Review by Minako

Reviewed: 12/05/05

A very fun, if sometimes overwhelming RTS

I’ve always liked RTS games and been on the lookout for a new one; however over time it’s become a more and more ignored genre in gaming, and almost every entry into the genre is sadly lacking in depth. To me an RTS That has 8 or 10 units for me to build only isn’t much of a game. Without more depth and options there just isn’t enough strategy to hold interest, and the last RTS to really captivate me was Total Annihilation.

Earth 2160 is the third game in the franchise (not counting two add-ons for the previous one in the series, Earth 2150). I haven’t played the previous games, but the basic story seemed easy enough to pick up (though I still wonder how the LC survives with next to no males, but oh well…). The single player game consists of four campaigns (one per race), meant to be played in sequence. There’s a single story that spans all four. The story mode has been widely criticized for being predictable and cliche, as well as some absolutely terrible voice acting, and, well, it’s hard to argue either point too much. The storyline has some plot twists, but nothing that’s going to go down as one of the better stories around. But a somewhat weak story in an RTS can be forgiven, since these aren't games like RPGs where story is one of the main reasons to play. The voice acting, especially in the cutscenes is a much more noticeable issue. The audio has odd pauses in it, and generally doesn't match (often not even close) to the animation occurring on screen. It’s a somewhat minor sounding issue, but it does bring up bad flashbacks of late 90’s gaming, before cutscenes were really perfected and standard.

The game overall has a brutal learning curve; I found the playing the campaign almost a requirement just to get something resembling a tutorial, which it does manage to function as. And playing all the campaigns also has the side effect of teaching you the best ways to surgically strike bases to inflict maximum damage (nothing like having build a thing to know how to unbuild it). That said, when you do learn to play the game and actually learn the best ways to build a base (all the sides are radically different) and get the hang of having to design your own vehicles (the game has default designs that are, well, very general and not designs I find myself using often at all) it’s an amazingly diverse and fun game. All the sides have different approaches to building, different styles of units, different research and actually give distinctive gameplay experiences. To have four sides so different yet (relatively) balanced is a very impressive accomplishment.

The game isn’t for a casual type of gamer, because, as previously said, to learn to really play takes a larger investment in time, and even then all the different options (armor types especially can be annoying) can be a bit overwhelming while playing. In the end, it all really is worth it though. Earth 2160’s one of the most fun RTS games I’ve played in years. It’s open ended enough to actually allow different ways to play and be more than the same progression of gameplay each and every time. The campaign can be a bit tedious and the seemingly endless options for research and design a bit overwhelming but through it all the game is fun and keeps you wanting to play more. It’s the best RTS in quite a while and definitely worth buying and playing.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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