Earth 2100 series
This is your classic dystopian near-future sci-fi thing with where (all together now) three forces are fighting over the last remaining resources on a depleted and wasted Earth. (next time, try not to sound so sing-song!) Practically every sci-fi game seems to have this pessimistic, chaotic and thoroughly mega-corporatized apocalyptic future down pat, and its almost as clichéd as the Western. The Lunar Corporation has space technology and hover units, plus the ability to drop space rocks on people from orbit; the Eurasian Dynasty is an old Soviet cum Chinese style super power with lots of old fashioned big tanks and guns; while the United Civilized States demonstrate their civility with futuristic mechs, antigravity and robots. Unit counts in Earth 2150 tend to be smaller than other RTS games - and units take forever to build - which tends to put off some gamers (um, like me). Nevertheless, there's a solid economic model here, and you get to build up your forces with a selection of chasses, weapons and tools you can mix and match to produce your own force of customised units. This game has a very strong managerial element: building up your infrastructure is a major part of the game and keeping your units supplied - for they can run out of ammunition - are also important strategic concerns.
The other distracting thing about Earth 2150 is that it, despite the wonderful 3D environments, clamps everything in place to a large rigid grid. At times it feels like an old dice game the way it moves units around. Scrolling about the map with the arrow keys results in an ugly jerkiness, and all units, even the aerial ones, can only navigate from the centre of one grid square to the next. In stark contrast, the environment is spectacularly atmospheric. Freezing snowy winters, headlights piercing the darkness, detailed lighting and weather make for a fabulous looking game. You can almost feel the cold and snow... With one of the latest graphic cards in the boot, Earth 2150 with everything switched to high resolution still looks amazing for something that's getting on now. Unfortunately, the interface swallows up huge volumes of screen space for no good reason at all, and requires lots of button pressing to expose oversized build menus. But there's a sophistication and complexity in here that'll appeal to some.
For a start, there's that capacity to customise all your vehicles, researching and upgrading parts and techs which you then assemble into units designed for a particular purpose in mind. Part of the multiplayer strategies and tactics revolve around developing counter to your opponent's forces whilst they try to do the same to you. The other major break is logistics, where you have to maintain supply lines and actively order supply choppers to replenish spent magazines.
Earth 2150 had a fairly modest response in English gaming circles, but it was always much bigger in Germany, where economic and Settlers style sim management games are major genres. I had difficulty installing it on Windows 2000: it wouldn't take until I installed one of the later service packs. Its certainly doing well, because there are two sequels: The Moon Project (2001) and Lost Souls (2002).
Earth 2150 is the sequel to Earth 2140, an old 2D RTS published in 1997. Earth 2140 has pretty much dried up in the PC world, but there's a Mac port by German developer Epic Interactive for the curious.
One nice touch is how you can grow you headquarters into a huge sprawling complex with add-ons, connector tubes and other bits; and the sides seem humanised now. The ED seems to be your dry standard military commander talk with some naff attempts at characterisation, while the LU is made up of a matriarchy entirely composed of chicks in sexy space armour and Thunderbirds style air hostess head gear.
The hard grid seems to be still in evidence, locking units into moving and parking around each other like cars in a carpark, in spite of the lushly organic backgrounds of Mars. The demo didn't give much away, and spent most of its time using a basic RPG format to drive a very simple trigger driven scenario around. It felt a bit average, actually. But the real test of an RTS is how it plays in multiplayer, and all those features were not available in the demo. Its certainly picked up its fair share of awards.
|Ground Control series|
Last modified Wed, Dec 13 2006 by Lindsay Fleay