For a game that displays every cliché in the sci-fi book, it manages to be unique
Universe at War: Earth Assault, at first glance, looks like a cliché version of every sci-fi RTS game in existence. But when you take the time to explore, you will be rewarded with a very deep, fun, unique, and exciting game that stands out from the pack.
The problem is that you’ll have to do a lot of digging to find the treasure. Thankfully you’re reading this review, and I can tell you what to expect and where to look for it. Other gamers left to their own devices may give up before they discover just how much this game has to offer. The payoff is online, but you’ll begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel in the scenario mode.
The single-player campaign is a great way to get familiar with the gameplay elements, as well as the different factions that you can play as. There are three in all, and they are very diverse. However, the single-player mode is streamlined for easy accessibility. All of the depth is contained online. Here you can customize your faction to the hilt, tailoring options to accommodate a specific gameplay style. Experimenting with different strategies is what this game is all about. All three factions are so diverse that it’s like playing three different games. They are very well balanced despite such diversity, but you won’t get your hands on all of the goodies in the scripted, single-player campaign.
As with virtually all RTS games, you will deal with micromanagement issues such as economy, resource gathering, base building, and the production of warfare units that include soldiers, weapons, ammunition, vehicles, and heroes. While the war takes place on planet Earth, you don’t actually get to play as the humans, with the exception of the introduction. But after you see how weak and under-powered they are, you’ll be glad that you can play as the aliens, who bring a lot more to the party.
The three main factions are all aliens. They have come to Earth to have it out once and for all. It all begins with the race known as the Hierarchy, which invade the planet. They have a very strong army, composed of huge, tank-like walkers that are as destructive as they are formidable. Assisting the humans in arresting the invaders is the Novus, a race of bots that can get around the map with incredible speed. Eventually the ancient mystic race known as the Masari enter into the battle. Each faction is incredibly different from the others, which makes for a very rewarding experience. All three heroes have different powers as well, but they have to be protected at all costs. A dead hero will cost you the campaign.
There are some great weapons such as the blackhole which creates a swirling, destructive vortex capable of clearing a screen. Powers such as mind-control and mind-reading help the various factions influence enemy units and also act as recon, gathering information on unit locations. The Novus use energy towers to teleport across vast distances on the map. They can get a swarm of bots together in seconds in virtually any location. Slower, but equally as versatile, the Hierarchy has mobile bases which lets them harvest and process resources on the spot. They can continue to create more units right on the battlefield sight. The Masari are homebodies. They create everything at their base, and produce some very powerful units. They have versatile builders which save them money, often harnessing their ancient powers, and have the ability to toggle instantly between equally powerful offensive and defensive units.
After a handful of rather straightforward campaigns, in which there are no research trees or customizing options, a territory conquest scenario is offered. It gives you a chance to flex some of your factions’ muscles as you prepare to take over the planet.
The fighting and strategic elements are relentless, and it’s all in real time. The micromanagement is streamlined, allowing you to make quick decisions regarding where best to spend your resources. For greater consistency, you can employ your favorite units in each and every fight. Each of the three factions has its own map of the territory it controls. You can also use these maps in the Skirmish mode which is where this game begins to shine.
Online is where Universe at War: Earth Assault comes into its own. It’s not overly complex, but it offers plenty of depth with all of the various options and customizing features. Here you will get to access all of the factions’ unique abilities. The matches are intense, and one could say they are a little short, but it’s the quality of the gameplay that counts. There isn’t a lot of people online as of this review, but you can line up matches for later dates, which gives people time to prepare, (i.e., get everyone at home off their back for a few hours). There is a Gold membership available for an extra fifty bucks, but I wouldn’t even concern myself with that at this point. The gameplay is fun the way it is – and it’s still free online.
Control can sometime be an issue. The camera doesn’t always afford the best view and zooming is limited. Pathfinding errors will rear its ugly head from time to time, causing your units to go to the wrong place or even leave a place they were commanded to hold. This can seriously cost you the game at times. Very frustrating to say the least. Graphically the game looks great, with robust 3D structures displayed in great detail. The character models, though unimaginative, look good and animate well. The tunes are generic rock, with requisite blazing guitar solos and ominous synth chords. Voiceovers are weak, and are somewhere in between corny and annoying.
Universe at War: Earth Assault has a lot going for it, but you’ve got some work to do before it pays off.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
Excellent looking graphics. Game still looks and runs good on lower res. 3.0 Control
Pathfinding errors can be a major frustration when they cost you a match. 3.6 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Generic rock music and average voiceovers distract from the great sound effects. 4.8 Play Value
Online matches can last you a millenium. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.