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Empires Review


Mod Name: Empires
Author: Empires Mod dev team
Download Link: Steam (vers. 2.31)
Game: Any Source engine game.

The first time I fired up Empires I thought I knew exactly what I was getting myself into, a multiplayer only, Source engine mod, I thought I’d be able to get a feel for any additions fairly quickly and be gunning down the best players the mod had to offer in no time. I was so unbelievably wrong that I want to build a time machine for the single purpose of delivering past-me a swift kick to the groin.

Empires is a rare beast, one of those mods that comes along out of nowhere and really surprises you with its depth. There are three different genres at play here; FPS infantry combat, vehicular combat similar to that seen in the Battlefield franchise and an RTS element. Each carrying its own style of play which will need to be mastered if you hope to satisfy the mod’s intelligent, albeit slightly irritable community.

You play as a soldier in one of two warring factions; the Brenodi Empire, a modern militaristic force who are at war with the Northern Faction, the rebels fighting for their freedom… I’m assuming. Both sides play roughly the same and your choice of team will mostly only affect the aesthetics. Both teams are balanced differently, something i didn’t immediately notice (that’s a good thing), the rate of fire on one gun may be higher than the other team’s equivalent but do less damage per hit. This is also true with the vehicles, with the ability to have a secondary gunner in a Brenodi APC while the Northern faction’s Light tank is slightly better than that of the Brenodi’s (thankyou Devourawr for pointing this out to me).

Imagine this but with more brown and rust... You just imagined the Northern Faction.

As an infantryman your job is fairly standard and will be familiar to most team based FPS players, shoot the hell out of the other guys and complete the objective. To do this you have four classes: The Rifleman, the game’s assault option, armed with your choice of a mid-close range assault rifle, a long-mid range assault rifle or a mini-gun with so much kick you’ll need to crouch or go prone in order to use it effectively. Next is the Grenadier, as you might expect this class specialises in explosives either through use of a fairly accurate rocket launcher, a mortar launcher which was surprisingly fun to use and landmines effective on both infantry and vehicles.

Then you have the Scout, Scouts have the ability to use two SMGs, one accurate but with less firepower and the other slightly more powerful and better suited to close range combat. Scouts also have access to scoped rifles, aka: Snipers. These weapons do a hefty amount of damage and will usually kill in two body shots, or one shot to the head, when scoped however you will often find yourself fighting against the reticule to aim straight, this makes lining up headshots rather difficult but can be overcome with practice. Finally players can choose to be an Engineer, while Engineers can only use the same two SMGs as their Scout buddies they make up for the lack of firepower with the ability to construct turrets and radars, drop ammo crates for their teammates and repairing vehicles and structures. All that and being essential to winning the damned game, a lack of turrets may mean an over abundance of enemy vehicles or infantry all up in your grill, players will need ammo constantly and radars and cameras provide easier tracking of enemies.

Along with these weapons each class access to either one or two sidearms and a selection of grenades, dependant on the class. Additionally players get to choose up to four skills, dependant on the rank they have achieved in the match, these skills are the same across each class, players can choose from; a health boost, health regeneration, ammo increase, rapid stamina regeneration, increased accuracy, higher melee damage and faster running speed.

Vehicles, while not available in every map, add a lot of fun to the game. You have a choice of either a Jeep, an APC or a Light Tank, as you might have guessed, Jeeps are fast but lack any considerable firepower, APCs are great at mowing down infantry but contemplate their mere existence when up against other vehicles or buildings, and Tanks blow stuff up. These vehicles are customisable, by which I mean you can change the weapons in use. So sorry, no go faster stripes for you.

Each team has a Commander, voted for before the match begins by the players. The Commander controls the battle from a bird’s eye view familiar to most RTS players, placing structures such as vehicle factories, walls or barracks, giving orders to specific groups of players and sitting safely in his command vehicle like a boss. The creation of structures requires resources which adds another level of depth for the Commander to worry about on top of researching upgrades… As you might be able to tell, it’s a wee bit difficult.

One thing I noticed after playing on a few servers, was that there wasn’t really too much competition for who wanted to be Commander, usually one person would opt in, the team would vote him up and the game would start. Puzzled by this I decided I’d opt in my next game and see what all the fuss was about. About 30 seconds later the subject of the fuss slapped me in the face.

I will be seeing this UI in my nightmares for the rest of my life.

Being a Commander is very stressful, especially if it is your first time, if you are playing this game and haven’t been a Commander before, don’t expect your hand to be held should you click the opt in button. Thankfully I managed to figure it out quite quickly due to my RTS prowess, relying on my team to request upgrades, pretending I was just about to start said upgrades… Needless to say it went pretty well. The fact that we eventually lost due to them having an experienced Commander is irrelevant.

Graphically the mod looks nice, for a Source engine mod, it’s not Crysis but it’s not outdated either, the game uses a lot of custom models which all look nice and have a fair amount of detail. The mod uses some of custom sound effects for the guns, a few don’t make much sense such as the snipers sounding like peashooters compared to the pistols but all around there aren’t many problems.

Now onto some problems I noticed with the mod. Firstly is the design of some maps, while a large selection of the official maps are well designed and as balanced as possible given the freedom of building placement, others suffer from flaws which lead to matches consisting of grenade/mortar/rocket spam.

Imagine this for 30 minutes...

One example of this (see above) is the map emp_district402. The centre of the map is essentially a bucket for you to throw explosives into, the victor is decided by which team can use the least amount of tickets respawning their players, which effectively comes down to staying as far back as possible with engineers acting as medics reviving teammates and everyone else lobbing all manner of grenades and rockets at the other guys, who will be doing the same thing.

Secondly there are a few bugs I noticed such as sound effects not always playing, becoming stuck on ammo crates when being revived by an engineer (the only way out was suicide) and a tendency for vehicles to take off when confronted with mines. These are bugs common with other Source engine mods, but they are present nonetheless.

Overall Empires is definitely worth your time, if you can overlook a few rare bugs and get to play on one of the larger maps where the mod really shines. Anybody who owns a Source engine game should definitely give this a try.

  1. Devourawr says:

    Actually, our balance system is asymmetrical. Many of the guns on each team differentiate in terms of Rate of Fire and damage, and the tanks have different properties too. For example, the Brenodi Heavy Tank can have 2 cannons and one missile, while the Northern Faction can have 2 missiles and one cannon.
    Another example of this is the Brenodi Anti-Personnel Carrier, in which a foot soldier may shoot out of the top, which can’t be done on the Northern Faction. This is balanced due to a slight advantage in the Northern Faction Light Tank.

    Sorry for the “irritable” community, we hate to give newcomers bad experiences, although you and I know exactly what person you’re talking about.

    • Daniel Perry says:

      I only realized there was asymmetrical balance yesterday and so it wasn’t included, it wasn’t immediately obvious to me (which is good) and was something i didn’t think to check. So yeah sorry about that I’ll edit it in later.

      And as for the “irritable” community it wasn’t meant as an insult, i can’t think of very many communities which won’t gun down newcomers for being idiots, my experience with the Empires community has been great so far but i did notice that said idiots (it was me once or twice) would be called out. They were irritated, but they didn’t stone them.

  2. It’s well known that the community as it stands has various problems which go back to the years 2005 and 2006. Regardless this should not discourage anyone from playing the game. A great deal of the community is focused on helping newcomers.

  3. flasche says:

    you should check the “class specific skills” section in the skill selection menu and will find out that there are a lot more skills for u to use …

    also: its not fully up to date (mainly only numbers), but gives a good general overview.

    thanks for this awesome review

    • Daniel Perry says:

      It’s not so much that i didn’t know that the classes have a lot more to them than i wrote, but that i didn’t want to spend too much of the review talking about one aspect of the mod.

      If i had written about everything included in the mod this review would have been quite a bit longer.

  4. Grantrithor says:

    Awesome review man, and you made me laugh at the description of district. See you on the battlefield.

  5. Why does this review feel like it was written by somebody who only played for five minutes?

    Empires does not have much depth (seriously at least half of the researchable things are useless to get, although it has gotten better over the years, yes) and putting “Empires mod community” and “intelligent” in a sentence without the word “not” between them is, quite frankly, a huge error on your part, comrade “Daniel Perry”.

    As well, Scouts are fucking useless – although being a fucking cocksucking piece of shit and Sabotaging all of those delicious enemy refinery points is useful, as long as you’re not adding to the horde of scouts which is usually on every team. As well, the scout rifle sounds like a peashooter for a reason: its weak as shit, please for the love of God as a long time Empires Commander player (in fact, I am the best Commander ever and in no way is this a false statement to keep people from choosing terrible Commanders. such as all of these Empires players posting in here) please do not fucking use it I don’t fucking care if you fucking sit in the barracks throwing smoke grenades you’d be more useful to the team doing that then trying to be a sniper.

    and oh god this is becoming a gigantic wall of text nobody will read this shit anyway so i’ll wrap this shit up quick

    commanding on the whole is easy – the “hard” parts are building placement and research paths, oh, and boomtanking like a fucking champion at the right fucking time and place – besides, being a Commander is like being the team’s bitch, you have VERY little control over the team, yet you have all of this responsibility (that is, to not be fucking retarded) – I, many times, have wished for the ability to recycle infantry and to restrict player classes and vehicle chassis loadouts and shit, especially because of the Steam Release bringing around entire shitloads of dense motherfuckers without having a tutorial that didn’t fucking suck.

    But yes, Empires looks nice, it always has, especially because its such an old mod (supposedly, it even existed on bf1942), and yes, the commanderless maps suck and really should have been removed from Empires years ago.

    And the mines are fucking supposed to be explosive, the main way they’ve been used for years is to flip enemy vehicles over so that they die that way, as well as being able to slow them down and all that other good stuff.

    I hope that this was a sick joke, “Daniel Perry”.

    oh, and the Empires community is full of trolls, normally this wouldn’t be so bad but now there are prominent community members, who are, of course, trolls, on the development team.

    • Well said. I agree with everything, not that you care but I am just saying. Probably the worst community of all HL2 mods and the worst part is that the dev team encourages it and hires them on staff. Shit is fine for a minute but gets really old really fast.

  6. Deadpool says:

    Nice review, accurate in most regards. District_402 is a bane on empires, and we all know it. The reason for it being so stupid is that when it was made empires was max 16 v 16, and now servers support twice that, leaving the map crowded.

    Mr. Perry, we are likely having a vet pug starting tomorrow at 2pm eastern. A server will be locked and the password can be found on you should play in that if you want to see a game that will really show a higher quality of empires match.

  7. Paradox says:

    First of all, don’t listen to dawgas.

    second, very nice review, but “or vehicles to take off when confronted with mines.” I think this might be done on purpose, for cv 9/5 mining purposes etc.

    Tanks can get customized for armor and engine 2.

    District is pretty fun if you don’t spamm the shit out of yourself.

    What is your name when you play ingame?

    • Daniel Perry says:

      1. Thanks for the feedback.

      2.I know that the vehicle+mine=funsplosion might be intentional but it shouldn’t be so much to the extent that i experienced in a few games, vehicles getting knocked back maybe getting half a second of air time is to be expected, but when i see a tank from about 200m away lift off only to land on my head scoring the driver an accidental kill… I mean it’s awesome and i wouldn’t really want them to change it, but i had to include things i considered to be bugs, it bugged me (yes i am punbelievably punny)

      3. I was at the time aware of the other vehicle customization options but neglected to include them, i’ll add them into my next edit so thanks for reminding me.

      4. I managed to glean from the layout and design of district that it could be fun if played as intended, however it simply never happened and still hasn’t for me, not to say that it couldn’t happen, if you had a full server full of people adamant that there would be no spamming it would most definitely be a party. However for the sake of the review i have to say if something is bad, i can’t say it could be good if you go out of your way to make it good.

      5. Oh and my ingame name is [REDACTED]… see what i did there? Sorry but i feel safer giving out my real name than my alias, silly some might say but anonymity is a very powerful tool.

  8. Nice review, I find it pretty impressive that you could understand the mod this much and write about it mostly from a newbies eyes.
    I hope the community wasn’t too hard on you while playing.
    “I will be seeing this UI in my nightmares for the rest of my life.”
    hahaha I lol’d had at that, first time commanding was very stressfull for me too and commanding a 32v32 game still is.
    I blame that for the grey hairs.

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