First look: Empire Earth: The Art of Conquest

Mad Doc is working on an expansion for Empire Earth that will add new units and scenarios, and one more sci-fi epoch. New screenshots inside.

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Sierra has announced that an expansion pack to its historical real-time strategy game, Empire Earth, is coming late this year. The expansion will add three new single-player campaigns, new units, and a new epoch. Sierra has turned development of The Art of Conquest over to MadDoc Software, the studio that created Star Trek: Armada and Civilization: Call to Power. The developers have told us that the expansion pack was planned well before the release of the game, but specifics came together in response to early feedback from fans. Work on the expansion started around the beginning of the year.

To the original 14 epochs, The Art of Conquest adds one that's completely new: space. After the nano epoch comes a 23rd-century colonization of the solar system. This near-future setting helps explains the down-and-dirty look to the utilitarian spacecraft that have been pressed into military duty. This epoch is the basis of one of the new campaigns, which focuses on conflict between Pacific Rim civilizations, but Mars also makes an appearance. Taking Empire Earth into space adds significant new elements to the game, since space is an entirely new terrain type that only some units can navigate. Maps for the scenarios will also incorporate land terrain on Earth and Mars, but will be balanced so the scale doesn't seem too artificial or dissimilar from the rest of the game. The epoch's new units will include everything from light tanks and a dune buggy for scouting to large spaceships that are said to have "some kissing-cousins resemblance" to ships from an established sci-fi franchise.

The other two campaigns fit within the existing epochs. The first follows the Romans from the republic in the first century BC to the height of the empire two centuries later. In the course of the scenario, the empire battles with barbarians and the Teutons from without, and deals with fighting political factions from within. At one point, you'll see things from the eyes of the young Julius Caesar as a campaigning general. The other new campaign takes place in the WWII Pacific theater, including some of the most famous naval battles like Midway and island hopping missions with fierce jungle fighting. The new campaigns will all introduce new units to the game, which naturally carry over to the multiplayer. One of the more interesting Roman units is said to be the legionnaire, which has increased attack stats as well as special abilities, and the senator, which can convert citizens into legionnaires at a cost of gold.

In addition to the new campaigns and units, there are some more general additions to the game. Each of the 21 pre-designed civilizations will gain a unique special power, building, or unit. For example the Kingdom of Italy has the metallurgy power, which allows them to pay building costs with gold or iron interchangeably. Great Britain has a S.A.S. unit that can plant demolitions and swim across water. The United States' market building will allow that civilization to trade abundant resources for scarce ones. These changes are intended to "make everyone happy" and to provide "something new for people who have played the game to death."

Empire Earth: The Art of Conquest is scheduled for release this fall. The game won't be present at E3, because of the tight development schedule and the fact that Sierra didn't want the developers to be distracted by creating an E3 demo. Like with Empire Earth, there are plans to first release a limited public beta of the expansion to the game's multiplayer community, but there's no solid date for that at this time. We'll have more details on The Art of Conquest as they become available.

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