From a strategy standpoint, empire is a mixed blessing.
While it doesn’t have nearly the depth of some other console games, it has more than enough detail to keep you busy for a few hours.
Portraying a continental duel between two military superpowers, it smacks heavily of 1970s- and 1980s-era tabletop military simulations, with unit counters and areas of control.
I’ll go ahead and say now that this is one of my favorite games for the console, but I’ll temper that with a few complaints. Just to be fair.
- No production queues. Set a city to build something and it just spins off into eternity, building fighter after fighter until armageddon. If you want two armies and a fighter, you have to micromanage your city, round by round.
- No practical city management. It would be a lot easier to manage a continent if you could see in a list, the cities and what they were producing. It seems like this would be a natural addition to the game.
- Controls are obtuse. And that’s being kind. With both an edit mode and a control mode, you would think that it would be a little easier to assign actions to units. Occasionally it is, but more often it becomes a multi-key juggle just to move a unit around a bend in the geography.
- No unit upgrades or experience. It would be interesting to see units earn advantages in battle if they have won once or twice. As it is now, they are just throwaways, with no real attachment to combat experience.
I could probably list more, but I’ll be honest and say that most of these things are conventions in games post-1998 or so.
I can’t (and don’t) expect a classic like empire to get much development over points like this. I just don’t get the feeling it was ever intended as more than a casual console diversion.
But I do enjoy it, and I have for quite a long time.