Review by Bob Bastard

"Age of Entertainment!"

A long time ago, I had never played any real-time strategy before. I developed an interest when I saw my uncle playing one. So I bought Age of Empires I. Inexperienced as I was, I enjoyed it immensely and bought AOE II. When I compared the two, I decided that II beat I by a huge margin and barely ever played the first one again. When I got a better computer (XP), I played AOE III and I thought it was one of the best RTS I ever played.

Story: 8/10

I don't understand those who whine because the story has no "historic value" or whatever they call it. The Age of Empires series has never been big on that, and while in previous games the story mode has been based on history, most made-up stories are magnitudes better than boring old history. The storyline in this game follows four generations of the Black family in a few dozen missions, and it also had something to do with the fountain of youth. Although several of the missions are quite exciting, eventually the limited mission ideas, which have you surviving for fifteen minutes, attacking cities, and other things, get old and you start to think, "Oh, here's another damn defense mission. Ho-hum" quite frequently. Additionally, the story itself was exciting with great twists that kept my interest.

Gameplay: 8/10

While Ensemble Studios added great features to Age of Empires III, they left out several important ones from AOE II. The computer players needed to have had AI capable of understanding at least some basic messages a player would send to them. They also shouldn't have taken out the units and buildings that they did. That's it for the bad part; the good part is they added other buildings, units, and ideas. Now players can send for resources and other bonuses from their home town. Also, in the last two AOE games, firearms were only included in the crudest sense and the game focused mostly on swords, arrows, and rocks (from siege weapons). Now, however, guns are much more common than bows. This game takes place around the year 1800, so there aren't nukes or high-powered sniper rifles. Instead there are rifles, muskets, cannons, and more. Battles of ships are much more believable now; instead of launching flaming arrows straight forward from their sails, ships pull up along side each other and fire cannonballs from their extended cannons. Another new thing that has been brought into the mix are explorers. These hardy fellows lead your colony, form alliances, gather treasure, etc.
There are eight different races, and each has special units and advantages. One of the best things about single player battles is that everyone fights each other instead of focusing on you; a real problem in AOE II.

Graphics and sound: 10/10

I just can't think of any criticism for them. From smoke that rises from muskets to shadows to reflections and ripples in the water, the graphics are breathtaking. There are many small touches that make this game as realistic as possible, for instance, a shake of a tree as it is cut. Unlike the last two AOE games, instead of the ugly 2D landscape, this has a great 3D landscape. When your minions take to destroying a building, you see chunks of it flying off and you even see the frame of it inside. This is especially true for ships, you can blast your opponent's masts off and make holes in their ship. When your units damage another one, you see a puddle of blood on the ground. It looks more realistic than it sounds. Speaking of sounds, the music is just OK-not good, not bad. But the sound effects are excellent. The report of a musket sounds just like it did in real life.

Play Time/Replayability: 9/10

You'll love Age Of Empires III so much it'll eat up hours of your time if you don't watch it. There are limitless ways to customize your battles, and It just has amazing replayability, particularly if you can play online.

Buy or rent?

If you enjoy or think you'd enjoy RTS (Real time strategy) games, go for the buy.
If you didn't even know what RTS was until the previous line, and can find a magical land of unicorns and PC game rental stores, rent it and if you like it buy it. If someone give this to you as a gift, give them a hug and thank them several times or just thank them several times (depends on the gender) and go play it.

Thank you for reading my review and have a nice day.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 04/02/08

Game Release: Age of Empires III (US, 10/18/05)

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