Empires: Dawn Of The Modern World
Developer: Stainless Steel Studios
Players: 1 + online
A new school RTS (Real Time Strategy) that plays off the familiar game play, but with enough original concept to entertain both newcomers and seasoned vets of the genre. For those who haven’t played one of the many titles that utilize this RTS concept as the core of the game, (Warcraft and the Command and Conquer series being two of the more well known), it’s essentially a lot of micro-management of resources combined with some strategic warfare logistics. Games start with a few “peasants” you assign to gather resources (stone, wood, gold, food) and do other essential tasks (constructing the building that produce your various armada of weaponry, soldiers and upgrades). It’s through efficient management of these resources and crucial decisions on what to build and when that give the advantage of “who can raise the biggest army the fastest”. Obviously, total obliteration of your enemy is the goal.
Empires: Dawn of the Modern World plays off this concept well. Variety is what keeps this games replay value high. There are seven distinct civilizations, all with unique weaponry and soldiers. And each civilization can “upgrade” to a new age, a total of five, again, each with unique weaponry and soldiers. Spanning a “1000 years of History”, as the box likes to point out, takes you through Medieval, Gunpowder, Imperial, WWI and WWII time frames. The advancements are made through the aforementioned resource management. So you can see the distinct advantage for one to be able to arrive at the gunpowder age before your opponent. There is nothing like mowing down a couple dozen archers with four guys on horseback with guns. And let’s not even talk about what happens when someone gets bombers in the air first.
Among the more fun weapons: Catapults that toss diseased cows. War Kites that shoot arrows, Oil Smithy who dumps hot oil on clustered groups of enemies, Fire Gallery (small boats that shoot streams of fire) and the B-29 Superfortress (the best known B-29 being the Enola Gay which dropped a bomb on a city called Hiroshima). So yeah, you get an atomic weapon if you play the game right.
To add even more spice to the game play, troop, facility and weapon upgrades can also be researched to give the player an array of offensive and defensive executables. Many are unique to whichever of the seven civilizations you started with.
Graphically the game is stunning for the genre. Although, often, the game play revolves around managing hordes of things at once, so an overhead view is primarily used. Which makes the built in “record game” feature fun to go back and do more cinematic views of the skirmishes and really experience the thought put into the details. Actual game play trailers can be found on the games website to illustrate this.
Empires comes packaged with a few modes of game play. 3 storyline driven adventures (which where a bit hard to figure out what one is supposed to be doing at times), run the player through some historically significant turmoils. Name dropping real life locations and historical figures add a sense of legitimacy to the adventure. You can also play against the computer (with a difficultly setting to match your skill). And a multiplayer option is available. I had no trouble finding some matches online (although I got my ass handed to me repeatedly until I played the computer a bunch).
A great afterthought is the statistical display that follows any game. It shows a charted graph of you and your opponent(s) advancement over time and as well as citizen populations, army sizes, etc. Even total number of mouse clicks. It’s interesting to see the graph spike and fall signifying when the battles took place and massive losses occurred (and significant rebuilding up for the next assault).
Games can easily run into the hours, so this is for the hardcore strategist that is in for the long battle. Generally, size equals domination but as the games subtleties appear with repeated play, a variety of different strategies can be employed.
Hours, nay, days (weeks) of repeated game play with a good dose of variety and few unique spins make this newest installment to the RTS genre an easy winner.