Age of Empires III
Score: 8.0 / 10
I was never the hugest Age of Empires II fan, but my sister could play that game until her mouse finger bled. I can understand the appeal as the game was and is a fairly solid representation of what a standard real time strategy game should be without too many real glaring faults. In the same way, I've found Age of Empires III to be the same in terms of my impressions. It has a solid design that will make for enjoyable game play, but at the same time there are no real risks taken. This is in a way an added compliment to the game as there are some new core strategic elements that have been introduced. These elements still do not serve to detract from the game but rather their implementation is fairly seamless and well integrated so as to seem intuitive.
of Empires III takes place in the colonial age where European explorers
were crossing the ocean to the new world of
differences summarized by the press releases as well as advertising for
the game are basically the main differences with regard to how the game
plays. The biggest new feature to be implemented is the Home
your colony in the game world. While playing the game, you
will accumulate experience for performing certain actions. Destroying
different enemy unit types and buildings each yield a given amount of
experience points. Only after accumulating a given amount of experience
points will you be able to select a card and send the shipment of your
choosing. This experience is continually gained as you play the game or
match. The availability of shipments are dependent on your accumulation
of experience as you play the game. As such, only after accumulating the
required amount of points will you be able to select one card. These
points can later be used to upgrade your home city as well as to choose
cards to put in your deck while in between matches or games.
home city continues to accumulate experience for each game you play in
each different game type. For instance when playing the offline skirmish
mode, your city will gain experience and level-up based on this
accumulated experience after each match you play. Leveling up provides
access to new cards that you can unlock as well as providing you with a
providing you with a point that can be used towards selecting a new card
available to you during gameplay. Leveling up can also provide you with
the ability to unlock visual upgrades to your home city. In my opinion
this is one aspect where the concept of the home city seems somewhat
stilted. The visual upgrades serve little purpose as your ability to
view your home city is restricted to a picture frame view. You do not
have 3D access to view and rotate the view, nor are you able to really
manipulate the home city. While strategic elements of the home city are
well implemented within the primary game play, it would have been nice
to see a greater implementation of the home city in between the game
missions or matches. For instance, maybe it would have been nice to
initiate technology research at the home city that would take a number
of matches to complete but that would be available at the start of
matches. Maybe it would also have been nice to manipulate things like
taxation at the home city which would in turn affect the resources
available at the beginning of matches. This would likely have changed
the face of the game somewhat; however the visual upgrade options for
the home city only serve to leave the gamer wanting for more.
The game actually forces the player to rely quite heavily on their cards and shipments. The technology tree available to the buyer is actually quite difficult to progress in and early in the game, the player with the better deck of cards available to them will have a decided advantage. Resource gathering is fairly slow and you will need a lot of peasants to increase your production rate. This is offset by the fact that spending resources on increasing production rate of your resources through either upgrading your peasant abilities or by increasing the number of peasants can quickly eat up your resources and leave you with few military units to defend your colony, let alone attack your opponent. This is where a fully stacked deck of cards with shipments of fresh troops or available technologies can prove invaluable. By spending your resources wisely with respect to your available deck of cards, you can still maintain a balance of play where you can be successful against your opponent. Also, some of the more powerful units available to you can only be accessed through city shipments. Mercenary units like black riders are incredibly powerful, but depending on your civilization type you won't be able to build them, however you can have them shipped to you from the home city.
complaint that I do have for the game is that the technology upgrades
provide little visual or perceived real impact on the gameplay. By
outfitting your units with better weapons or armor, you should have a
graphical and perceivable gameplay difference. I found neither when
progressing through the technology upgrades. Perhaps this was due to the
game difficulty or opponent increasing there technology at the same
rate, however, I found the advantages of upgrading combat units and
collection rates for peasants somewhat unperceivable. Considering how
long these upgrades can take to progress through, I would have expected
to have a more noticeable improvement. While progressing through the
Ages does provide a graphical change, the units you use still look the
same. In addition, the differences between the eight different
civilization types is similarly muted. There are many common units
between civilizations that are both graphically and functionally the
same. While this no doubt serves to maintain a balanced gameplay
environment, this leaves the differences in playing a unique
new additions to the formula are the addition of Hero units. These units
can only be incapacitated and not killed. There are also Native American
civilizations that you can ally with. These civilizations provide you
with unique combat units and can be handy in rounding out your attack.
Peasants now do not need to drop off resources. Rather, they simply stay
at their collection station and your resources gather without requiring
your peasants to drop off what they have gathered. Resources can also be
accumulated through trade routes set up through set trading posts. You
can also manufacture resources later in the game with the addition of a
factory. These tweaks definitely help to balance out the game in the
later stages of a match.
Age of Empires III has a lot packed into it. There is of course the lengthy single player campaign. There is also an offline skirmish mode, and of course the online mode. The online mode can be played in ranked matches as well unranked games and skirmishes. There is also a scenario editor. This is sure to provide a lot for most gamers to chew on. The graphics and sound are about on par for today's games, and is about the expected progression from the previous entry in the series. AOE3 should be judged on its own merits and with this mind, we have a virtually flawless representation of the genre. However, with the previous entry into the series, this achievement was already realized.
With some improvements, and some new ideas, we have a fresh game that feels new, but still accomplishes the same goal of excellence within the predefined genre. I was hoping for a revolution, but instead, I found an excellent evolution. Depending on what you expect, you may or may not be disappointed with what you find. However, there can be no arguments made on whether or not Age of Empires 3 is successful in providing an entertaining real-time strategy experience.
- Mark Leung
(November 25, 2005)
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