PC REVIEW: EMPIRE EARTH 2

Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.

Empire Earth II is one of the most epic, detailed, varied and deep RTS games ever created. It's going to challenge all gamers of all skill levels, from hardcore strategist and newbies. Never have I seen such a comprehensive, yet accessible, RTS game. The amount of control is staggering and that's part of the problem. There are so many commands mapped to the hotkeys that it will take weeks of practice to commit most of them to memory. It's not imperative that you memorize them for the single player campaigns but you'll be a huge disadvantage in the multi-player modes if you're even the slightest bit hesitant.

Learning the hotkey commands is certainly worth the effort because of the incredible amount of fun that you can have. As I've already mentioned this game is huge and can be configured in many different ways so that you'll never have to play the same game twice. There's no reason this game wouldn't last you until the end of the year and beyond, so putting in the effort to learn the commands is a good long-term investment. Personally there was no way I was going to learn them all before this review deadline and as a result got my ass kicked in the multi-player mode simply because I wasn't fast enough. Rather than being discouraged it made me want to get back in there and fight that much harder. Practice makes perfect and there's no better way to learn than trial by fire.

The level of complexity is proportionate to your level of skill and style of play. There are so many different ways to play this game that you will be missing out if you don't experiment with different strategies. The interface commands are easy to understand and very effective. New features help keep micromanagement at bay and reward good players with time-limited advantages that work like power-ups.

Empire Earth II traces the brutal history of civilization from the throwing of sticks and stones to lasers and nuclear bombs. You can choose from numerous epochs including the Three Kingdoms of China, Normandy and the Napoleanic wars to name just a few. Conflicts with countries such as Prussia, Germany, Korea, Cuba and the United States are included, and while they may not be perfectly accurate they do correspond to real world logic.

You can play specific battles from different perspectives and maybe even change the course of history. There are 14 civilizations to choose from in all, each one using different weapons, technologies, strategies and abilities. There are some countries that seem incredibly limited and if you're like me you'll probably ignore them but once I checked them out I found there was much more thinking required than just deployment of large, heavily armed troops.

Not all conflicts are fought to the bitter end. Sometimes you'll just have to overpower a country by taking key territories and make them retreat and surrender. Each campaign is different and varies in length, intensity and difficulty. To allow you to better focus on your battle strategies some new features have been added to assist you. The Citizen Manager will relegate the closest idle citizens to harvest whatever resources you require at the time. This reduces some of the tedium of micromanagement. The Picture in Picture feature lets you see six different locations on the battlefield (in rotation) and even lets you issue orders to these units without having to leave the main map.

Nothing lets you create alliances more effectively than the War Plan which you can send out to any civilization in the multi-player mode. Here you can outline plans to "gang-up" on one particular enemy by cultivating allies. Of course you have to really trust your allies because you can really open yourself up to attack if you grant them permission to cross your borders. Treaties can be broken with no penalties so you have to make sure you're not being duped. At the same time if you appear too suspicious you'll have a more difficult time making friends.

Crowns are awarded in each of three categories: Economy; Imperialism, and Military gains. The winner of each will be awarded a crown which will give them special abilities such as faster ground troops or increased production of resources. These advantages are time-limited and can be quite useful to focus on getting, or at least prevent your enemy from receiving.

Weather plays an important role. You don't want to be conducting many raids in the winter. Ground units are slower and if you get caught in a blizzard your visibility can be reduced to near zero where you won't be able to tell where you're going. Speaking of which, you'll notice that there are some pathfinding problems. Most of your units will wander off main roads from time to time causing you delays and headaches. Bridges are another concern as they see to trap units like a black hole. Often you'll have to sacrifice these stuck units and just move on.

All of the graphics are well detailed and show good lighting and particle effects, even when you zoom in. The architecture of the various time periods and locations is consistent, clean and concise. The animation is smooth and the voiceacting shows signs of inspiration.

Empire Earth II is simply a must-have for any serious RTS fan. It may be deep but it's fun and it will last a long, long time.

 

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System: PC
Dev: Mad Doc
Pub: Vivendi Universal
Release: April 2005
Players: 1 - Multi Online
Review by Cole
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
4.5
GRAPHICS
4.0
CONTROL
4.5
MUSIC/FX
3.5
VALUE
5.0