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November Strategy Preview

November 6th, 2007 by Troy Goodfellow · 1 Comment · Preview

I was supposed to do this yesterday; it’s a first Monday of the month thing. But a delay for real content isn’t a bad thing.

November 6Empire Earth III (Vivendi/Mad Doc), Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance (THQ/Gas Powered Games), Viva Pinata (Microsoft/Rare)

November 13Fantasy Wars (Atari/Ino-Co)

November 15Left Behind: Eternal Forces Expansion Pack (Left Behind Games), SimCity Societies (EA/Tilted Mill)

November 27Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor (Stardock)

I’ve written previews of two of this month’s titles. I previewed the new Empire Earth for CGM last winter and a couple of months ago wrote about my hands on time with Societies for Gameshark. Both of these games are on my wait and see list.

I’ve never been a huge fan of the Empire Earth games. In my review of the second EE game, I called it technically proficient but soulless as it was transparently a bunch of numbers bumping up against each other. Ages weren’t very distinct from each other and the fancy toys like the battle planner and weather effects did little for me. To their credit, Mad Doc is taking the series in a totally new direction with a global conquest campaign, more exaggerated art and event quests that can give you rewards if you complete them.

On the other hand, I’ve loved everything Tilted Mill has ever done. But my time with Societies was colored by just how easy the game was. It was still an alpha build, of course, but in a couple of hours I had unlocked half the buildings and found few penalties to area placement. Prisons by playgrounds, dive bars by florists…it was very eclectic. And the much trumpeted “look” of the city wasn’t all that, since the cobblestone streets and security cameras only pop up at the extremes of certain values. The production team was very open to suggestions from the community reps who were there, so I expect there will be some changes in the game’s pacing.

Both games are trying to attract a more casual audience. EE3 has a very thin economic game with a single generic resource and gold you accumulate through trading. There are fewer ages with more recognizable units and only three factions, each a geographic exaggeration that demonstrates the silliness of continental descriptors in many cases. Societies is a huge step down from the micromanaging hell of SimCity 4. Utilities, budgets and emergency services are much easier to handle because they aren’t there at all – at least not in any sense that the player can interfere with them.

I think EA has a better shot at attracting a new audience here. They didn’t call it SimCity 5 so it will actually look like a new game to many people instead of a sequel. The RTS market isn’t very casual friendly at this point with a very few series attracting any sort of following. Plus, you are more likely to find a non-hardcore audience for a town building game than for a cannon building game.


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