Universe at War: Earth Assault First Impressions

We've got new details on Universe at War, including information on the second alien faction and the game's world conquest campaign.

It's a theme popular in movies: Aliens invade the planet with awesome, unstoppable technology, only to be thwarted by the plucky determination of the human defenders. That's so not going to be the case with Universe at War: Earth Assault, a strategy game where three alien factions bring their conflict to Earth, and where the humans, for the most part, try to avoid getting vaporized, liquidated, and crushed. We got our first good look at the game in action at Sega's spring press event, along with a glimpse of two of the three playable alien factions, and it looks pretty interesting.

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The game is set in 2012. Humanity discovers it's not alone in the cosmos the unpleasant way, when an interstellar war comes to Earth. While there will be human characters in the game, as well as a tutorial that lets you play as humans, the campaign will have you playing from the perspective of three alien factions. That's mainly because the theme of humans-overcoming-the-odds has been done to death at this point. The game will ship with a single-player campaign, an open-ended world conquest campaign, and multiplayer.

Universe at War is being developed by Petroglyph, the developer behind last year's Star Wars: Empire at War. Therefore, Universe at War builds on many concepts in Empire at War. The big revelation is that the game will have a strategic layer to it, much like Empire at War's galactic map. Only in this case, the strategic layer is a 3D model of the globe, with the landmass divided into provinces. It's inspired by the classic strategy game X-Com in that you can rotate the globe around to inspect different areas of the map and then move armies to invade provinces. The globe also models the day/night cycle, which is important, because when you fight a battle is as important as where you fight it. Nighttime and darkness will have a tactical effect on the battle.

The demonstration was a skirmish battle showing just how different the alien factions are from one another. The Hierarchy is the huge, lumbering alien faction seen in the early screenshots, the one with the units that look like weird giant lobster/crab hybrids. The second alien race that we saw was entirely new. The Novus is a sentient machine race that's much smaller than the Hierarchy and that has a slim and sleek graphical look.

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The Hierarchy doesn't build structures. Instead, the race carves glyphs into the ground that look a lot like crop circles and calls down from orbit the huge, lumbering walkers, which are sort of like mobile bases. Walkers can traverse almost any kind of terrain and are incredibly powerful, though they are also very, very slow. Each walker has numerous hard points that can be customized on the fly with weapons or other structures that can boost production. Walkers also dispatch reapers, smaller units that go around and convert almost everything on the map into resources. This includes picking up and processing cars, houses, trees, cows, humans, and more. The point is that instead of having a group of resource piles that fix you in one location for the entirety of the game, you'll need to constantly keep your units and resource gatherers moving across the map. Think of it like locusts slowly chewing up the map.

In comparison, the Novus take advantage of their networked state to quickly sprawl all over a map. The Novus construct various buildings that are networked together. Novus units can ride those networks to quickly move from one point to another. The goal is that since the Hierarchy walkers are so powerful, it's inevitable that they'll eventually stomp their way into and crush a Novus base. However, the Novus can spread their base so quickly that they can keep expanding away from the walkers. The behavior was described as a bit like cockroaches that keep fleeing from danger. However, the Novus can also defend themselves. We saw a redirection tower that can intercept incoming weapon fire and redirect it. Other Novus units fired barrages of missiles at Hierarchy units.

Each alien faction will have three unique research vectors, but the trick is that you won't be able to research every technology in each game. This forces you to determine what strategy you want to pursue and then select the technologies that will assist you in that regard. The example given was that the Hierarchy could focus on mutagenic research, which boosts their radiation effects, as well as on assault technologies and on quantum research, which affects their production. Petroglyph wasn't ready to discuss the third alien faction in the game, because it recently underwent a visual overhaul. Universe at War does look a lot better in action than it does in many of the early screenshots. There's something ominous about seeing a walker lumbering onscreen, firing blasts of energy at a sprawling Novus base.

The other big news regarding Universe at War is that the game will also head to the Xbox 360 early next year (the PC version is set to ship around Christmas). The Xbox 360 version will have a different user interface, but it should keep much of the PC content intact, including the ability to play a multilayer world conquest game over Xbox Live.

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Petroglyph proved that it could deliver an original real-time strategy game with Star Wars: Empire at War. The interesting thing is that with Universe at War, the company is building on the concepts and features it introduced in its earlier game while at the same time introducing a thoroughly original approach to the alien invasion genre. It should be exciting to see where this all ends up.

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Discussion

39 comments
davonas
davonas

sorry i was talking to my brother

davonas
davonas

this game is awesome why why don't I have a good computer

btrex
btrex

i dunno bout this one, without a human playable faction in the campaign feels like a kick to my earthling butt. i like the graphics and gameplay but feels like something is missin. after all i am human and i would like something representing me in there not some bug waiting to get crushed and swatted, vaporized and blasted.

bigtimekiller7
bigtimekiller7

why do they show only little clips of the vids.. it looks cool buuuuuutt the screenshots look a little funny

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

Problem is, they make brilliant, beautiful trailers, (I mean brilliant, go and watch them!) and then you see a regular RTS screenshot and sort of get deflated.... I think you have to be very careful with strategy games and do just gameplay movies showing off the engine, etc. Those fancy movies are great for FPS if that is what you going to be playing like, but for RTS, do what most publishers do and do gameplay movies, not these wonderful trailers that just make the game look ordinary...!

Humorguy_basic
Humorguy_basic

This is the type of story I have always wanted to see. Would love to see a squad game based around defending Earth from Alien invasion. Heck X-Com did it 20 years ago and I am sure it's just as popular today! More sci -fi with original stories like this. Based around real cities in the real world rather than humans on another planet defending against aliens like has been done a million times since Starcraft. So because of the theme I will keep an eye on this, not because of the graphics or because it's an RTS, but because I like the story idea behind it. Get that right and I won;t care what genre it is, or if it has the hottest graphics, etc.

SCPsyWarrior
SCPsyWarrior

Looks good, I enjoyed Empire at War quite a lot. It'll be interesting to see what Petroglyph does with an exclusively planetary conflict. I guess it's also a kind of anti-C&C3. The preview mentioned the typical 'aliens invade, but are defeated by determined human resistance' scenario, and C&C 3 was an example of that.

Demon9Tom
Demon9Tom

Looks cool, another RTS for the 360 :)

jesus_knight
jesus_knight

i agree anamnawashd this game is gonna be awesome

_Sam_
_Sam_

they aren't passing this as new. it's related to e3 and it makes it easy for people to access some of these older articles if they are here

jjdomo
jjdomo

Why does GameSpot keep posting these old stories as E3 updates? Look at the byline under the title . . . this story was written back in May! I know there isn't much news to report from E3 yet, but c'mon, don't give us recycled crap and try to pass it off as something new.

thk123
thk123

@C-manny Probably because the PS3, as it doesn't have a big enough install base and a apparently much harder framework to develop for and this in a RTS it is quite difficult for consoles anyway, so just too much hassle I guess.

C-manny
C-manny

Why isnt going to come out 4 ps3's 2? Is there a reason or have microsoft bribed em?

BaldursGate18
BaldursGate18

Goddamn! this is the best frickin news I've heard while about this game can't wait till Christmas,Uber excited!!!

Old_Gooseberry
Old_Gooseberry

frank klepacki (command & conquer/red alert) is doing the music i heard... so at least the music will be freaking sweet

gemi9
gemi9

I agree, the said that it would be made to be fair for both PC and 360 Gamers. It would be awesome to be able to cross that bridge and let PC and console gamers play together.

metaljeff
metaljeff

Great news, I'm lookin' for some 360 RTS action that isn't made by the kings of medocrity, EA.

mm5048
mm5048

If they Play it out like Empire At War, This game will done just fine.

Deatonis
Deatonis

Needs a graphic overhual... but with the look of it theyre doing it. And some notible key features, but it sounds great already. With games like the new civilization expansion, command and conquer and starcraft 2, it has to hit the market hard. Highest expectations for this game, and i know they'll achieve it. :)

generalville
generalville

The game sounds nice and i will check it out when it ships, but i didn't quite understand that is the human side playable in skirmish or not? Because; personally i dislike playing for alien lifeforms.

Natuo
Natuo

I was suprise the unit designs is quite like mechas in animes. Three of them.

malmeid2
malmeid2

who did who with a what now? cnc3 ftw!

GIF
GIF

So there will be base building? I AM IN! This is the single feature that made me dislike Petroglyphs first effort based on the Star Wars license.

Dukeofterror
Dukeofterror

i'd really like to see more rts for pc and other platforms. the merket is so overflowing with first person shooters and stuff. looking good, gonna keep an eye out for this one.

AceCometh
AceCometh

I'll be checking this one out when it's released.

Sagacious_Tien
Sagacious_Tien

It sounds good, and it's by a good developer, so I'll be keeping an eye on it for sure. Nice to see that RTS has a place on console now too.

ppau08223
ppau08223

i guess pc gaming is still alive and kicking. so much fir those who said it was dead. ha they are eating their words now.

RTSFanatic
RTSFanatic

but it should keep much of the PC content intact, including the ability to play a multilayer world conquest game over Xbox Live. Does that mean the game would be interoperable between Xbox 360 and PC? That would be flippin awesome if so.

g8summit
g8summit

I liked the new star wars game a lot. If this game has a similar strategy approach, while being as unique as it sounds, I'm sure it will end up being an amazing game.

wackys
wackys

Wow the game is turning up to be awesome Also first post

MaNN86
MaNN86

This look like an interesting game. Have to keep track of this.