Empire Earth Revisited

I got Empire Earth 3 yesterday. Found a Game Stop that actually had it. I’d like to say I can’t believe how utterly crappy this game is but actually I can. I don’t understand why they do this. They made one of the most incredible games ever with Empire Earth, but totally screwed it up with Empire Earth 2, and made it WORSE with Empire Earth 3. I mean the whole charm of the first game was the complexity, the sixteen something epochs you played through, and the ninety four jillion units to pick from.

It took thought, planning, and strategy to win a game. The AI was actually a challenge more often then not, and basically everything made sense. It was complex, and satisfying to beat even on the easiest challenge ratings. The expansion just made it even cooler.

Empire Earth 2 was a decent game once they patched it and it was actually functional. The territory thing took a bit of getting used to. I actually prefer the large build anywhere map system of EE1 but I got used to it. It was a fair challenge, but noticeably easier to beat even if it usually took a little longer. In fact I actually won more skirmishes with it then EE1. I kind of missed the fear of getting defeated though. Seemed like the only thing the AI was even half decent at was some of the capture the flag games.

Empire Earth 3, is pure garbage as far as I’ve seen. My PC’s both have well above the minimum requirements but I can only play it on my laptop because its installation program is apparently not compatible with XP Pro x64, even in compatibility mode. I find that annoying. I could just dual boot to play on my desktop but from what I can tell it wouldn’t matter as apparently there’s no sound card EE3 doesn’t conflict with. In fact the graphics run FINE with my Celeron and Sempron but the stupid sound screws it up. I actually have to disable my sound card through Device Manager to play it on either machine.

Now, a lot of games have problems with sound cards. It’s nothing new. Used to games shipped with a lot of drivers for dozens of different brands of sound cards so you could actually hear the sound no matter what you had. Most games nowadays have an option to disable sound entirely for performance sake for this very reason. In fact EE1, and EE2 had that feature, but not EE3 for some reason. You can turn the sound down, but turning it down doesn’t disable it. In fact you can’t even disable all sound, just four kinds. It’s ridiculous.

Speaking of installation issues, unless you choose "Custom" it won’t even install every file it needs to the hard drive. What the heck kind of garbage is that? It will not specifically install bink*.dll to your hard drive. Even if it does it can’t find it when you run it off the hard drive. You literally have to run EE3.exe off the DVD for it to work. In fact you have to go through the autorun.exe program to play it. Then it crashes randomly. This isn’t just on XP x64 either, this is on Windows Vista Home Basic too.

What really gets me though is their core audience. Empire Earth is really a game for RTS players, it has limited appeal to other games. What they’ve done here is try to make it as much like some of the newer RTS games which are usually pretty dumbed down in my opinion. Limited unit selections, fewer technology eras, and simpler game play. More action, less resource acquisition in other words. I get the reasoning but come on, where are the games for niche gamers like me who don’t care so much about graphics as theydo playability and feeling like the accomplished something?

I used to think Sierra games were cheap. Then they started putting out some good stuff. Then they had some of what I considered the  best brands on the market today. They still do actually. Crash Bandicoot, Empire Earth, Chronicles of Riddick (One of the few, if not only, movie based video games that was actually good), and Spyro. Now I’m forced to believe that Sierra has just reverted back to being cheap and quite frankly look to be selling out.

What I don’t get is that Sierra is a subsidiary of Vivendi Games, which has some the greatest stuff available out there right now. Why does Empire Earth 3 suck so bad? I mean it’s almost like Warcraft III only poorly executed. Wait, Blizzard is ALSO a subsidiary of Vivendi. Maybe that’s the problem? Ripping off their own games?

Nice.

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