Real-time strategy enthusiasts have quite a lot of games to choose from. Itâ€™s because of this that developers need to come up with new and interesting concepts to set their game apart from the rest. In that vein, Earth 2160 comes to us with the best graphics seen in an RTS to date, albeit at the expense of some shoddy voice scripting, yet the oodles of game features will still keep you happy during those long missions at night. It comes with four playable factionsâ€”two of which are initially lockedâ€”as well as skirmish and online play. Most gamers care more about online play, since it extends longevity, but casual gamers will enjoy the single-player experience, even though it is rather robust.
Earth 2160 offers some incredible visuals that donâ€™t take a heavy toll on your machine. Explosions are vivid and the lighting is extremely realistic, making this game a must have simply for its visuals. With the added zoom-function, you can get right into the thick of it without any loss in quality. The models are very detailed, even when zoomed in all the way. Watching your rocket launcher units create a rain of hellfire on the enemy is truly a sight to be seen.
The user interface is simple to control, but might take some time to get used to for RTS beginners. You first need to create a base and, from that, expand until you run out of development space. Each faction builds differently; for example, the ED faction builds by connecting buildings via tubes, this ends up taking quite a lot of space; whereas, by comparison, the LCâ€”a faction of womenâ€”builds vertically. Of course, each faction approach has advantages and disadvantages. The ground-consuming ED base will not succumb to falling towers, while the space-conscious LCâ€™s will. If you blow up an integral part of an LC tower, the entire thing will topple.
The buildings all look unique to their particular faction, enhancing the mood of the game; plus the individual units all portray their own definite feel, too. The ED faction is all duel-sex human, LC is all-women, UCS is all-mech, and the Aliens areâ€”wellâ€”aliens. Each faction has its own specific technology and advantages. The maps themselves are both linear and open ended. There are sections of the maps that you must follow and others that allow you to roam around, though both inevitably lead you to the enemy.
There are a great many structures to build and a considerably large amount of units to create and customize. When researching new technology you are given the chance to create a new unit based off that technology. You can create a unit with a specific chassis and a specific gun. The choices of weaponry are essential to winning the game. Some weapons can only attack ground-based targets, others only air, some both. It is up to you to decide what is best, based on what you know about said enemies. Researching can take a while and can consume substantial resource, but it has an immense advantage later on in the game. When you research one item, it unlocks other similar items to research yet further. The research tree is impressively large and can invoke serious involvement, but the process itself is always simple and clear to the player.
The aliens are by far the most amazing faction in the game. They only have defensive structures, clone each other, and morph into higher units. You start off with small mountain ladies and morph them into fighters and various other creatures. They also morph into defensive structures, which can be upgraded to provide a more powerful defense. You get giant flying structures that can clone and morph into a very powerful fighter. The alien's defense is very strong and lasts long enough to build up a formidable army. The aliens need be near a resource in order to gather it, and once they have gathered enough, they can change to different types. It's a sight to be seen and looks like something straight out of a sci-fi movie.
The game revolves around an old 21st century probe that has landed on a planet and each of the factions wants it for the information it holds. You take control of each faction to play the game from a different side. The missions are fairly standard: build a base, build lots of units, kill enemies. The resources you gather are water, crystal, and metal; the LC and ED only need two of these, the aliens require all three. The resource gathering itself is perhaps quite different from that which weâ€™re used to in standard RTS titles. The ED has gathering ships that rest atop of the defined resource and then it is automatically collected and sent to a base within range. The LC has resource buildings that sit near a resource and gather within a defined radius. You can, of course, instruct the resource collectors to gather either one specific requirement, or both.
The voice acting is fairly decentâ€”and a lot better than expectedâ€”but the script can occasionally lapse into the realms of â€˜cheeseâ€™. The voice actors generally lack emotion and energy, so sometimes the spoken dialogue can become quite dull. By contrast, the musical score is amazing, and exists as one of this reviewerâ€™s favoritesâ€”in any game! Itâ€™s hard to explain fully, but the music exudes a motivational energy that drives you to win. Even though itâ€™s prone to repetition, itâ€™s still a great soundtrack. Sound effects and such are well above par; nothing ground-breaking in stature but nothing at all out of place. Explosions are typically loud and gunshots satisfyingly sharp; there arenâ€™t a wide variety of sound effects on offer, but this isnâ€™t an issue of detraction since the game is often overridingly absorbing.
If Earth 2160 has one flaw itâ€™s with its Aliens. They are much too powerful and this makes their particular campaign far too easyâ€”not to mention making them incredibly hard to defeat when posing as another faction. The assigned hero of the Alien faction is disgustingly strong and can defeat most enemy units in a single go. Other than that, though, the game is fairly solid on gameplay and offers a great overall experience. The other factions are balanced well and their differences are pleasingly noticeable.
Skirmish missions are an absolute blast. After playing through the campaign, itâ€™s fun to sit back and play against some non-objective driven missions on lots of different maps. The enemy AI can vary but does offer a decent challenge to beef you up for online play, if you choose to try it out.
Multiplayer offers some interesting features that are definitely worth noting.
â€¢ 4 multiplayer modes with 10 maps
â€¢ Multiplayer game saves and joining of running matches
â€¢ EarthNet Server with ladder and league support
â€¢ Multiplayer for up to 8 players per match
â€¢ Saved games available in multiplayer
â€¢ Possibility to connect to a running game
â€¢ Multiplayer spectator mode and replays
â€¢ The possibility to join an AI player in multiplayer games
Whatâ€™s interesting here is the ability to save online games and join games currently in progress. Also, you have the choice to assume an AI player in online games, keeping their current status. The online play is expansive and has a lot to offer. The different multiplayer modes available involve destroying enemy buildings, killing the enemy hero, a cease-fire start, and Uncle Sam. â€˜Cease-fire startâ€™ means you can only attack after a certain time period has elapsed, thus preventing gameplay rush and elongating the overall games. Uncle Sam is unique in so far as you get resources supplied automatically.
You have the option of saving online games on EarthNet or on the hostâ€™s computer. Obviously the former is advised to prevent cheating. Ladder and league support is available for those that enjoy it; some players, like yours truly, get a little intimidated when playing rated games.
Earth 2160 is an RTS well worth checking out. Itâ€™s definitely one of the better strategy titles to hit retail in recent times, and will keep fans of the genre happy for many an hour. It may not replace Star Craft in terms of statureâ€”but itâ€™s damn close. The multiplayer matches are suitably intense, and the single-player campaign delivers everything in terms of both expectation and intention.
GamersHell would like to thank ZuxxeZ for allowing the review of their UK version.