It’s been said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, so just imagine what kind of trouble you could find from a pissed off god. That’s the immediate premise of the sequel to last year’s acclaimed RTS game, Age of Mythology. With epic battles between three ancient civilizations and their deities, Ensemble Studios and Microsoft delivered a deep, engaging title that stretched the boundaries of the genre. However, players couldn’t expect to wield the power of the gods and not expect some kind of retribution, which Microsoft gladly delivers with Age of Mythology: The Titans expansion pack.
The plot of The Titans is set ten years after the close of the first title, which witnessed the unification of the Greek, Norse and Egyptian armies against mutual threats to their cultures. Unfortunately, in their final battles, Atlantis was lost beneath the waves, and its few remaining citizens were scattered to nearby islands. The loss of their nation is even more difficult because their stalwart leader, Arkantos, has ascended to demi-godhood and taken his place on Mount Olympus. His son, Kastor, has assumed his position as head of the Atlanteans and is overseeing the rebuilding of his country. However, the destruction of Atlantis also happened to weaken the bonds keeping the eldest gods, the Titans, locked away from walking the earth. Kronos, the father of Zeus, seizes this moment to free himself and “influence” the hapless Atlanteans towards war instead of peace.
At first glance, the Atlanteans look very similar to the Greeks from the previous game, such as comparable units and buildings, but they do happen to have a few features that make them stand out from the other sides. The first feature is the ability to use their god powers repeatedly on each stage instead of being restricted to a one time use per mission. Much more than an equalizer or a tide turner, the Atlanteans can be downright brutal with effective parceling of each deity’s skills. Secondly, Atlanteans have the option to turn every unit under their control into a hero unit, either by magic or by expending a large amount of resources. Doing so to a group of peasants makes them gather resources and construct their buildings faster. Similarly, soldiers will immediately become stronger and fight harder, which can be devastating to an opponent who’s fielding a ton of myth units, considering the rock/paper/scissors nature of combat within Age of Mythology: Heroes kill myth units, myth units kill normal units and normal units kill heroes.
The Titans also introduces what has to be the largest and most dangerous weapon the ancient world could see, that of summoning a titan itself. While the first title allowed players to passively win by constructing a wonder of the world, which required a load of resources and a certain amount of time, calling forth a titan allows players to aggressively conquer a map with an incredibly powerful unit. Accomplishing this is no small task, because players first have to stockpile an immense amount of resources to begin their construction on a titan portal. Building this gate for a titan to come through takes time, and players need to protect workers from potential attacks throughout the entire process or else the gateway can be destroyed. Once finished, a titan claws its way from the ground and starts off on a tear towards your enemy’s town, where it slaughters anything in its path. Titans can be attacked and destroyed, but since they pack more than 7,000 hit points and dish out a ton of damage to armies, expect to see severe casualties for any side without a titan of their own.
Players that enjoyed the graphics from the first Age of Mythology will be pleased to find the basic look of the game hasn’t changed much with the expansion pack. Animation is still very slick for each unit, and watching workers harvest resources or soldiers repel invaders is always appealing. While many human soldiers can sometimes be hard to discern in groups between ranged and hand to hand warriors, the myth units are standouts on the battlefield with nicely detailed character models.
The more striking graphics can be seen with the summoned titans, whose immense size dwarfs buildings and other units. Watching a wall of fighters or myth units go flying under the might of these beasts imparts a true sense of power that these beings command. Particle effects are also impressive, such as the ones found in Kronos’ timeshifting powers. Like the graphics, the sound isn’t particularly different from the first title, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Voice acting is still well done, and the soundtrack is still great, but players might find that the Atlantean music and sound effects echo that of the Greek campaign.
Actually, that’s probably one of the biggest problems that could be found with The Titans: the fact that the Atlanteans don’t really seem too different from the Greeks. While it works fine for plot devices to extend the story, it limits the series by restricting the cultural outlook to what essentially is an offshoot of one of the primary nations. Including any one of the number of cultures from Age of Nations could’ve truly extended the gameplay of Titans dramatically. This is the perfect segue to one of Titan’s other major issues, that of its duration. At only 12 single player missions, The Titans is almost 2/3 shorter than its predecessor, which seems way too little for a follow-up title. Even worse is the fact that the single player missions seem to be much easier, partially thanks to the advantages that the Atlanteans receive with god powers and units and partially because the difficulty seems reduced even on the highest level. Thankfully, the ease of the scenario editors and finding competition with multiplayer extends the life of the expansion pack.
Issues aside, The Titans still proves the old adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” While the length of the single player could’ve been extended, the addition of the titans as a “doomsday” weapon and the elder gods provides a creative extension to the original title. Let’s just hope that we get more cultures and missions if Microsoft decides to revisit this series!