Nov 14, 2007
There comes a time in just about every video game series' life when the producers have to cut their losses. For Sierra’s Empire Earth series of RTS games, that time was... a game ago. The original Empire Earth was an entertaining (if highly derivative) RTS. Empire Earth II was ambitious, but ultimately disappointing. By rights, things should’ve ended there. But like some degenerate gambler, Sierra threw yet more money at this moribund series. And with Empire Earth III, Sierra has truly created a monster.
This time around, developer Mad Doc studios took the path of least resistance on virtually every aspect of EEIII’s design. Gameplay is stolidly in lockstep with Age of Empires - the original Age of Empires: you gather basic resources with workers, build units (there are basically just four “types”), fight dopey, cheating AI, tech your race up to the next era, build better units, etc. But it’s not just the gameplay: the voice acting consists of poorly written groaners repeated ad nauseam by two-bit actors, there’s absolutely no story or campaign mode (the “World Domination” mode is little more than glorified Risk), and the multiplayer is as flavorless as diet water.
Even the much touted visuals look positively tired when compared to RTS frontrunners like Command & Conquer 3 and Supreme Commander. Worse, the graphics engine takes heavy frame rate damage when more than a few units are fighting; if you’re one of the brave die-hards willing to give EEIII a shot in spite of this review, make sure you’ve got a pretty frosty PC on which to install it.
Have we got anything nice to say? Well, we’d be remiss not to mention that EEIII does stand out for its truly astonishing lack of imagination. Everything about the game seems as if it were handpicked by marketing reps to play to the lowest-common denominator - and therefore increase the potential audience. Sadly, as Neville Chamberlain will tell you: taking the “safe route” comes with its own set of risks. Mad Doc shouldn’t be surprised to find whatever’s left of the Empire Earth faithful jumping ship after this disaster.