by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Checking out the goods (cntd.)
Earth 2160 takes a novel approach to some of the more rudimentary elements of strategy gaming. Bases, no matter what side you're on, are built in entirely unexpected ways. The Lunar Corporation for instance, builds towers, stacking layer upon layer of base modules. After building a tower base, you can add up to four modules of your choosing. This adds an interesting strategy because you can for example decide to build a tower with just battle modules to bolster your defenses near passes and keep your production towards at the back of your domain.
Another cool feature are the Eurasian Dynasty's wall defenses. Early in the campaign missions, I received a tip that you can move wall mounted cannons about. This effectively means that after you've provided your base with a wall, you can apply your active defenses where they're required and if one gets destroyed, you move one from an area that's not under pressure.
Earth 2160 also introduces heroes and mercenaries. In the campaigns you're being represented by a hero who, with the help of items you'll find on the map, can turn into a regular Rambo. Med-packs are automatically utilized as long as you have one in your hero's inventory and weapons can be set to switch automatically depending on the type of foe he's fighting. Through the hero, you'll also see the plot unveiled as NPC's give orders or information.
Occasionally mercenary units will join you or offer their services for a small fee. Depending on their specialty they can add all kinds of bonuses such as faster building, lower production costs, faster mining, cheaper research and more. These bonuses can have noticeable impact on your operation. In skirmish games, mercenaries will approach you on a regular basis and offer their services, but never for free. You can hire up to three and a good mix of hero units can give you a powerful advantage. When you have more than one mercenary on your team you'll hear them joke and banter randomly which is often quite amusing. For me, these additions quickly became among the more useful and appreciated features.
The game has quite a few surprises for you. The plot is well written and will twist and turn several times. Sometimes you can see these twists coming from miles away, sometimes they'll force you to rethink your entire strategy. Other little surprises come in the form of scripting, like infantry hiding in between a group of dead bodies, pretending to be dead until you're in range.
Up until now, you've been reading a fairly positive review but I'm afraid it can't stay that way. The problems with the game begin when you start playing and you realize that the AI and the path-finding AI are simply below what we've come to expect from RTS games. Sending large groups of units along the often maze-like terrain means you'll be running after them to spank the many that are lagging behind into behaving. You'll find them stuck behind walls and objects that their peers had no problems steering around. When you select a unit that's surrounded by others and tell it to move somewhere, he'll do a mad dance trying to move without success because the others refuse to move.
The crouch command causes even more irritating behavior. You can set soldiers to crouch when they're being attacked. A useful feature as they'll receive less damage that way but the game handles this badly, especially when that soldier gets attacked by more than one enemy at once. You'll see the soldier hit the ground as ordered. So far so good. He then stands up to try and shoot, gets shot at again and hits the ground again. He'll keep on doing that until he dies without having fired a single shot. With a single soldier, this might not be such an issue but when it happens to your hero or other special units, it's disastrous. And if you think that's bad, don't get me started on how many units I've lost that I told to retreat but refused to do so.
No Pros and Cons at this time