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Empire Earth III

Score: 57%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
Developer: Mad Doc
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1; 2 - 8 (Online)
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Empire Earth III is what you typically don't want to see out of a franchise. When the first game was released about 6 years ago, it quickly became a staple in the RTS genre mainly due to its scope, which was unmatched at the time. A sequel followed, but took the misstep of catering to a more hardcore crowd, leading to a game that was great, but overly complex for a general audience. Empire Earth III fixes this problem, though it goes a bit too far.

Very little stands out about Empire Earth III's presentation, though it isn't a slacker. All of the units are stylized and colorful, which gives the game a bit of a Warcraft III feel. This works for the game, at least once you realize that it is not going for historical accuracy. There are even some really nice weather effects and explosions. However, unit animations aren't that well done; heavy units glide across the map while ships stutter step their way through the ocean.

Music is generally good, though forgettable after you turn the game off. Still, it isn't annoying, nor does it get in the way - two things great game soundtracks should do. What does get in the way, however, are the one-liners shouted out by your units. Yeah, it is fun to have units scream out all kinds of jokes when selected, but only to a point. First, it helps if the jokes are funny. Second, you still want to keep some sense of tone or mood. Just by looking at the game's box art it is clear that "funny" isn't what the game is aiming for. There's a place for humor, but not at the expense of the overall mood.


The "catch" to Empire Earth was that you played as one civilization through multiple eras. You began in ancient times and worked your way up through time periods, ending up in a robot dominated future. The original system was a great one and worked fine, which makes you wonder why anyone bothered to change it. Originally you have over a dozen eras to work through; now you have five and it doesn't take too long to get through them all. This removes most, if not all, of the game's charm and strategy, regaling it to just another RTS.

Another cutback involves the various factions. Empire Earth III gives you three: West, East and Middle East. Each features the stock traits found in all RTS factions. The West is a military powerhouse with expensive, but effective units, while the East has the numbers with its cheap, expendable units. The difference between the factions is noticeable early on, though later it really won't matter much. Again, this pulls away what made the series unique and places it in a category that can only be referred to as generic.

Not all of the changes are bad; in the process of scaling back everything, some of the elements that needed to be changed were. Chief among these is the economic model, which has been broken down into two manageable categories: Wealth and Materials. The latter can be obtained from any resource pile on the map while the former is produced through trading. One really neat aspect of wealth is the risk/ reward element; the further you send your traders, the more wealth you'll gain. However, sending them too far out also leaves them open to attack, leaving you with the decision to play it safe, or risk financial stability in the hope of bigger profits.

The single-player campaign is a turn-based battle for control of the world. The premise is sort of like Risk, where you lead your armies into different areas of the map. The more territories you control, the more resources you have. If a territory is under another faction's control, you'll have to fight them; if it isn't, you'll have to square off with the natives. At certain points in the campaign you may have to complete special events, such as defending a territory from barbarians.

Overall, the mode works great, though the logic doesn't always make sense. Some of the scenarios that pop up come from left field, which hurts the overall experience. The entire mode could benefit from some sort of structure. There's little motivation to keep conquering other territories other than playing the game. Objectives aren't very interesting, nor are you given many options. For example, diplomatic options are limited to war and alliance; a little more complexity, or at least more choices, would have been welcome. Compare this to Rise of Nations or Dark Crusade where decisions feel a little more meaningful.


The opposing A.I. is, at best, erratic. One moment you'll think Dubya was in command, while in the next you'd think you were facing Alexander the Great. Other factions will make boneheaded decisions - sometimes making it really easy to take advantage of them and score an easy win. There are even times where a faction will settle into a territory and not even bother to try and expand. If there were more factions this wouldn't be an issue; but with three is it noticeable.

A.I. issues extend beyond the virtual Commander-in-Chiefs. Ordering massive armies around is a chore. At any given moment, you'll either get a "dog" or "cat" response from units. Sometimes they'll take the dog approach and do what you want after sitting around for a few seconds to process the command. Other times you'll get a cat response where they basically do what you want, but at their own leisure and in their own way. You can work around this issue by selecting smaller groups of units, but that isn't practical in a large battle.

Game Mechanics:

As far as units go, Empire Earth III uses the typical "paper-rock-scissors" model. Though the relationship is apparent, it doesn't always fall out the way you'd want. You'll rarely send out an army composed of one unit type; armies are always mixed. Even if you spend time making sure that your army contains just the right amount of each unit, most battles become one big mess. Units aren't the brightest and basically defy logic when it comes to attacks. You can order them around individually, though the response time is rather slow, so while you may set a few on the right course, a large part of your army will either be depleted or left licking its wounds.

Again, Empire Earth III is an attempt to fix some of the elements that made the second game a little too complicated. While there's something to be said about making the game more accessible, many of the elements that made the original game great have been removed. Somewhere in Empire Earth III, there's a great game. The things that work, like the concept behind the single-player campaign and economic model are fun. However, nothing about the game really stands out, especially in a market that is overcrowded with a number of great titles.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows XP or Vista; 1.7 GHz or greater processor; 512 MB of RAM; DVD drive; 6.5 GB of disk space; 128 MB Video Card; Direct X 9.0c

Test System:

Windows Vista; 1.6 GHz Dual-Core processor; 2 Gig RAM; DVD drive; 120 GB HDD; GeForce Go7600

Nintendo DS Cars: Mater-National Microsoft Xbox 360 Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated