Age of Mythology
I have spent many hours, playing Age of Empires online, and I have battled it out against my mates many times, so I was happy to receive my very own copy of Age of Mythology. The long awaited extension of the “Age of Empires” series set in a mythological past when heroes battled monsters of legend and gods intervened in the affairs of mortal men.
When the game starts, you immediately get overwhelmed with a fantastic intro that explains the story of the game a bit. But more about that later. The interface of the menu is very nicely done. You can see a sort of in-game scene when you’re clicking your way through the menu. You can set up the options very easily. Also a nice feature of this game is when you have multiple characters, you can all have diverse keysettings. So no more irritating keychanges have to be made when other people want to play AoM on your pc aswell.
After a quick read of the manual (it wasn’t very extensive), I was ready to play. After pressing the “Learn how to play” button, a short intro was shown about what kind of enemies you will be facing and on what kind of terrain you’ll find yourself fighting in. Then you learn how to play by completing small missions, like defeating an enemy with a small army, how to please the gods, etc.
Let’s start with the actual game now… The intro explains the beginning of the story; An evil beast called Kronos, is locked away in the Underworld, protected by heavily fortified gates. But when the game starts, Gargarensis, backed up by the greek god Poseidon, wants to release this beast. The campaign consists of 32 missions and follows the story of Arkantos, a young Atlantean general who is sent to help an army in distress, and by doing so, he gets involved in the battle of allies against Gargarensis’s army. He chases Gargarensis and his army to one of the fortified gates. In the meanwhile, all the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place and Arkantos, acompanied by Norse and Egyptian heroes, decides to stop Gargarensis.
You fight you way through Greece, Norway, Egypt and the Underworld with units that vary from simple footsoldiers to horrific monsters, squids, gigantic living statues and trees, etc. If that isn’t enough, you can use your god powers to wipe your enemies of the face of the earth… Use meteor-rains, lightning bolts, forrestfires and earthquakes to your advantage.
Since the game is an extension of the Age of Empires series, it all kind of looks familiar. It’s the same system: you’ve got to work yourself through four ages by building certain structures and worshipping gods. By doing so you gain better military and myth units aswell as buildings. I think we all know the drill.
There are three cultures in AoM. The Greeks, who build and mine resources normally. The Egyptians who can build only half as fast as the other cultures but most of their buildings are free and only cost a certain amount of gold, no wood. Then there are the Norse, they have a somewhat different economic composition. Instead of gatherers, they use their infantry to build structures. The gatherers can only build farms or gather resources, but Dwarfs can mine gold a lot faster than gatherers. Also, instead of building drop-off points, you can train Ox-carts. These are a kind of mobile drop-off points.
Also new in Age of Mythology is the use of mythological units. They are expensive, but much stronger then your average soldier. There are lots of mythological units, each with its own strenghts and weaknesses. This brings us to the next new feature: favor. It’s a new resource used to be able to create mythological units. How you gain this favor is different for every culture. You’ll have to assign gatherers to worship your gods at the temple, build statues, or simply fight your enemies to gain favor.
Now let’s talk about the multiplayer. Playing this game online would seem to me like loads of fun, and it would be fun I guess, were it not that “Ensemble Studios Online”, a home-made system to “enhance” the multiplayer experience, has lots of bugs and it often doesn’t connect. Most of the times when it does connect, the lag is almost impossible to play with. This is a major downer since the multiplayer experience is almost just as important as the singleplayer.
The graphics of the game are excellent, the engine was especially made for AoM by Ensemble Studios, certainly worth the Microsoft stamp. Allthough I feel they left out a significant part of the engine’s possibilities; when you see the movies between the missions in the campaign, the view toggles from topview to 3D view. Then you can see everything up to very nice detail. Ok, you can zoom in, but wouldn’t it have been way cooler if you could move around the map and those impressive mythological units in 3D? Oh well, just a thought
The soundeffects are very nice. Hear the waves crashing upon the shores, your units shouting battlecries or make your woofer suffer by envoking the meteor power upon your poor enemies troops. The music is also very nice, it helps to build up that atmosphere you want to have in a game like this.
This is truly a great extension of the Age of Empires series, worthy of the Microsoft stamp. I had loads of fun playing this game, and I assure you, once you’ve started playing the campaign, you can’t stop playing it untill the end. The only downside is the multiplayer, but with some effort, Ensemble Studios can fix that too.