By now, Age of Mythology, developed by Ensemble Studios, needs no introduction. You’ve read the previews, you’ve watched the movies, and you’ve ogled at the screenshots. Now, the time has come; the final release is installed and has been played. Will Age of Mythology live up to the expectations of RTS junkies around the world? Read on and find out!
…is epic. If you decide to play the single player campaign mode, the story will start out in Greece. You’ll control the army of Atlantis and your main character, or hero, will be Arkantos. Only by progressing through the story will you be able to play with the other civilizations. Of course, you can just start a “Single Player” game and choose any civilization you want, but you would be missing out on one of the high points of Age of Mythology, the campaign.
When playing the Greeks, you will get to lay siege to the mighty city of Troy. After conquering Troy, you will need to rescue some villagers that have been taken prisoner by an unknown enemy. This enemy is forcing the prisoners to dig up a gateway to the underworld. From here, the story will get a tad more interesting and you won’t be able to stop playing until you know the ending - more coffee, please.
This epic tale will take you around the Mediterranean, over to Egypt, and eventually you will end up in the Nordic highlands. The journey you’re participating in is linked every step of the way thanks to wonderfully constructed story and cut scenes (using the in-game engine) to keep you from getting lost. The dedication and attention to the level of detail that Ensemble Studios put into the story in Age of Mythology is quite evident.
Age of Mythology is a real-time strategy game (RTS). For those that don’t know what that means, both you and your opponent(s), whether it be a friend or the computer, are playing the game in real-time. You can pause the game to get up and stretch your legs, but both sides will be frozen in time until you un-pause and resume play. RTS’ require a bit of patience in order to really enjoy them, and Age of Mythology is no different. Depending on your skill level and or desire to either enjoy the story line or simply see how fast you can beat the game, some missions could take less than an hour and others might take as long as several hours.
To help you keep your wits about you, you can expect nothing less than well-polished mechanics from Age of Mythology. The controls (hotkeys) can be remapped to your liking and there are plenty of options that allow you to customize certain aspects of gameplay and visual enhancements. Adjustable choices include turning on or off foot prints, full rollover help (very useful when you're just getting started), one click garrisoning, audio taunts for multiplayer, a bad language filter, and turning on the ability to rotate your view 360°. This is one of my favorite features of AoM, something that is also new to the series, since you will be able to get a view of the battlefield from every angle, all the while experiencing all the beautifully rendered 3D buildings, units and terrain. If you so desire, you have the option of zooming in and out as well.
Every good leader wants some sort of control over his/her troops and AoM offers just that. You can choose between three different formations as well as three different attitude settings: aggressive, defensive and hold position. The later is useful if you want a squad of troops to guard an area. Set them to defensive and they will attack enemy units that approach, but won’t chase them down if they flee. You can also set units to patrol an area as well as shft click and set waypoints.
Players will have the option of progressing into three different ages during the course of each game: Classical, Heroic and Mythic. When graduating to each age, you get to choose a demigod that grants you more abilities, weapons, armor and unit upgrades, new myth units, and an additional god power, as well as new structures and structure upgrades.
Each mission features various objectives and won’t just require the same boring “build and destroy” goal over and over again. One mission in particular, you get turned into pigs by an evil sorceress and must navigate your way through several towns and fight off villagers that want to turn you and your men into pork chops.
The Age of Mythology engine is a visually gratifying experience. Everything is rendered in yummy 3D with well-done textures, and with the new option of rotating the camera, you can ogle from every angle. The animations of the units are smooth and use high quality models (even though they are teeny tiny). “Giant” Titans lumbering along, centaurs galloping in formation, catapults rolling and launching their boulders, snakes slithering as well as spitting, just to list a few.
The water in AoM is transparent and the shallower it gets, you will be able to make out reefs, rocks, seaweed and fishes below the waves that are ebbing and flowing with the tide; a nice touch that goes a long way, especially on maps with lots of water. Utilizing this transparent feature are some of the mythical creatures that players have at their disposal. The Kraken, for instance, attacking an enemy ship, as it wraps its’ tentacles around it and then tossing it aside like it was a rubber ducky.
The “uber” powers granted to players by the gods they choose are all rendered and or modeled in 3D and are eye candy when you use them. The meteor shower is great. Huge meteors strike the ground, destroying everything in a thunderous maelstrom of fire and brimstone. Rainstorms, to help your peasants farm faster, bronze skin, to fortify your units, and many others. Don’t worry, all the gods, demigods, units, structures, etc., are all explained within the game with a highly detailed tech tree.
The sounds will tickle your eardrums. All the sounds you hear are well orchestrated and are pleasant to listen too. The only problem is that there is no way to turn off unit acknowledgement. So every time you click and give an order, your unit responds with an acknowledgement. After a couple hours of this, it starts to eat away at you – give and take I guess.
Conquer your friends!
The multiplayer offers something for everyone in AoM, you and eleven of your friends. Several different gameplay types; Supremacy is victory by conquest, settlements or wonders, Conquest is defeating all enemies, Lightning is playing at high speeds, and Deathmatch games start with high resources. Choose from over 20 maps, set handicaps, map sizes and the difficulty of the computer players, allow cheats, share resources, and other stuff. One cool feature is the ability to record your games and play them back after you have finished. This will let you go over strategies and figure out how you could have lost so horribly in those last few minutes of the game.
Combining a great storyline, great gameplay, great graphics and an enjoyable multiplayer experience, Age of Mythology is guaranteed to delight RTS fans everywhere; even the casual RTS players that tend to only play the “cool” RTS games.