reviews\ Oct 31, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Age of Mythology - PC - Review

It has finally happened, after years of waiting, Ensemble Studios has unleashed Age of Mythology upon the world. The colossal war for the best Real Time Strategy game has come upon us once again. The question remains, did Ensemble innovate the RTS genre like they have done in the past, or is this game just the same game with updated graphics?

This is the lastest chapter in the Age of Empires series, and it changes things up quite a bit. In the previous versions, players would have to just level up to the next age to try to beat their enemies. In this game, players are given a few choices that could determine the entire game; players have to choose a God they wish to worship. Each God provides different strengths for player's civilization, and new god powers. Every time players meet the requirement to proceed to the next age, they must choose a minor god, which will give the players even more strategies to use such as: new destructive or beneficial god powers, and new mythological units to add to their army. There are endless possibilities that can be chosen for just one single game, which will make any redundancy slither away into darkness.

As mentioned earlier, God powers can either be weapons of mass destruction or beneficial. The lightning bolt is an example of a deadly one. There are two different kinds of lightning; a single and a multiple hit one. With the single one players will be able to kill any enemy dead in their tracks. The other one is a multiple barrage of lightning bolts that will strike an area chosen by the players. This is a very effective power when it is time to over take a city. An example of beneficial power is that of rain. Worshipping a certain god will give players the ability to cast rain over a portion of the map, where player's farms are set up. This will make those farms produce more at a faster rate. The downfall to each of these powers is that players can only invoke their powers once. If players use the power too hastily, they can be in big trouble as the game goes on and that other player survives and opts for a little revenge.

Another welcome change to the game is the way the population limit is handled. Instead of building a couple dozen houses, this time the key is the settlements. Each town center can handle only a limited amount of people. To solve this problem, players must go out and build town centers on settlements, which will allow you to build more houses, and this will increase the population limit of your civilization. At times the main concern of the game might not be looking over your back for the enemy to attack you, but to build more town centers so you will have a bigger army than your opponent. Also players will have to accumulate favor from their gods, to get this certain civilizations have to pray at temples, go into battle, or build monuments.

Aside from the three different civilizations, gods, and powers, each age provides players with different myth units to command. There are many different types of myth units for each race, and they can be mass-produced like regular units. The only difference is that players have to have enough god favor to summon them. Besides different myth units, each civilization under each god has different hero's unit at the player's disposal. The hero units are best suited for helping out your army, and can kill the myth units with a better chance to survive the battle. Heroes are very valuable and players must use them strategically to help win their battles. Players will have to use all the new tools at their digression if they are to become victorious against other players, and prove that their god is the best in the universe!

Age of Mythology is rated T for Teen.

Gameplay: 9.7
Ensemble Studios is well known for developing games that are awesome to play, and Age of Mythology is no different. Veteran RTS players will be playing like gods within a few minutes, but the game is also simple enough to help the novice players understand how to play within a short period of time.

What is interesting from this game is the choices players make will defiantly effect the entire out come of the game. First there are three different civilizations with three distinct gods to choose from, and each era will give players the opportunity to use six other Gods to serve. The combinations are endless, which will make playing other people extremely fun; since it is highly unlikely two players will worship the exact same Gods.

Ensemble Studios has listened to their fans when they developed this game. This game has a fleshed out single player mode, with over thirty-five different missions. The game has an intense storyline, compared to the other Age of Empires games, which will draw the players into the game. The missions are also varied enough to make sure the game never gets repetitive or boring. Players will find themselves staying up extremely late to see what happens as they progress through the game.

Graphics: 9.7
Once gamers load the game into their systems, they will be blown away by the graphics!  It is exceedingly obvious that Ensemble Studios is one of the world's finest Real Time Strategy developers! The game has a complete 3D camera, and players can also zoom in closer on the action. This is a leap from the other games which offered a set camera.

In following tradition of their previous games, players are presented with a mind blowing FMV. This game opening movie is about a young warrior, wandering through a temple, seeing battles of the past. The movie is extremely well done, and shows how much the series has grown since the original. After players view the movie, and see the real time graphics they will be amazed how much the game has matured since it was founded.

Each of the units are highly detailed and move extremely realistically. What is also nice is that each unit type has a distant look about them, so it doesn't feel like players have the same unit with different clothes and weapons. The character animations are also realistically done, from cutting down the trees, mining for gold, and the motions of the swords swinging against the enemies.

The environments, which players will battle upon, are also flowing with eye candy. The water effects are brilliant, and look really realistic, showing the shallow and deep waters, and even the waves beating on the shoreline. The forests are lush with trees, and each tree will fall realistically when cut down. There are also different settings for each playing field, forests, deserts, snowy places, and even on islands. With all these different terrain types to play on, the game will never get redundant. Other things that draw the players even more into the game is the little animations, such as when the bullrings are on fire, or even footprints on the land.

What is also a nice twist is that when certain god powers are invoked, they will do damage upon the terrain, an example of this is the meteor. When players select a radius to strike, the meteors will pound upon that area and leave marks upon the ground. All of this is an awe-inspiring site to behold, so make sure when you decide to use these powers, that you completely decimate the enemy, or they will retaliate.

Sound: 9.8
Kevin McMullan, Music and Sound Artist, and Stephan Rippy, Music and Sound Director, have composed a breathtaking musical score for the game. It is the first time the series has music performed by an orchestra, and players will certainly hear the difference. The music is nothing short of inspirational, and draws the players into the world of Age of Mythology.

Besides the wonderfully composed music, the game features excellent sound effects and great voice work. Kevin and Stephan emphasized that they wanted to create their own library of sounds for the game, and it is obvious that they did. Each of the games different sound effects are extremely well done and fit in with the entire game, from the clashing of the swords to the different God powers plaguing the world. The voice work is done extremely well, each unit type for each race has different voices, and so the game never gets any sort of repetition.

Difficulty: Medium
Age of Mythology has a nice learning curve. The game will first offer players a simple training mission to get familiar with the controls. Then when players get into the real game, the missions will slowly ramp up in difficulty, to match players growing skills. The game never gets too hard to the point where players think the AI is cheap. It strikes a nice balance between fun and challenging.

Concept: 9.5
Ensemble finally released its game upon the world, and it will leave a nice mark! This is one of the few RTS games that set the standards that other developers try to follow. For their latest game, Ensemble introduced a myriad of new concepts, such as the god powers, the way food is gathered, and how the population limit is dealt with. Everything that has been added to the game is great and players will be reaping the rewards for many years to come!

Multiplayer:  9.8
Ensemble has developed their own matchmaking service, and it is definitely worth the wait. Ensemble Studios Online, ESO, is a matchmaking service that puts others to shame. Here's the lowdown: select multiplayer, hit online, find someone to play with, or just join a game. It is extremely simple, and gets players into a game, and playing it, as soon as possible. Ensemble Studios stressed that this is one of the new features in their game, and it surely shows, and helps them keep ahead of their competitions by providing an extremely user friendly interface, and the ability to play a game as quickly as they connect to the net.

Overall: 9.7
Stop reading this, drive to the closest store that sells games, and purchase Age of Mythology. The game is that good! This has been one of the most sought after games in a while, and once players see the quality of the game, they will know why. The game looks, plays, and feels splendid! This game will not leave the player's CD-Rom for a long time, since it has such an astounding replay value. Since the release of their first game, several years ago, Ensemble Studios has proven to the world that it can produce high quality games, that are fun, and this game is no different! This is one purchase you will not regret!


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