copyright © Jedo Dre 2011

Earth 2160



Rati ng:


Impact: Relatively memorable

I’m not going to lie; I’m generally not a fan of arcade strategy games where 5 infantry men take 5 minutes to destroy a tank with their BULLETS while their own life is gradually reduced by the direct hits of 75mm tank shells. Earth 2160 would be one such game. Yet it is my gamer duty to write a quality review on this new third part of the Earth trilogy. I’m also rather excited about the fact that my review is in all probability going to be longer than the Gamespot review  One might wonder why I’m so late with it and the answer is simply that I was playing it for so long. So...many excuses for being late again and here we go…


The core


In single player you take command of forces from four different factions over the course of four different campaigns. Each campaign is part of a bigger story. And the story goes something like this: the human factions, while fighting each other on Mars after an apocalyptic crisis on Earth (fighting for questionable reasons I might add), find an alien race as well as proof that there’s a place just like Earth somewhere beyond a special gate. Someone knows the coordinates to that planet and the governments try to hide the planet’s existence. In the mean time, an evil scientist grabs alien technology for himself and starts his own war. The campaigns flow gracefully into one another.


Earth 2160 is a typical Real Time Strategy game. You start out small, find a source of materials and energy, build different buildings and produce soldiers, tanks and aircraft to then annihilate the enemy or defenses to protect your own base.


During the campaign, after a mission you might be given a choice of which mission to initiate next. That choice is meaningless since it doesn’t affect your destiny in any way and you’ll have to accomplish those other missions in any case. In fact, it distorts the storyline if you pick a latter mission first.


The game is very hard for a commoner to get started with, essentially because there is no real introduction mission, no manual or anything of that kind. There are but only these occasional tips appearing in the upper part of the screen; Tips I would often miss anyway when I’m occupied fighting and/or building. For example it took me a couple of missions before I realized that I could capture a building by sending my infantry inside of it. Such a steep learning curve doesn’t spoil the game though.


Acting


The acting is horrendous. At first I thought the story is just not too strong and then I thought that it might be because of the bad translation from the other language that the game was originally released in (the voice sometimes does not correspond with the articulation and that leaves weird pauses). So I’m not sure why exactly but I know that after a while I couldn’t stand it anymore and had to skip all but the most important conversations. One might think “Oh acting, wow! As if it’s something to worry about...”. Well, honestly, the story and therefore the acting takes a very central place during the campaign. Conversations in game and cut scenes with conversations are plentiful so it can get really annoying. And because it is bad the whole story starts to sound somewhat childish.


Unbalanced


I found the campaign to be unbalanced. At times the missions are very easy and other times the missions are near impossible, even when playing on the easiest of the difficulty levels! One time I had to defend a compound and the enemy attacked with airborne units right after I ended my briefing. I barely built a unit or two and had for most part just plain infantry at that point.


This also has to do with the fact that some factions are stronger than others. Out of the four factions, to which I will refer as ED, LC, UCS and Aliens, the aliens can in the later stages build craft and defenses that no other faction can possibly match. Likewise, the tanks and other craft are having a hard time when put against base defenses. LC defenses have a very long range, something I can’t say about the ED defenses. All these unbalanced things pretty much mean that a victory is often the matter of sending a galore of units to their death, hoping they will grab a little more health from those defensive towers before the units pass away. While not very strategic, this does cause for a fun looking action.


The fact that you’re forced to play the LC campaign to be able to play the 2 resting campaigns doesn’t prove popular with someone like me. What if one is not a chick and does not want to play for a female community and listen to conversations about dyed hair? To finish the story you also have to play for the alien side, obliterating humanity. While the aliens are really cool and powerful, one might not want to be a bad guy. I never liked this approach in WarCraft 3 either however other people might find this amusing since you’re gradually shown full potential of each faction.


One of a kind


So what’s original about Earth 2160? What makes it all more fun is that the factions are very deferent from one another. While the basic idea is the same: find a source of materials and start building more and more powerful units, the way the units and structures are created is very different.


The buildings of one faction are built one upon the other while other factions clone their units to then mutate some of them into buildings.


Another interesting feature is customizable vehicles. By that I mean that after conducting certain research you can change armament on your units in order to fit the different sorts of enemies you encounter.


Something else I’d like to note: there’s a first person view incorporated into the game. Rather shocked I was that the game made such little use of it! The developers have everything ready: the HUD (a different one for each unit type!), the choice of different weapons though inventory menu (when playing for a hero), the good graphics, the movement keys…There are even the missions for just 1 person and the developers did not add a fire-at-will button!?


Skirmish and multiplayer


Plenty of maps are given for the skirmish and MP hustle. This is probably why the game is worth buying in the first place since the campaign is somewhat weak. There are four game modes for player to choose from. During the MP game it’s much like during the campaign except that the player is offered several agents/heroes for hire instead of getting one standard one. There’s nothing special to add about the multiplayer since it plays out just like a standard Command & Conquer-type game. If you played one, you played them all. There’s just one annoying part which torments some other RTS multiplayers as well and that is the ability of your foe (or yourself) to hide a unit somewhere on the map, and even if you destroy the enemy base, the game won’t be over until you kill all of the enemy units.


AI:


While most of the time the AI is able to find its way from A to B and fight when required, I often found some of my units getting stuck and running back and forth along the same little piece of a cliff while they were being fired upon by enemy. Also while most of the units will choose one road, some loose cannon unit will decide to go ALL the way around (of course stumbling upon a large enemy force in the process). This last one is actually a standard problem with all games. When you drive your forces onto an enemy camp, they will often start attacking the wall or some other insignificant structure while the enemy towers and tanks is what they really have to worry about.


Controls…


…are a bit confusing. The button for selecting the units also functions as the button for moving them as well as the button for boarding the ships and entering buildings. This occasionally causes for unwanted choices. In the last several years I can’t remember playing an RTS game that had the select button and the move button as the same button. On the brighter side the controls are plentiful as many key-binds are allowed.


Overall bugs


The original version of the game had a few bugs and some of those bugs even made it through several official patches. An example would be: the flamethrower only kills one person at a time and only starts bringing damage the second time you fire. In general bugs in Earth 2160 are not sufficient enough to spoil the gameplay.


Visuals:


I take my hat down to the developers on this one. The visuals in Earth 2160 are the best visuals I’ve ever seen in an RTS game. In fact, the game would look good even if it was a First Person Shooter and you played from first person view perspective. You can clearly see the face of the person. There’s a strong reliance on shadows and it reminded me Doom 3. I could watch the pretty lava flow from volcanoes all day and the lasers and explosions are also very colorful. Furthermore, there are night and day changes. The game even features a sky fully equipped with stars and moving clouds. How’s that for a strategy game?!


Not all is good with the animations however. Earth 2160 has an awkward clipping problem. Gunfire clips through ground and soldiers when in loose formation tend to merge with one another. You think you have just 2 soldiers left alive, then you move them and they instantly clone to become 4 soldiers. Fun!


The movement of characters during cut scenes is also rather odd. If some of you remember the space sim X2 the animations there closely resemble these. As I remembered later the developer Deep Silver is in fact the one who made both X2 and Earth 2160, so it’s not surprising.


Sound:


Well there’s nothing wrong with it that I noticed. The game includes a full arrange of laser fire, explosions, discharges, voices, engine sounds and all the usual stuff that you expect to be there. The only problem here is part of the bigger problem described before about the cut scene voices that are simply a bad act.


The background music is chosen well and it dramatically swings between periods of exploration and battle. Unfortunately it’s not very varied but it does the job. Personally I did not like the main menu music but that might be just me.


Performance:


As expected with any strategy game, Earth 2160 doesn’t kill your system. However when taking into account the intense visuals you have to expect that it will reach lower frames per second number than other games of the same genre. The game was tested by me with graphic settings on maximum on a 2GHz Pentium, 1GB RAM, Radeon 9600 machine and acted well during smaller build ups but was slowing to 1 frame per second crawl during large battles.


Conclusion:


Rather strange is that after so much bad comment I still give this game a high score. Well…despite of its many flaws like bugs and a questionable campaign, the game still is in its essence an OK strategy game with a few original ideas (like the interesting building system and the customizable units). Eventually it keeps its head above water with its good graphics. Earth 2160 should appeal to an RTS fan.