|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Petroglyph||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 25, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
Hands down, StarCraft is the ultimate in real-time strategy games. And while many fans eagerly await StarCraft 2's launch, they may want some good ol' RTS fun to tide them over. And while most console RTS games like Final Fantasy Tactics or PixelJunk Monster have a somewhat watered down take on the RTS genre, Universe at War: Earth Assault is the closest thing that I've ever seen to the full RTS gameplay that I remembered from Starcraft. However, the transition from an almost exclusive PC genre to a complete console game has definitely been a little rough. But to its credit, Universe at War: Earth Assault gets about 90% of the formula right.
The main mode in Universe at War: Earth Assault is the Campaign mode. As is the case with most games of this nature, the story is paper thin and revolves around an evil alien organization called the Hierarchy. This organization targets planets with sentient beings, steals their natural resources, and then moves on. Their attack has been pretty brutal on Earth, and 90% of human life has been wiped out. But just as humanity is about to make its last stand against the Hierarchy, a robotic organization called the Novum comes to destroy them. But their interest is less about saving the Earth and more about destroying the Hierarchy at all costs. And then comes the obligatory third race, the Masari, who are originally from Earth, but fled millions of years ago just as the Hierarchy was coming to power.
Needless to say, all of these races have their own strengths and weaknesses from a tactical standpoint. You are able to play as all of them, as well as the humans. The gameplay is extremely varied as you learn to strategize with all the different races, and the campaign mode is really fun to play. But the campaign mode, though very entertaining, is more of a warm-up for the online mode. The campaign mode really gives you a chance to practice your strategic basics and try your hand at using all of the different races. And once you have practiced enough and feel confident in your skills, you can go online.
The online modes were probably the most appealing, simply because strategy games are so unpredictable online. While the A.I. in the game is pretty good, nothing compares to going head to head against another person, especially in a game where you have to analyze the movements of your competitor so closely. One interesting thing about Universe at War: Earth Assault's online mode is that it lets PC gamers as well as Xbox 360 gamers play together. I have to say that I take a little issue with this because this game is much more apt for the point-and-click structure of the PC, and I do believe it gives somewhat of an advantage to PC gamers. But that aside, the online modes are pretty fun to play. You have the standard ranked and unranked strategy matches, which give you ample opportunity to match your strategies against other players. But the real unique online mode here is the Conquer the World mode, which challenges you to conquer all the game's global battlefields. Once you claim them for yourself, you will have to defend them against online competitors who are also trying to claim all the world's territories for themselves.
In addition to the campaign mode and the online modes, there is also a skirmish mode, which is essentially a custom battle mode. You can design a battle scenario using any map, race, and rules, and see how you fare. This mode is great for testing out new strategies and developing your skills. It is a very useful mode, and even though it may not be as exciting as the campaign or online modes, it is where you can build up the nuts-and-bolts of your strategy, which is what RTS games are all about.