Sierra’s Empire Earth series is part of the “civilization”? tradition of real-time strategy, along with such titles as Civilization, Rise of Nations, and Age of Empires. Empire Earth I and II came out in 2001 and 2005, and were great games. But the most recent installment, Empire Earth III, seems hastily put together in an attempt to get the most out of the brand name.
Players will attempt to rewrite history as the Western, Eastern, or Mid-Eastern race. Western has higher-quality, more expensive troops; Eastern has lower-quality, much cheaper troops; and Mid-Eastern has medium grade troops with highly mobile buildings. In single player, you attempt to conquer 60% of the world and win the game. The turn-based, board-game style of territory management will remind the player of RISK, or the similar video game Dawn of War: Dark Crusade. Territories produce one of four resources of your choice: imperial, commerce, military, or research. Armies are made by military territories, commerce territories provide wealth, and research territories advance your civilization’s technology. Imperial provinces provide spies, who steal enemy resources and snoop out enemy territories. Battles can be auto-resolved, except with natives. Speaking of natives, there are two ways to deal with them: destroy them, or build up your relations to the point of assimilation.
All of this has absolutely nothing to do with the actual gameplay of what is an RTS, not a board game. It seems like Mad Doc, the developer, forgot that it’s the gameplay that matters, and the clunkiness proves it. The system requirements are moderate, but the graphics and animation are weak and the load times are long. The characters often spout lines intended to be funny, that I just found tiresome The buildings and the units they produce are cookie-cutter, especially in the earlier civilization stages. The futuristic race is somewhat creative, but players will be bored by the time that point is reached. And the multiplayer is nonexistent. I found 11 players on the Gamespy network on a weekday night at peak hours.
Empire Earth III is a sorry excuse for a history game–the only history you’ll be thinking of is all the other strategy games this one has borrowed from.