Sunday, December 23, 2007

Empire Earth II "First" Impressions

... Yes, under a rock. For two years. Me.

After lying in my cabinet collecting dust for almost a year, I finally installed my copy of Empire Earth II. I bought it for only 200 Php and I must say, it's head and shoulders above "not bad" and by far the deepest RTS I've ever played. It doesn't have the heavy micromanagement skills requirement prevalent in games like Warcraft III (where most units are so fragile that individual troops or even groups need to be "danced" away from harm). This game, in my opinion, places more emphasis in the macromanagement as there is more than a truckload of technologies waiting to be researched and a whole slew of buildings that need to be constructed. It goes without saying that this fact alone will make or break the game for different players.

It's not the Great Wall, but it's still an impressive looking one nonetheless. Outside, an AI ally's fortress stands watch for any hostile forays into our borders.

Yes, walls are needed in the game and this for me, is the only one that made me feel like those stone- and wood-depleting things are indeed serving a purpose. Make do without them, and you just might feel the pain of what catapults can do to your universities, city center, markets, and temples.

As surreal as it sounds for a real-time strategy game, Empire Earth II uses markets and trade routes; you can send trading vessels across oceans to trade and everytime they do, you gain money proportional to the distance traveled. Sometimes they earn you technology points too, which let you unlock improvements for your military and economic sectors of your civilization. Astounding depth really.

We will cut a swath through their ranks. Or maybe not.

The combat is where this game falls short of my expectations. I felt it when I first plowed headlong into enemy ranks but at that time, I couldn't put a finger on it. Then I read forum posts and started really noticing that the game doesn't implement the tried-and-true RPS (rock-paper-scissors) scheme really well. Unlike in games like, say Warhammer 40, 000: Dawn of War, where you could really feel --- and see!! --- troops with
anti-personnel armaments cut through infantry like scythes through corn stalks, here in EE2 counters really don't do significant damage than their comrades.

RPS in this game is a bit faulty: those siege engines will eat up those barracks much faster than those macemen can take down that Korean house but macemen and archers seem to be equally adept/inept at taking down a given kind of enemy infantry.


I am still tackling the first campaign of the game, which puts players in the role of the person who founded Korea but "battle through the ages" is the slogan of Empire Earth games and I've seen in the manual mech units that are named "HERCs."

Hmmm, of Starsiege fame? (but isn't that from another developer --- that is now defunct ---?) This may get interesting as the weeks pass!