Empires: Dawn of the Modern World is a 2003 real-time strategy video game developed by Stainless Steel Studios and published by Activision. Set in a world-historical period that extends from the Middle Ages to World War II, the game tasks players with guiding one of nine rival great civilizations to victory. Customer surveys from Stainless Steel's previous game, Empire Earth, were used as a starting point for Empires: these inspired the team to take a more minimalist design approach, and to include civilizations without overlapping styles of play. Empires was positively received by critics, who enjoyed its multiplayer component. However, certain reviewers disliked its single-player mode, and opinion clashed on the game's level of uniqueness compared to competitors such as Rise of Nations. The sales of Empires, when combined with those of Empire Earth, totaled 2.5 million units by 2004.
Empires: Dawn of the Modern World is a real-time strategy (RTS) game in which the player guides a civilization through five historical periods, from the Middle Ages to World War II. As in many RTS titles, the player collects natural resources, erects buildings and trains and maintains a military. Players use a mouse cursor interface (or hotkeys) to direct their units, which range from crossbowmen to King Tiger tanks. A three-dimensional (3D) camera system allows the player to view the action from any perspective, including isometric and first-person angles. A mini-map is included as well.
Each of the nine civilizations features a unique style of play: for example, the French and English have powerful defensive capabilities, while Chinese structures are mobile. During a match, the player must gather resources to progress their civilization to a new historical era, after which more advanced technologies and units (land-, sea- and airborne) become available. Four civilizations are playable from the medieval to the Imperial age; at the beginning of World War I, the player transitions their civilization to one of the remaining five. For example, a player of the premodern Franks must transition to modern Germany or France. The player wins a match by destroying all opponents' means of production, or by constructing and successfully defending a "Wonder", such as the Notre Dame de Paris or Brandenburg Gate.
Empires allows up to eight players (or artificially intelligent opponents) to compete in two modes: the shorter, battle-oriented Action mode or the longer, defense-oriented Empire Builder mode. In addition, the game contains three single-player storylines called "campaigns", each of which depicts major events in a civilization's history. These follow Richard the Lionheart's medieval wars in France; Admiral Yi Sun-Sin's defense of Korea against Japanese invasion in the early modern period; and General George S. Patton's exploits during World War II. The editor used to create Empires is packaged with the game, which allows the player to create original levels and campaign scenarios.