Strategy games are a mixed bag. Some find them impossible to get into, others can't stand the slow pace, and some just can't get the tactics down. But when you become good at a well-made strategy game, you're sure to have fun. One of the first things I noticed about "Empire Earth II" was the steep difficulty. It's fairly simple to get used to the controls and modes, but the computer AI is unrelenting on any difficulty.
On campaign mode, there are limits to the enemy's growth, but it's never easy. Graphically, EEII is a big step forward, and it looks like the first in a slew of highly advanced command-and-conquer style sequels. The gameplay is fairly solid, but at times it can be spotty. It seems lacking in variety. However, as online play develops as players get better, that may improve.
The music is pretty good, but it's nothing spectacular. The up-close battle effects of stomping of feet and clashing swords was realistic and is also the only thing that really caught my attention. The further away you go from the battle the more muffled it becomes, until it's a faint rumbling in the distance.
Strategy games rarely have intensive storylines, and EEII is no exception. There are three different campaigns: the Ancient Korean, Medieval Germans and Modern Americans. The campaigns give the player bits and pieces of that nation's history, and are great ways for beginners to get used to the game. Even so, for any lasting gameplay, it'd be best to make use of the online features. Speaking of which, I had trouble finding games to play. When I entered the online room, I saw a lot of confused people and NO games. This may be because the game was just released, but the point stands.
Gameplay is definitely the pinnacle of EEII. There are three campaigns, four scenarios and a Skirmish mode that lets you create a custom game yourself. In the game, you control the units and buildings of your civilization. As your empire expands, you will gain enemies and fend them off using troops you build with the resources your villagers collect. It's a giant system, and it is, while confusing at times, overall very clean.
The different game types include basic Conquest, Regicide (kill the enemy king), Capitols (hold your territory) and Hotspot (landgrab), as well as several others. The tech tree is fairly dumbed down; a small screen with nine technologies exists for each "epoch," of which there are 15. It sounds expansive, but serious changes to the player's architecture and unit structure only occur every few epochs, the ones in-between only slightly enhancing different abilities. I would have much preferred fewer epochs, but with a complete change and many more added techs and units each time.
As for replay, well, it depends completely on how much you like the game. Enjoy it, and it'll provide endless hours of fun.
Empire of Earth II
Buy or Rent: Download the demo online, then your call.