Version tested: PC
The Day The Earth Caught Fire
Earth 2150 is the sequel to Earth 2140, a fact which developers TopWare don't seem to be pushing. Which is hardly surprising, as Earth 2140 wasn't one of the most memorable games from the 90's, and it appears that they want to start with a clean slate for Earth 2150.
As is common for such games, Earth 2150 does have a 'plot' which attempts to make some sense out of the fact that you have to build a thousand tanks and destroy someone with them. In the case of Earth 2150, the basic premise is very simple - you have 183 days to leave the Earth and begin travelling to Mars. The reason for this is that as a result of constant wars, the Earth's orbit has gone a bit funny, meaning that it will hit the moon and send both straight into the sun. Imaginative, isn't it?
Anyway, as a result you get to play as one of three factions that are trying to escape the Earth before it burns up. The Eurasian Dynasty is a conglomeration of super-industrialised communist fanatics, The Lunar Corporation are a bunch of rich capitalists that live on the moon and are in it for the money, while the United Civilised States is a kind of future USA. The UCS typify lazy Americans everywhere as most of their armoury consists of robotic units that don't require human intervention.
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
So how do you get off the planet? Money of course! The aim of the game is to earn one million in cold hard currency, which must then be diverted to the player's space base for safe keeping. It is here that the Lunar Corporation have an advantage - onstead of having to collect the full million, they only need 500,000.
The required money is collected by the usual mining operations that we have all come to know and love from previous real time strategy games. Of course, not all of the resources mined should be sent to the space base for safe keeping - money is also required in order to research new technology, which means that you must decide how much to spend and how much to save.
The research and upgrade system for the units is rather good, allowing for older weaker units to be upgraded with any new technologies which you might have discovered. This kind of upgrading extends to all of the units available in the game, which encompass land, sea and air vehicles.
Another nice touch is that as units engage in more battles and survive them, they become more experienced. You get to keep hold of them from mission to mission, which allows you to get into the flow of the game a little better. After all, there is nothing worse than spending half an hour building an army that you will never see again.
When Worlds Collide
The AI is fairly effective, and certainly not as stupid as we have seen in so many other strategy titles. In fact, at times the AI will put up a tremendous fight and give you a serious hiding should you fail to manage your units properly.
One way around enemy defences is subterranean units, which allow for sneak attacks on enemy positions, but the AI will wise up to these tactics sooner or later. The old favourite 'tank rush' style of attack won't work either, and only a concerted effort from every direction with a sensible range of weapons will get you through any given battle.
Once you have completed or got bored of the single player game, there is also multiplayer support. The game is fairly happy with a 56k modem, although the odd drop out did occur, which led to some significant bouts of shouting at the monitor.
Multiplayer comes in several varities. "Uncle Sam" has no mining, leaving you with just your starting cash. "Earn Money" leaves you to amass as much cash as you can in the time. "Hide and Seek" is a capture the flag style game, whereas "Arena" is pure deathmatch style action, with no bases or resources. Finally there is a "Destroy Structures" mode, where the aim is to destroy enemy buildings to earn points - pure carnage!
Trick Of The Light
Something else that the developers have got right is the camera. Many other 3D strategy titles, such as Warzone 2100, Machines and Force Commander, have suffered somewhat because their camera control was rather difficult to use efficiently.
The camera in Earth 2150 can be positioned in any way, and moved fluidly from one view to another. This makes it extremely useful during the many battles that will occur in the course of the game, as it allows the player to more finely position their troops.
The graphics themselves are excellent, and the landscapes are well designed and very detailed. But despite this detail, the graphics can seem a little dull and colourless at times. While this may be realistic, in that nobody with sense is going to build a bright red tank, it does make for some dull looking units.
The lighting system more than makes up for this lack of colour though, with pyrotechnic multi-coloured dynamic lighting, and full day and night cycles. It can be extremely eerie sending units in under strange light conditions, especially when an enemy battalion can be waiting around the next hill. It also means that a real world necessity like a spotlight suddenly becomes a very powerful tool in the game.
The weather system is another marvel, yielding great effects as it generates everything from light rain to heavy snow fall. It certainly adds an extra dimension to an already impressive looking game.
Earth 2150 is a great title, and thankfully its forgotten prequel won't be able to damage the reputation that this game will bring TopWare. Certainly anybody that has played and enjoyed other 3D strategy games like Warzone 2100 will find Earth 2150 an extremely fun and challenging game to play.
One warning though - the game doesn't perform so well on lower end systems, which is in part due to the level of graphic detail that the game features. It is possible to turn down the realism, which doesn't effect the gameplay, but it will lessen the experience. Release Date - Friday 7th July 2000
8 / 10