I can hear the cries already "Jeesh, not yet ANOTHER RTS with a twist!" But wait until you have tried this new offering from Microsoft Games and Ensemble Studios before ye judge to harshly. Anyone remember that old classic – Populous? Remember how you had god powers granted based on the number of followers you had? Well, Ensemble Studios has worked this into Age of Mythology quite nicely!
What you have is a world dominated by three cultures – Egyptian – Norse – Greek. Each is quite unique and each has their own pantheon of gods with their own ways of garnering favor with their various and secondary gods in order to unleash their particular god’s powers upon their enemies. And you get to choose between two different gods each time you enter a new era with each of the three cultures.
But it does not stop there. Each god also has their ‘favored creatures’ that can be built and used to wreck havoc among your enemies. Pretty cool huh? But in true RTS style each civilization also has their ‘Heros’ with which to combat these foul minions of their enemy’s gods. Enough yet?
There is more. The graphics are wonderful, as any decent game should be these days. The game play is smooth and the sound and music are appropriate for the setting.
If you are familiar with Age of Empires or Age of Kings, the transition to Age of Mythology should be painless indeed. If you have yet to venture into the wonderful world of real time strategy (RTS) gaming then the tutorial will be your best friend until you get familiar with the way the game plays. The tutorial is a multi-scenario campaign all on its own where you direct the exploits of the Atlantean Hero as he fights to regain the favor of Posideon for the Atlanteans. This tutorial will leave you with the knowledge to jump into game play with one of the various cultures.
Then the fun really begins. You get to play with the various units and structures available to the culture you choose, while your workers gather the basic items of Food, Wood and Gold with which you forge your culture and enter new Ages along the way.
Another new twist is the placement of town centers. There are limited designated areas of the game world that are suitable for placement of town centers. And the town centers are the basis for the maximum allowed size for your bustling culture. Yep, there are still houses that add to the capacity of town centers but they are limited in the number you can have. Reportedly the maximum population limit is 300 – but be careful as mythical god given creatures take up more than one population space.
As in other RTS games, weapons and armor can be upgraded through technology upgrades available from the various structures you will be building. And yes, these will change as you advance along the game timeline from era to era.
Age of Mythology also has its relics that are different for each culture and can have a wide variety of game effects. New technologies and new units not available for production are another way these Relics can really make a difference to a budding civilization.
Oh and did I mention that you can also play via the Internet and battle real live opponents? Going online versus real people is always better than playing a somewhat predictable artificial intelligence.
So, to wrap things up.
Is Age of Mythology new and ground breaking? Um, not really.
Is it fun to play? You betcha! This one will keep you occupied for many, many hours.
It is well deserving of the overall rating of four and half GiN gems.