Universe at War: Earth Assault Review

Universe at War: Earth Assault in many ways harkens back to the golden age of RTS gaming when StarCraft was in its heyday. You have three distinct alien factions, each with their own unique strengths and weaknesses, resource gathering, base building, and maps that look 3D but play more like 2D, and the game does a pretty good job of recapturing the magic that made those games back in the day so much fun to play. While this is great for RTS fans, there's nothing that's really all that new here that will make it appeal to those with only a passing interest in the genre. Let's take a closer look and see if we can help you decide if this game is for you.

Universe at War takes place on Earth as three alien races battle it out with humanity caught in the crossfire. It all begins when the Hierarchy invades the Earth looking to plunder its resources. The battle does not go well for mankind, but before all hope is lost a race of sentient robots known as the Novus arrives on the scene and begins to beat back the Hierarchy. The worldwide conflagration soon serves to awaken an ancient alien race that has long lay dormant on the Earth, the Masari. The Hierarchy are your War of the Worlds style invading aliens complete with giant walkers and flying saucers, the Novus look a lot like they sprang to life from the pages of a Japanese comic book, and the Masari are a precursor style race that mixes mysticism with high technology. Each of these factions is quite distinct and requires a different style of play, so let's take a look at each one in turn.

The Hierarchy is probably the least traditional of the game's three factions. Outside of a command center style structure and a few defensive turrets the Hierarchy does not depend on building a traditional base to gather resources and generate units. Resources are plundered from existing structures on the map such as buildings and houses (giving new meaning to the term "housing crunch") by walker units that remind me a little bit of the Imperial probe in the Empire Strikes Back. They scour the map looking for such structures and when they find one they will camp out and process the raw material on the spot. The other major characteristic of the Hierarchy is its reliance on enormous walkers that serve as mobile fortresses and production facilities. These are very expensive units and you're limited to the number of them that you can bring into play, but they are also highly customizable as you can add weapons and other systems to them at various hardpoints. It's impressive to watch these gigantic units in action and you'll love watching the destruction they can bring down on an enemy base after lumbering across the map. Of course, it is equally satisfying on the other side to take one out and watch it fall to its knees engulfed in flames.

The Novus build structures in the traditional sense, but are the most mobile faction. They can build a network across the map and units can be transported digitally along the network and then be reassembled at any node. They also feature the most aerial units of any faction and have ships that can digitally upload units and then download them to a new location on the map. The Novus probably have the weakest units overall of all the factions, but they have the ability to hack enemy units and turn them back on their makers.

The Masari are the most traditional of the three races and are a nice fit for those gamers who prefer the "turtle" style of play. They build large bases with strong defenses that can be further bolstered by dedicating builders to the structures. All of this is designed to give them time to create some of the most powerful units in the game.