Reviewed: November 26, 2002
Released: September 15, 2002
Empire Earth: The Art of Conquest is the new add-on expansion pack to the original Empire Earth. As expected with an expansion pack, it builds upon the original game and gives you more of the same. Here are the new features and improvements this one offers:
Gameplay follows the original premises laid out in the first game only this time your goal is planetary conquest. Players start off on their own home world with unique landscape and resources and through advancement in technology, gain the ability to construct new buildings and units which allows them to leave their planet and conquer any other planets within you technological grasp. As to be expected, you now have a new unit, the space ship, which allows you to explore and engage in epic space battles. Space docks and orbital space stations all add to your futuristic fleet.
Aside from the new epoch there have been moderate upgrades to the existing game including new special units and buildings for each of the 21 pre-designed civilizations. Italy now has the power of Metallurgy which allows them to pay for building costs with either gold or iron. The British S.A.S. unit can now plant explosives and swim across bodies of water and the United States can now build the new Market building that allows them to trade their excess resources for ones that are harder to come by.
There is also a whole new crop of disasters you can throw at your population. When you tire of waging war see how your civilization fares against Volcanoes, Small Pox, Plague, Famine, Global Warming, or an impromptu Ice Age.
Online gamers will be happy to learn that the multiplayer component has been enhanced with new options and an updated matchmaking service that makes it much easier to locate fellow warlords and compete for global or universal domination over the Internet.
The visuals of the original game were very good, but things have been upgraded for this expansion pack. There are new terrains, lighting, water animation, battlefield scarring, and environmental enhancements that give this franchise a much needed visual boost. One of the most visually impressive new additions is the meteor storm that can wipe out large parts of your civilization.
The 3D graphics are better than ever with day/night effects and a nice range of zoom. Some problems from the original still exist. I found that it was still hard to distinguish some units from others and in order to effectively control my troops, I generally left the zoom out a bit so I could see a good number of units, but then I kept confusing troops. Controlling a space armada may be easier than ground troops, but not much.
Like most RTS games, the classical compositions that are the background music for this game are quite good. There are also a good variety of click-responses and weapon noises including some new laser effects. However, it’s not quite like hearing the 50mm Brownings going to work in “Saving Private Ryan.”
Age of Conquest will set you back $29.99 which is pretty steep considering the limited amount of additional material this expansion pack offers. You can get the original game for the same price and it offers literally 20x the content. I have always been biased against expansion packs; you never get anywhere near the value of the original game. If I’m essentially going to pay for the game twice, I expect more than a few new technologies and three campaigns. Heck, I can go online and find these additions for free at a number of sites. However, if they ever make a “Gold” edition or something similar that includes both the game and the expansion, that would certainly be a deal.
All in all, if you liked the original Empire Earth and managed to exhaust everything it had to offer and money is no object then you will find plenty to like about The Art of Conquest. If you haven't played either then you may want to wait for the inevitable "gold release" that will combine the two sets, and if you have already invested in the original you may want to wait for the expansion to drop into the $19 range, which is a much more realistic price considering the limited content it offers.