Reviews From The Backroom: EarthSiege 2

Reviews From The Backroom: EarthSiege 2

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For anybody who grew up playing games in the 90's, there was a large number of games available to them that featured the player taking on the role of the pilot in a giant, weapons-laden, walking abomination called a Mech (usually). This was not a coincidence, either. Most of these games sought to capture the success of the 1989 game MechWarrior. Sometimes it showed, and the game was a failure, having been rushed out of the development stages too early. However, from time to time some of them were quite good.

Success = Rip-offs

One particular series to come out of the over-used genre was the (apparently little-known) EarthSiege series. This series featured the two Earthsiege games, followed with Starsiege. Later on, the Starsiege story-line became the Tribes online multiplayer FPS series.

How the quantum leap from vector-graphics mech-sim to online-shooter ever happened, I'll never know.

Arguably, the best out of the early games made was EarthSiege 2. But the question stands: does this game still hold up today?

That very much depends. Read on:

EarthSiege 2 was released in 1995 for Windows 95. This was in stark contrast to the DOS exclusive Earthsiege that had come out just one year prior, and which leads us to the first (and quite possibly, the main) issue with E.S.2, which is compatibility. I'm going to take a moment out here to say that I had to take a whole evening out of the week putting a Windows 98 install onto a separate computer just to play this game. Most people today (and back in the 90's, even) found out that when they attempted to install and play this game that, in one way or another, this game was not compatible with their current computer setup. Fortunately, once you got past the compatibility issues, you were in for a treat.

The story goes that humans created a race of self-aware, networked robots called "Cybrids". Initially, these robots worked in harmony with mankind, working in every capacity from agricultural to military. After a while, the military went too far with their use of the Cybrids, eventually leading up to a nuclear holocaust. When mankind was nearly wiped out, the now-sentient Cybrids decided that humans were a detriment to the well-being of, well, everything, and started waging war. The events of Earthsiege take place at what seems to be the lowest point of the war, with human-kind near extinction. At the end of the first game, all the Cybrids on Earth are either destroyed, or are exiled into space.

The story for Earthsiege 2 goes that the Cybrids re-located to the moon, and are massing a large army to completely wipe out what little is left of the human race. It's up to the player to protect Earth, wipe out the Cybrids, and destroy the controlling A.I. "Prometheus", located on the dark-side of the moon. The game starts with the player taking on the role of another Rookie pilot in "Alpha Sector", the eastern half of the U.S.

Now that I think about it, that fire looks kinda brown too.

Prior to Earthsiege 1, everything on Earth was destroyed in nuclear winter, and the developers went out of their way to show it. Even though the game is separated into 4 acts (U.S., South America, Asia, and the Moon), there is enough same-y, brown, post-apocalyptic landscape to make any modern, "Realistic" game look bright and colorful. The ground is brown. The sky is brown. The mechs (sorry, HERC's) are brown. The buildings, both friendly and otherwise, are brown. The only things that AREN'T brown are the Cybrids and the moon landscape.

On top of that, everything is mapped out a little too simplistically. Most of the maps will feature your small, insignificant base, a hill somewhere in the center, and an enemy building with turrets around it; usually just a stones-throw away from your base. Yes, somehow, the enemy managed to hide a listening post just on the other side of a hill from yours. Oh, the Super Advanced Technology of the future!

That aside, the gameplay is actually really satisfying. The missions, despite being set in very similar locations, all have a slightly distinctive feel to each of them. From doing patrols, attacking an enemy base, deflecting an attack on your base, hunting down transports, and downloading virus's into aforementioned listening posts; all of the missions require a different strategy to complete.

One of the clearest parts of the game where strategics comes into play is setting up prior to missions, particularly in weapons selections. EarthSiege requires you to pick weapons based on a balance of firepower, ammo capacity, energy consumption, reload time, and the cost to repair/replace it should it be damaged. While it seems simple at first, it gets much more tricky later in the game when enemies start shooting the weapons off of you before they destroy your HERC. Energy weapons drain power, preventing shields from recharging. Chain-guns don't use power, but they either do a pathetic amount of damage or carry very little ammunition.

The same goes for building and using the HERC's.You can build light, fast HERC's that carry few weapons and have little armor, or you can build gigantic, heavily armored monsters that carry many guns; but they cost loads to build and arm, and move about as fast as hardening syrup. Fortunately, the developer decided to make the game fair, and carries the same principles over to the enemy side. The only time this balance is NOT present is when, in the 5th mission, you are tossed into a flying HERC (called the "Razor") that carries almost no weaponry, has armor made of duct-tape, and is so clunky to control that you'll kill more Cybrids by hitting them than shooting. I wish I was making up that last part.

I think you're going to need a couple more.

Which brings me to the last part, the controls. Never have I seen controls that span an entire keyboard AND hate you. When controlling the HERC, you have controls to spin the top-half right and left, acceleration/deceleration, tilt-up and tilt-down, fire, tracking (which ALSO uses power) with 4 different tracking selections, 7 different squad commands (which take another key just to transmit), missile controls, status screens for you AND your squad, and 3 possible weapon combinations you can pre-set and cycle through. Hitting ESC will bring you to a radar screen, which has it's own separate key-settings that, seeing that I can't figure them out after 15 years, are just a waste of time.

Some of this is made easier through use of the mouse, but switching between the keyboard and mouse during an in-game fight has gotten me killed. A LOT.

Overall:

EarthSiege came from a then over-used genre of games, but managed to bring something new to it. Though the first one is simple and dull, EarthSiege 2 is still a fun, challenging game, and well-worth the very low prices it goes for nowadays. If you can run games designed for Windows 98, are alright with low-res graphics, and don't mind a complicated control scheme, I heartily recommend you pick this game up.

P.S.

If you enjoyed this review, please tell me! And if you have any suggestions for future games to get for my back-room, let me know!


EDIT: Quick side note: I'm planning on making this a regular Saturday morning review series, and any suggestions for future reviews is greatly appreciated.

I remember looking at promotional materials for that game and thinking it looked pretty cool, but like most things from that era that weren't Descent-related, I never ended up doing anything more than idly musing about it. I wonder how my younger self would have enjoyed wrestling with those controls now.

I don't see anything wrong with the review overall. I think that you just picked a game without much of a following, and since the game is already quite old, people aren't going to track it down to begin following it. That's why I would guess that nobody really gave you much interest.

Try doing more popular games--even if they're old--so that people will actually be able to give you their thoughts on the game you are reviewing. Because, you know, people generally don't comment on the review itself, but more on the thing you are reviewing.

One of the best games I've ever played. I sure missed the couple of extra weapons on the Apocalypse that were lost in the jump to Starsiege. The Razor was a nice touch, too. Ugly though... Another aspect missing from the sequel. Also this Earthsiege series is a follow-up to Battledrome, which is a game whose only scene is an arena. The blaster weapons in the SS series are actually derived from Battledrome, which isn't seen in either Earthsiege game, though I can't say if they are in the Cyberstorm series or not, though the main units in that game set the way for Tribes. I have never owned CS 1 or 2 but would still pay good money for this entire Dynamix universe.

Earthsiege 2 runs pretty good on 98, as well as Starsiege.
Earthsiege 1 will work within win 98 cmd, but with no sound
Starsiege will work on Vista if you are ok with no mouse, wouldn't work on ME

I would love to see someone update just the graphics end of this series, big robots + big explosions + plasma cannons = Chuck Norris

Edit: I believe that the members of the Dynamix (a [former] division of Sierra) were former members of the original MechWarrior team. Very nice review nonetheless.

Huge fans of Sierra for making the entirety of the Siege titles and Tribes. Loved every one of them. I still have the boxes for Starsiege and Tribes.
ES2 literally taught me how to type.

 

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