208 of 215 people found the following review helpful
Age of Addiction,
By A Customer
This review is from: Age of Mythology (Video Game)
I loved Age of Empires, I first got it 12 months after its release (it was one of the first games I ever bought for the PC) and played it exclusively for (pun intended) ages. The graphics, sound and gameplay were super-slick for the time and the ancient setting was very appealing. Living in the rain soaked end of the UK, there was something very compelling about all those sun-baked mediteranian shore-lines and palm trees.
The much-vaunted sequel was, to me, a big dissapointment. Set in medieval times, Age of Kings set out to improve on the original formula. The game was much more complex, but not in a good way, I often found it hard to remember which units where good to use againsed what. The long build times of units also crippled gameplay, as did Ensembles continuing insistance on forcing the player to micromanage farming. Graphics and sound were garish and ugly, with in-elegent, overly 'chunky' buildings. The unit graphics where indistinct, lacking character and animations were clunky. The games mood was sober and dry, but not moody or athmospheric in any way.
Fortunately, Age of Mythology addresses all of these points, and adds so much cool stuff of its own even the most jaded AoE fan would be blown away. The game is complex, but not in such a way that its difficult to play. The longer you play, the more amazing things you discover. And believe me, you will be playing for a LONG time.
The quality of the graphics draw you in first, they are stunning. Animations are super-fluid, many look motion captured, buildings are lovely to look at and the water and particle effects truly have to be seen to be believed. Like a bosche painting, the longer and harder you look, the more detail you see. Even watching the simplest of things, like a bunch of spearmen jogging around the map, can take you breath away. And the first time you see your first meteor shower, Fimbulwinter or tornado, I gaurentee you'll be cooing at your computer like a baby.
Gameplay is flawless, computer opponent AI is superb. The interface is big on information, low on micromanagement. You can memorise a bunch of hotkeys if you want to, but I can't really see you gaining much of an advantage from it, the mouse interface is THAT good. Thankfully, once you've got your base up and running, you're free to leave it alone and concentrate on conquest. Farming is, at last, no longer an inconvenience.
Interestingly, town centers can only be built at fixed sites on the map. This gives a more strategic game, especially as lucrative trade routes can be opened between towns you own. Attacking the enemies camel trains are a viable strategy, and defending your own is a necessity in most cases.
Building hundreds of troops and rushing the enemy base still works some of the time.. but the AI's use of walls and towers often means a war of attrition is more likely to succeed, you're forced to think much harder about when and were to attack.
The mythological setting is a real winner too. The designers at Ensemble must have streatched thier imaginations to the limits. I've never played an RTS with so many 'cool' units. Just about every mythological character is stunningly executed. I actually get scared of some of my own units! Overall the mood can move between being pastoral and quite jolly to downright menacing very quickly (like when your innocent gold-mining pions get leaped on and eviscerated by a group of jackel-headed annubites). Even better, if you've just had a long battle as one race, and fancy a change of scene, just play as one of the other two races, pick a different map, and you could be playing a completely different game! One thats just as good too.
If I have one (tiny) critisism.. its that I'd personally like to see more flexibility in the skirmish set-up. As it stands, the game comes with a superb, if linear, story-based campaign (if you like that sort of thing) and an excellent random map generator that you can use to set up skirmishes on a wide variety of basic map types like islands, narrows, in-land etc.. You can play up to 12 AI opponents at a difficlty and attitude of your choosing. There are no pre-made maps to skirmish on, which seems a shame. There is a skirmish-map design tool however, and the random generator will provide more than enough for most until the internet community responds to the challenge.
You need a fast-ish PC and a decent graphics card to run the game at maximum graphics and sound settings (a 1MHz processor and a Geforce2 will probably be enough) but be prepared for a tiny bit of judder when things get heavy. Stability currently seems perfect, typical of a Microsoft game really.
Basically.. everyone should try this. I can't see anyone being dissapointed, and if your already and AoE fan, its an absolute no-brainer.