The background of this epic game is the very history of warfare on Earth itself. From the early days of man in prehistory circa 500,000 BC to the Nano age stretching into the 23rd Century, humanity has always been at each other's throats.
In Empire Earth your goal is to not only explore your world for the resources necessary to survive and thrive, it's to build a mighty empire and the armies need to protect and expand it. Starting in pre-history you must advance through 14 historical Epochs before reaching the Nano Age where nanotechnology constructs the first Cybernetic warriors.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Any hardcore, or even casual, real-time strategy fan is going to pickup Empire Earth's strong resemblance to Age of Empire II: Age of Kings almost immediately. The graphics are similar, the interface almost identical and, to a degree, the play itself seems to mimic AOK, as well. But try playing your first game with the same strategy that made you master in AOK and you'll be in for quite a butt-kicking. As in AOK you will spend a large amount of your time searching for and collecting different types of resources. Heck, with the exception of an additional item, iron, the resources are identical. Again like in AOK, you just hunt around for piles of the stuff and then start your citizens to work digging it up or chopping it down. A major difference in the gathering aspect of EE is one you'll find echoed throughout the game; it's more complex. To speed up your gathering you can build a settlement, which allows you to drop off your stuff there as opposed to trudging half-way across the map, back to your town center. But, to make that more efficient, you can also populate the settlement. Doing this speeds up productivity but you permanently lose the citizen living there. The more people you populate it with, the more productive the citizens -- throw enough people in and your settlement becomes a town center and then a capital. It's quite ingenious. The same can be said for many of the buildings in EE, most don't just spew out new troops, citizens or weaponry. Houses, for instance, increase the morale of nearby troops, making them harder fighters and making them slower to die. Build a hospital and everyone within a certain radius gets healed slowly.
Universities protect people from being converted by enemy priests, temples prevent calamities (think plagues, firestorms and the like), docks, naval yards and airports repair their units. The list goes on and on. Another addition to the standard AOK-style of play is that Wonders actually do something other than stand there and look pretty. In AOK they merely allowed you to either win, or to taunt your opponents with needless and expensive eye-candy, not so in EE. From the Temple of Zeus, which allows all units to heal themselves anywhere on the map, to Library of Alexandria, which instantly points out all buildings on the map, Wonders can be a powerful tool in EE. Suddenly the way you construct a town and where you place buildings becomes an integral part of your strategy. If you thought that was complex wait until you make your way into your first battle. The game has a very strong rock-paper-scissors element to it.
Sword guys beat archers, archers whoop men armed with spears, and the spearmen take out the sword guys. This doesn't mean a single centurion will kill off a platoon of chariot archers, but it does mean the centurion will take a lot of people with him. Now add to this rather simple formula the more advanced weaponry, air units and sea units, and you have a strategy game worthy of some serious life-wasting play. Just too help you out with the formulas, there are a bunch of diagrams in the back of the manual that look like they belong more in a chemistry textbook than with a game. In addition to the more intriguing and almost over-complex warfare system, Empire Earth also has heroes. Heroes in EE are either warriors or strategists. The warriors increase the morale of the units around them and take to the front lines to do some serious damage. The strategists increase the vitality, or energy, of their surrounding units and have the ability to weaken enemy morale with a battle cry. In all there are 200 units to choose from, by far the most ever seen in any non-expanded RTS every released. Taken as a whole, EE can be quite an overwhelming game to try to master, but it appears that the time spent will be well worth it.
The graphics in Empire Earth also seem to lean heavily on the AOK world, which is a good thing. The mounted units sit on horses that nervously paw the ground. Idle citizens fidget, everything seems alive and the tight smallish graphics lend well to bolster that feeling. Unfortunately, the designers also added the ability to zoom in on units, something that not only adds little to the game, it seems to actually detract from it. This level of graphics was never meant to be seen up close and personal, 3D graphics they are not.
The ambient and action sounds in this game are downright unnerving. I have a friend who plays EE religiously who takes particular delight in the cries of the wounded and dying. When men run into battle you hear the swords clanking off one another, the arrows, or bullets, whistling through the air, it's truly a spectacular thing to listen to.
Pentium II 333, 64 MB RAM, 3D accelerator, 4MB VRAM, 450 MB hard drive space, mouse, sound card, and DirectX v8.0
The game's instruction manual is a whopping 238 pages and comes with a sizable fold-out reference sheet and smallish quick key list. Read every word of all of them -- nuff said.
This isn't your momma's RTS. Chock full of 200 units from 14 Epochs and about 60,000 years of evolution, Empire Earth can't help but quench your thirst for ultra-realistic and incredibly encompassing strategy game play. Don't expect to pick this bad-boy up and hop into instant play without a little learning and honing of your strategy skills, but studying warfare has never been so fun. Move over Age of Kings,there's a new game in town.