Keep in mind while reading this review that I writing as someone who has put countless hours into the Empire Earth series. I enjoyed the original and loved the sequel. Thus you can understand why I’m so disappointed with Empire Earth III. The first two games were huge, almost unbearably so, but that was their charm. They, rather then focus on a particular time or place, tried to encompass the entirety of human history. While the nations were a little on the generic side, they allowed you to play how you wanted, when you wanted. Then, Empire Earth III came along.
Following the trend the Rise of Nations series took, EE3 took the ‘simpler is better’ approach and cut the number of epochs from 15 to 5, and left in just three generic nationalities: West, Middle East, and Far East. This made the game more accessible, but at the cost of what made the series what it was in the first place. The tighter focus has allowed Sierra to make the nations play more uniquely. For instance, the Western civ is your traditional RTS breed. You make builders, build up a powerful army, and conquer the map. The Middle East, however, builds carts that unfold into buildings. These buildings can also be re-packed and moved elsewhere, making the Middle East a very mobile nation. They units are more about subtrefuge then firepower, so that’s another difference. Furthermore, most of the Far East’s military units can build, so they’re able to quickly colonize conquered territory. All of these changes are nice and add variety to the game, but it’s hard to get over the fact that you’re losing the historical flavor that EE had so broadly accepted before. You can create your own variations of the different nations and name them, but they don’t vary much because of the limited research choices you have.
The units do show some creativity, especially the Future units. The West has my single favorite unit, the Half-Track Herc. It’s my favorite for it’s Quantum Singularity Cannon. I’ve won games just by getting one or two of these and firing on the enemy capitals. The black hole they create destroys everything in it’s path. I also like the little robotic dog bots you can recruit; they have a unique charm. The Middle East’s units focus on stealth and surgical strikes, while the Far East’s are cheap and quick to mass produce, but don’t last as long in battle. The World Domination mode is poorly implemented and feels tacked-on. It’s like an unholy mix of Rise of Nations and Civilization IV, like the developers played both games but didn’t learn much from either one. In short, it’s just a series of skirmishes and has left me unimpressed.
The graphics are better then before, but has a cartoony look. It’s obvious the developers were striving for a lighter tone for this game. The units all look like caricatures, and their acknowledgements show a sense of humor, at least the first few times you hear them. There’s only a few quotes for each unit, and they get old really fast. The flame tank, however, is uniformly entertaining for his sadistic and crazed tone. Whoever voiced him deserves credit for capturing a great personality for the unit. As far as technical stability, I’ve had allot of graphical glitches with this game, and I’m not sure whether they’re from the game or my video card. I’ll look into it further, and update if necessary.
In conclusion, Empire Earth III is a very dumbed down version of a decent series. It’s fun for short bursts, but you’ll want to go back to a more serious RTS like Age of Empires III or Empire Earth II to get your real tactical fix. I’ll post a follow-up once Omegasim and I get a few rounds of multiplayer in. Alphasim out.