SummaryGood idea, not perfect.
The GoodBefore I start I just want to say that I'm reviewing the game WITH the patch. It is needed to play multiplayer, and multi is the only way (more on that later).
The multiplay is by far the best part of this game. The idea that a game can go all the way from prehistory to the nano age is a good idea. This wide range of ages gives you quite alot of units to play with. They are basically broken up into three sections: pre-gunpowder, gunpowder, and tanks/cybers. Each section requires different tactics, mostly because you have to gather resources in different ways. One thing that helps this game is the random age start, as it injects a bit of randomness. With it you cannot just do one thing every game; you have to be able to play in each section.
There are five different resources: food, wood, iron, gold, and stone. Only six citizens are allowed to gather from any one resource patch at a time, however this doesn't really hinder anything, as they gather at a nice speed even in the start. The gold, iron, and stone patches have so much in them that I have never seen one run out. You will probably never encounter a shortage in anything you need, if you manage it right. This type of economy makes it easy to focus more on your military, which is really the fun part in this game.
Practically every unit has a counter, with a couple notable exceptions. One exception is the spearman in stone age. The only way to beat a bunch of spearmen is with your own spearmen. However, that is really the only weak point. Tanks, for example, are countered by anti-tanks, which are in turn countered by infantry, which is countered by tanks. In the early gunpowder ages the gunpowder units can be countered by the cuirassier, a heavy cavalry. However, halberdiers are a good unit for killing cuirassiers. It's all give and take.
The graphics are nice, being in 3d, but it doesn't really add anything. You can also zoom in if you want (but not if you want to win).
The BadEven though it does have so many ages, chances are you won't play in more then two in one game. If you age up too fast you won't have near enough military to fend off an opponent who has been working on that. The units in one age don't really have that great an advantage over units in the age below, unless it's at the breakpoints (first gunpowder, first tanks). You'll NEVER play a game that goes from prehistory to nano, unless that's exactly what you set out to do, and everyone co-operates. It would also take at least an hour and a half to do.
The AI is simply terrible. Now, every AI in every RTS game cheats, but this AI cheats so much. I think they just gave up trying to program the AI in how to correctly gather resources. Instead, it seems to just get loads of free resource deliveries. You could kill every single citizen, and stand outside the AI's capitol killing every citizen that comes out, and it will STILL make citizens, it will STILL make units, and it will STILL age up at a rate reserved for people who are booming. Another problem with it is that it doesn't know when to give up and resign. This forces you to hunt down and kill every last unit it has. If you let a citizen get away it will just keep making stuff with those free resources.
The multiplayer server itself is crap. There is technically a spam filter, but all it does is delay the spam for about three seconds, it doesn't actually block it. There is a way to ignore people (/i "playernamehere") but it's not in the manual anywhere I can find. Someone who beta tested EE told me. Even so, the chat still lags, especially when someone starts to spam. The filter only lags it up more.
The list of people in the room isn't alphabetized, and when you have eighty people in a room and you're looking for one person, it can get frustrating really fast.
There's another little annoying bug that affects some people. If you alt select a team, or double click a team icon to zoom to them, then start to scroll, the screen will jump back to that team a second later. This makes it quite tricky to jump to a team then have them attack something nearby, as by then the screen will have jumped back and you'll have clicked somewhere behind the team. In the heat of battle this is a Bad Thing.
The single player campaigns aren't worth mentioning.
The Bottom LineBottom line, if you can tolerate the chat problems, and don't encounter any bugs, this game is worth it. You'll never need to bother with the single player campaigns or the AI, which is half of the problem. If you're looking for a fun multiplayer game, you might want to consider Empire Earth.