM drive I had to eject the CD and then put it back in. This really annoyed me. If you want to play this game, boot to DOS and ignore the promise to work under Windows 95.
IBM-compatible system with a Pentium processor, 16 MB RAM, 30 MB available hard disk space, SVGA / VESA 2.0 graphics card with high color mode and 1 MB RAM (2 to 4 MB recommended), 2X CD-ROM drive, mouse, MS-DOS 6.x or Windows 95 (DOS box). Supported sound cards: SoundBlaster 16, SoundBlaster Pro, SoundBlaster 32 & AWE32, Microsoft Sound System, GUS, GUS MAX
Actual install space is a minimum of 36 MB, and up to 95 MB if you install full music. You still need the CD in the drive to play even with a full install. So do not waste the space on your hard drive if your CD-ROM drive is fast enough. I thought my 12 speed was more than fast enough.
The game is well-documented if you are willing to read the entire manual before playing. There is no "Getting Started" section or "Quick Start" section to get you up and playing quickly. I never want to have to read the whole book before I can play a game. I want to install and play. (When I start to have a problem in a game, then I consult the manual for the bit of info I need.) However, with Earth 2140, you will be totally lost without reading the instruction manual first.
This game excels in video and detail, but falls far short of the mark in terms of gameplay, innovation and difficulty. You will also need strong troubleshooting skills to get this game installed, or else will need a purely DOS-based machine to play it on. There is good documentation for troubleshooting the installation problems, but a well-thought-out game should not have the install problems this game has. And no game should have an "easy" setting that rapidly becomes impossible. If you think you're a RTS hotshot, this is the game for you; otherwise steer clear. Earth 2140 rates a 47 for overall poor execution and lack of inspired design, storyline and mission structure. Parents, if you are looking for a very challenging game to appease your war strategist overachiever, this is the game for your kid. Kids, if your mom or dad is bored easily with games since they are too easy, then this game is the one to get your parents. I would not recommend this game to anyone unless they are looking for a real challenge and they do not get frustrated easily. Overall I gave this game a 47 out of 100, and that was because of the graphics. Otherwise the score would have been much lower.