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Empires utilises Valve's Source engine, which is also the basis for commercial titles such as Half-Life 2. The game play in Empires combines elements of both FPS and RTS gaming. One player from either team is elected to act as a Commander: playing the game from a top-down perspective, his role is to construct bases and co-ordinate his troops. The remainder of the team act as soldiers, playing the game from a first person perspective in the field, as one of four classes: Engineer, Rifleman, Grenadier, or Scout. At their disposal is a wide variety of fully-customizable armoured vehicles.
Ultimately it is up to the Commander to determine his team's strategy, which will decide whether or not his team is victorious. As a soldier, it is up to you to follow your Commander's orders and take part in direct combat against the enemy. If, however, the Commander is not acting in the team's best interest, he can be voted out just as easily as he was voted in.
As the game progresses, upgrades become available in several forms. Firstly, the radar's ability to communicate over long distances allows instructions for more advanced equipment to be sent to your vehicle factories. This includes better engines, weapons and armor - with which you can equip vehicles as you see fit. Soldiers are also promoted in rank, in recognition of the contributions they make to their team. This gives them the opportunity to learn powerful new skills, such as the Scout's ability to hide from enemy sight, or the Engineer's capacity to revive fallen comrades.
Battles take place in a wide variety of locations: from intense infantry combat in the alleyways and buildings of an urban district, to sprawling tank battles across open desert plains, this is very much a global war.