Review by RJx

"The standard Microsoft RTS gets a facelift"

Where should I begin? Microsoft and Ensemble Studios have brought you Age of Empires, which in turn spawned many other games such as Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds. So, Microsoft, thinking it's time for a change, went with a new approach for AoM which old-time players will find familiar and easily adaptable, while at the same time giving us new features.

Graphically, this game is top-notch, even for an RTS. I run this at 1280x1024 (or even as high as 1600x1200!) and the detail that goes into every unit is astounding. The water is crystal clear, and the underwater units that are seen through the glassy, transparent surface left me breathless. I've been distracted on many occasions staring at a coral reef that's been colored with a mix of green and blue.

The units themselves are real good looking too, though not as good as the environment. One of the features I love is the ability to move the camera angle around with the scroll wheel on my mouse. This, aside from looking *REALLY* cool, offers me a quick way to change my perspective and look around the back of my buildings to attack or build.

I really like the sound, too. During campaign mode, you're spoken to by a god from the race you chose. They characters themselves also speak and interact with each other (during cutscenes), unlike Age of Empires where a sound clip played and the units stared at each other like normal.

The music changes when you're under attack, or when you use a god power. The effect is cool, and the tracks are easy to listen to.

Now gameplay, this is the kicker. Instead of staring at each other as I mentioned before, during cutscenes, the camera actually pans down to the units themselves while they speak with each other!

There is a new system, too. Basically, you play as either Greeks, Egyptians, or the Norse, and once you chose one of them, each of the three has, in turn, three gods you chose from. Before you go to the next age (ala Age of Empires), you chose a new sub-god that your workers worship, and that sub-god has, in turn, two more underneath them for the next age. Choosing which god provides different upgrades and powers.

Powers are neat. After a while and enough worshipping (right-click a temple with workers), you will be granted the ability to use god powers, which include raising the dead, freezing enemy units in a blizzard, a lightning storm, raining on your farms to increase production and efficiency, etc. They also include some creatures, like the Kracken, Pegasus, etc.

In the end, this game is extremely fun to play around with and explore. Old AoE players should feel comfortable, and new players should enjoy the ride. I know I did.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 12/08/02, Updated 12/08/02

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