Retrospect Analysis of Empires: Dawn of the Modern World
"It quickly spread among the players as recordings of the killer strategy were distributed. Never in all my RTS years have I seen one strategy proliferate an entire ladder like that. For the next 2 months, every player in the top 100 would be a Korea player."
As an RTS veteran with many a game under my belt, I have played tons of great games. Starcraft, Age of Empires: Rise of Rome, Age of Kings: Age of Conquerors, Empire Earth, Warcraft 3, Red Alert 2, Command & Conquer Generals, Rise of Nations, Age of Mythology, and most recently, Empires: Dawn of the Modern World. I played the Empires: Dawn of the Modern World multiplayer ladder for a straight six months, and in those 6 months I had an experience that I would like to share with the Empires community. How Empires: Dawn of the Modern World made me a better RTS player.
I was possibly one of the most excited people in the Empires community in the few months before release. I was looking forward to the great gaming experience that SSSI promised us, and I poured many hours of my online time giving ideas on various forums, emailing many SSSI members with suggestions etc. When Empires finally came, I was ecstatic. The first game I played was against the computer on hard, and I was Korea in medieval age, and I had a blast. I loved every minute of that first game I played. So right after that I took my game to the online realm, and whence began my slippery, difficult climb up the ladder.
At first I had a very hard time, I was a dedicated Franks player, making my way into the 1200s within my first week of playing, and that was a good rate at the time speaking that the top players had only gone into the low 1400s, and I was in the top 100. Then something happened…I believe it was SiA_Hilbi who was playing around with Korea one day and figured out the dreaded and infamous Koryo spearman rush. It quickly spread among the players as recordings of the killer strategy were distributed. Never in all my RTS years have I seen one strategy proliferate an entire ladder like that. For the next 2 months, every player in the top 100 would be a Korea player. I was very disappointed by this, every game I played was Medieval Korea…These Korea vs. Korea games were when the magic happened for me though. Xn_Goat and I played a game on the ladder one day, the usual Korea vs. Korea match up, and we went at it. Then it hit me. Micromanagement in Empires is where it’s at. If you are not dancing your units constantly, you will lose. I watched as Goat was able to take out 5 of my Koryo spearmen with only 3 of his. Dazzled by his incredible micromanagement, I stayed and talked with him for almost an hour after the game as he went over the proper ways to dance units with me. The next week I shot up into the 1400s with my new found unit dancing skills.
Soon the Koryo spearmen rush was not as potent as it used to be, as great people like sCa^eLe learned to defeat it using very innovative strategies with England. It was also sCa^eLe who invented the Long Swordsmen rush, a strategy which I used a lot in my ladder career, and one of the most potent England strategies. I probably did over 200 Longswordsmen rushes along the way, and they were very, very fun. It was extremely intense, trying to maintain an equilibrium between my economy management and putting up and down my men’s shields and hitting the villagers and knowing when to fall back and avoiding spearmen. Some of those games I played as England in medieval were some of the best times I have ever had on a computer. It was fast, furious and fun, and I daresay it improved my unit dancing skills infinitely.
You see, the only other game where I had to do unit dancing was Warcraft 3, the only RTS which I would say is more micro-intensive than Empires. Since SSSI designed the battles in such a way that units had high enough HP that you could easily individually manage your units quick enough for it to be profitable. When your opponent is doing focus fire on one of your units, nothing is more satisfying and beneficial than pulling that one unit back and watching his entire army follow while not shooting, letting you get precious free hits off of him.
Raiding in Empires: Dawn of the Modern World is very important. It’s simply too easy to boom if you’re untouched. You can apply traditional RTS theories to Empires such as villy seconds, so you can see how effective raiding can be. I learned to be a better raider in Empires by playing the Russians in WW1. The Russians are very micro-intensive, especially when doing a fast Armored Car strat. Within a few days, I had some very wicked Cossack raiding skills. I learned how to dodge tower fire using way points, something I used to do a lot in EE but had forgotten.
Overall, Empires: Dawn of the Modern World improved my micromanagement skills a lot. I have gone back to play games like Age of Mythology: The Titans and I find myself to be a better player, and I always apply the principles of what I learned in my competitive Empires experience.
Empires is a great and unique game. Only Warcraft 3 offers more chance to micromanage than Empires, and I love it. It’s quite possibly one of the fastest paced RTS of all time. I love the fact that even the longest games rarely go over 30 minutes, and combat pretty much always starts before 8 minutes.
A couple of things ended up disappointing me though. I for one am a strong advocate of dissimilar, but not totally unique civs. Though the prospect of totally unique civs is cool, I have come to the conclusion it simply cannot be done in a competitive RTS environment, and the only game to have come close is Warcraft 3, but even after over 30 patches, it still isn’t perfect. I am in favor of uniqueness AoK style, where each civ has it’s strengths and weaknesses and a few unique units, but there is nothing that the Goths can do that the Britons can’t or the Mongols can’t. Getting map-screwed in Empires also felt far too common, I felt the random maps just weren’t balanced enough. Often your opponent would get such a good amount of hunt on his side while you were left with a bear or two, and that was very frustrating.
Of course, the ladder is now plagued with the UK villy rush, which only one civ ( Russia) can consistently defeat. And unfortunately it seems SSSI has moved on to its next project while not fixing some imbalances with the game.
The community of Empires: Dawn of the Modern World was great though. I felt it was a very tight knit community full of good people. Everybody knew each other, and I met the same people on the ladder each day, and it felt cozy. You could easily get plugged into the Empires community with it’s healthy group of 500+ people, rather than be overwhelmed by the thousands upon thousands of people playing other RTS games, where it’s so hard to make an impact in the community.
This is part one in a multi part series of how I tell how Empires affected me as a competitive ladder player. I hope you have enjoyed this first installment, and the second installment will be up next week. Ciao.