Review by jack4640

"A must-have for an Age fan"

As the pantheon of real-time strategy dynasties grows, there are three names that stand out the most. Westwood’s Command and Conquer, Blizzard’s Warcraft, and Ensemble’s Age of Empires. These series are all venerable, time-tested games and every PC gamer who doesn’t have a deep hatred of all RTS should own at least one game from one franchise. The reason these three stand out now is that they have all just released new RTS games. The main rivalry is between Blizzard’s Warcraft 3 and Age Of Mythology, the latest from the team that made Age of Empires. Which one is worth your hard-earned money?

Age of Mythology, while from the same vein as the Age of Empires games, is very different in some ways. People who grew up on Age of Empires, like myself, will remember how in that game, there were about 20 civilizations, but each had the same basic units and buildings. The only thing that really made a difference were the specialties of each race. In Age of Mythology, Ensemble has cut it down to 3 civilizations, the Greek, Egyptians, and the Norse. However, each race is vastly different and it takes a whole different strategy to master each one. Welcome to the balance that is Age of Mythology.

Gameplay - The focus of Age of Mythology is not as historical as Age of Empires. Now, mythology has become a part of the game and factors hugely throughout. New Myth units, creatures that never existed in real life, are important if you want to wipe out foot soldiers. Units like the Minotaur and the Hydra for the Greeks, the Mummy and the Anubite for the Egyptians, and the Frost Giant for the Norse are vital to winning the game. They are also expensive, taxing a new resource called Favor, or the goodwill of the gods. Also important are the Heroes, who have a better attack than normal soldiers and are good at fighting Myth Units. Any fans of Homer will recognize Hercules and Odysseus in the game.

Also important in the game are the gods. Each time you advance to a new age you choose which minor deity you want to worship. The different choices offer up different Myth units and God powers. In Custom battles, you also choose a main god from a list of 9. Which god you choose will affect which powers you can get. The powers are these new attacks called God Powers. These are powerful and can only be used once, but can change the course of the battle. Some bolster your economy, like Prosperity which makes villager gather gold faster. Others, like Meteor, can utterly devastate an attacking army – and send all their soldiers flying.

Story-wise, this game is strong with a solid backing story and good voice acting. There were some parts that seemed forced and some clunky dialogue, but hey – It’s a real-time strategy. Just having a coherent story is pretty good.

The interface is easy to use and actually playing the game is a lot of fun. The soldiers respond to your commands in their own tongue, and AI is convincing. There are about 32 campaign missions to work through, and then the online and custom battle play. The only complaint I could have is that a majority of the missions revolve around building up a base and attacking. 7 levels in a row are base-building and attacking levels. But there is enough variety thrown in to make this annoying but not frustrating.

Sound – Very good music, sound effects. The music can get repetitive, and describes it as being “unwhistleable.” This is very true, as anyone who has gotten it stuck in their head and tried to hum it at school has found out…

Graphics – Top-notch. The 3-D environments are beautiful and the characters are well-rendered. You will want to use the zoom in feature a lot, just to see the smooth animations. The environment shakes and burns with the use of earth-shattering god powers, and the terrain plays a big part in strategy. The whole game just feels so right when you look at it.

Lasting Appeal – You will play this game for a long time. The campaign missions are fine, but the heart of the game is in the custom games. Online play is very efficient, with an optional match-making service that keeps experienced players from ripping up noobs. With a large selection of maps to choose from, a built-in map editor, and a plethora of individual strategies, this game is here to stay.

Last Comments – While by no means the most popular RTS on the market, (cough, Warcraft, cough) Age of Mythology definitely has the content to stand alone. A large number of dedicated fans have already created a backbone of support for this game which will probably be played online for many, many years to come. Is it better than Warcraft 3? Having played both, I would have to say its simply a matter of preference. I own AoM and I plan to buy Warcraft when I can afford it. But in the end, its all about what you as the gamer want. Either one, you cant go wrong.

Final Score – 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/24/03, Updated 02/24/03

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