Earth 2140

earth2140_1The Earth series garnered a reputable gaming community, although its fame really took off with Earth 2150. This prequel that started it all is the awkward duck that everyone just sorta forgot about, so why not give it an overdue look? The plot isn’t terribly intricate: two armies are battling for final control of a war-torn and environmentally devastated Earth. The single-player game is woven into this basic framework, but missions do not flow well from one to the next. Also, most of the missions do not vary much from the classic ‘search and destroy’ approach, either with a limited force or via base-building.

Even with 16-bit color graphics, the game doesn’t look very appealing. Mostly at fault is the pervasively bad unit design (they too often blend right into the surrounding terrain) coupled with an odd mish-mash of top-down and somewhat-isometric perspectives. A few sparse special effects, including some cool looking explosions and burning effects, dot the landscape during combat and give the visuals a little flair, and the sense of variety is also good thanks to the multiple included tilesets. Overall, Earth 2140 looks decent, but some lousy design drags it down.

The real killer here is the lack of innovation. The feel of the game is quite similar to most of the other Clone & Conquer games, with a few differences barely noticeable to even warrant mention. There isn’t a waypoint feature, but there is something better – you can record a sequence of orders for a unit or group, and then order the units to execute this recording at any time, making coordinated attacks a tad easier. There is also a continuous build option for units, so you no longer need to constantly make sure your factories are busy. Another improvement lies in unit pathing: you can order a group to negotiate a couple of corners with a reasonable chance of success. While these features are nice, it is still clear that the designers played the hell outta Red Alert. The feel of the game, the screen layout, the unit design, even the sounds bring back memories of that game.

Free design tip - never shove red text with this background and expect people to read it.

Never use red text over a red background.

While the pathfinding is acceptable, the AI at large leaves a lot to be desired. To be blunt, the computer is stupid. For example, a troop transport blunders into a group of enemy androids; the computer keeps firing at the now-intermingled transport, wiping out half of its own force in the process (friendly fire counts here). To help compensate for these weaknesses, multiplayer is included, although it neglects support for skirmish modes. While there are a few saving graces here, the vacuous lack of innovation, problematic visual design and lacking missions make Earth 2140 distinctly dreary.

System Requirements: Pentium 60 Mhz, 16 MB RAM, 30 MB HDD, Win95 / DOS

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