The expansion pack for leading real-time strategy (RTS) game Empire Earth II doesn't make this notoriously deep game any easier to understand, though a quick start mode and improved war planner shave a little off of the steep learning curve.
The aim of the game is still to turn your Stone Age culture into a globe-spanning superpower, however The Art of Supremacy adds three new campaigns (Napoleonic, Egyptian and a future-based African conflict) plus four new civilisations to play as, with the French and Russians padding out Western Europe and the Zulu and Maasai bringing the first African cultures to the mix.
A new editor lets you create your own civilisation from scratch - though this doesn't mean you can load yourself down with bonuses, these are still region-based - cherry-picking special units and selecting a preferred technology tree.
But the most interesting addition is the new Tug of War multiplayer option. Essentially a strategic "capture the flag", you can choose to fight a head-to-head across three to nine maps. Because you're moving into your opponent's home territory, they gain defensive bonuses that make your advance that bit tougher (and vice versa).
With Empire Earth's avid following, this expansion pack's success is assured, but as it builds on an almost overwhelming depth of gameplay, casual gamers need not apply.
If this all sounds like your cup of strategic tea, you'll be pleased to hear that we're currently running a competition where you can win this game and other goodies. Take a look at page 86 for further details.
Click here to view Screenshot 1, and here for Screenshot 2.
Visuals: Not great. Dated when compared with other RTS games.
Audio: Strong background music, but once again the repetition of unit responses can get tiring.
Gameplay: Some welcome attempts to make it easier to use, but still too much for the strategy novice.
Score: 4 stars (out of 5)