Empire Earth III, developed by Mad Doc Software, is an RTS where your civilization upgrades through the ages from about 1, 000 BC to far in the future. This sounds like a fun design, like an RTS version of Civilization that goes beyond the modern era. The game is split into a world component (like XCOM) and an RTS component. In the world component, you assign each territory to produce military, commerce, research, or imperial points. You also move military units, and buy militia to defend provinces. There are several other AI controlled sides doing the same thing.

When conflict arises against either the native tribes defending each province, or an AI player, the game switches to the RTS map. Your starting units’ technology and numbers are based on your play in the world component. Base build-up is fairly standard, with the exception that you don’t really take specialized paths or make major decisions in base building. Most of the meat here lies in troop upgrades and deployment, with special abilities such as ranged units entrenching or using calvary vs. infantry.

The game was semi-fun for a day or so to see the different types of units you could get through research. However, I think the AI is too weak, and ultimately caused me to lose interest in the game. The main positive thing I can say about it is that your units will help each other out, so if someone is attacking you offscreen your units will move in to help out. On the negative side, units lack sufficient autonomous behavior, pathfinding is sometimes a problem, and most significantly about half the maps do not provide significant gameplay. Of those maps, half the time all opponents are neutral or cannot reach your base. So you build your base for 20 minutes until you have a good income stream, then just bribe all opponents to join your side, without a single bullet fired or sword swung. The other half of the time combat is not a significant challenge, and play progresses the same way. For example, if you build 3 towers (for nearly the same price as 3 regular units, buildable at any time) on most maps this renders you impervious. You could attack your opponents if you want, but it’s usually faster, cheaper, and easier just to save enough resources to bribe them. Towards the end I found myself dreading the RTS part of the game, trying to blow through the tedious parts as fast as possible so I could get back to the world component. On the last map I played before uninstalling, I built my base for 20 minutes, wondering where the attacking army was, and found them floating near the left edge of the world, never having disembarked their troop transports.

A few maps had pre-scripted challenges, and those were the most fun in the game. But they are far enough apart that it eventually became not not worthwhile to play through the unchallenging parts to get to them. It’s too bad too, I can see a lot of work went into the game, to have it all for naught.

I’d wait for this one to hit the bargain bin.

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 226 user reviews.

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