Age of Empires: The Age of Kings
On PC we’ve known the Age of Empires series already for centuries: a series of RTS games that managed to impress quite a lot some time ago. Surprisingly now the DS gets its own episode, but luckily the makers decided to take on an original approach and completely redesigned the game.
The gameplay looks more to Advance Wars than a classic RTS, something we can applaud after quite a lot of hours gaming. You can a strategic turn-based game, added with interesting storylines that tell the history and adventures of – amongst others – Genghis Khan, Richard Lionheart and Jeanne d’Arc.
The campaigns consist mostly out of only a handful missions but these are filled with options, extra objectives and challenging opponents which guarantees long and fulfilling playing sessions, at least 20 hours in total. You can choose from the Franks, Mongolians, Saracenes, Brittish and Japanese, all having their own units, and you also get the possibility to hire extraordinary units like impressive elephants.
As said, the gameplay is turn-based and a nice mixture of RTS and more classic turn-based elements is made. Everything is shown in a good overview, you can construct buildings and research better units, you need to collect resources and of course the necessary combat is also present. The makers managed to keep everything quite simple so that you don’t need to click or point too much to keep things going.
The battles are nicely done, with a balanced collection of troops for short as well as long range combat along with the necessary material for a siege. No lack of variation and also on a tactical scale the game has the necessary refinement as you don’t only need to fight but also need to make choices on a more strategic level between investing and research (gives better units and will let you evolve to the next “Age”) or more units and buildings.
The same, well worked out, gameplay also makes that the multiplayer component is quite enjoyable. You can play with up to four people, each with their own copy, or by passing on the handheld (cheap and cosy!). Those that don’t have friends can have the AI do all the work and overall it’s decent enough to keep you busy. Also you can adjust the difficulty and playing style yourself and there’s more than enough maps available.
Graphically the game is more than enjoyable with a lot of variation and beautiful artwork. Those afraid that the makers would spare on that part can stop worrying as even on the sound there’s the necessary content, with a pleasing soundtrack and more than enough qualitative effects. Only downpoint on the presentation is the fact that the little screens sometimes needs to show too many units which makes it hard to click on the correct one. This also goes together with the fact that people who are looking for quick gameplay are at the wrong address with this title. Not only do you need patience in controlling your units but the DS needs all its cpu power to calculate the big fights and show them on your screen.
In the end there’s little bad to be said about Age of Empires: The Age of Kings. The game plays very smooth, the presentation is good and the cartridge is filled with lots of missions and multiplayer fun. A decent AI, fun campaigns and addictive combat nicely finish it all. Those looking for a strategy game filled with quality know what to buy.