While itself not a ripsnorter of a game, the original Empire Earth developed by Rick Goodman’s Stainless Steel Studios had plenty of redeeming qualities to make it very playable and often enjoyable. The sequel however, developed by the Mad Doc Software, falls short of even this mark. Empire Earth’s standout feature was its epic scale – the player was tasked with progressing from one ‘epoch’ to another, each new epoch imparting better units, weapons and technologies.The way in which you progressed admittedly didn’t make much sense (players had to stock massive amounts of resources), but the mechanic itself was solid.
In Empire Earth 2, gone are the innovations introduced in the first game – allowing the player to upgrade specific unit traits via the unit itself; the exciting feel of progressing from one epoch to another and general playability. If anything, EE2 takes a step backwards in many areas.
Territorial control is the crux of the game. In order to secure more resources and power, you have to seize marked-out areas of the map. This adds more direction to the game, and also gives you an indicator of how well you’re doing. Unfortunately the user interface is amazingly average. Unit control is a burden when it shouldn’t be. Combat kind of just ‘happens’. Health bars are often obfuscated by other units or special effects and formations make no noticeable difference. Additionally, the tech tree is inflexible and many of the bonuses it imparts are hardly worthy of the time taken to research them.
On the bright side, research is handled more sensibly in EE2 than it was in EE.The player can generate research points be garrisoning workers in University structures.The more units garrisoned, the faster points are generated. It’s in the spending of these points the system falls down.
The experience is much like playing a game from a decade ago, and it’s mostly thanks to the clunky and unappealing interface.The single player is a rehash of historybased titles that have come before it and is in no way compelling. For each range of epochs, of which there are three, the player must guide a particular race through those epochs. Of all the things to be preserved from the first game, this is the least welcome.
Many of the game’s other problems are systematic of its slow pace and clumsy control system.Admittedly, the aggressive AI makes for a good challenge in the age of care-bear strategy, but it will frustrate the casual gamer.Overall, it’s a disappointing sequel to one of the best in the genre.