Age of Empires III (PC)
Dan Culver / Oct 29th, 2005 No Comments
It’s been almost 4 years since the extremely popular Age of Empires II was released, and fans of the game are still playing it with plenty of passion. The highly anticipated release of this third installment of the franchise features a new time period where European powers are vying for the New World. There are new gameplay elements such as a new “home city” and a brand new combat system. As with the previous editions of the game, there are maps to explore, treasure to find, maps to conquer, all within a robust and long first player campaign mode. There’s a new graphics engine for AoE3 (Age of Empires III) that does a nice job bringing the world to life on the PC.
Engage in epic strategic battles. As players control the action, they can experience a new level of exciting combat with realistic physics effects and have the option of engaging in battle with blades, gunpowder, or both. Victory depends on the player’s strategic battle plan.
Develop and strengthen a unique, customized Home City. The Home City represents a player’s capital back in Europe and plays a supporting role in the attempt to control the New World. The better the player performs in the New World, the more powerful his or her Home City becomes. Players can customize their Home City to reflect unique personality traits, making the Home City a vital character in the game.
Explore a vibrant New World. Players can take advantage of elements of the colonial time period, including the ability to ally with Native Americans. They also can explore and find new resources in the Amazon rain forest, recover buried treasure from Caribbean islands, hunt bison on the Great Plains, compete to establish trade routes, and fortify the coast of New England.
Experience stunning graphics. Players witness new lighting effects and shadows while immersed in a world that feels bright and sunny, yet which has a softness and depth that is revolutionary to PC games. Thanks to the new physics engine, players never see the same scene twice.
Discover culturally diverse civilizations. Gamers can play as the British and have a stellar economy, or play as the French and easily ally with Native Americans. They can choose to play as the Spanish and have more support from their home country in Europe. Players have the option of playing as one of eight civilizations and, whichever one is chosen, players are guaranteed a unique and fulfilling experience.
Age of Empires III puts on a nice show for those of you armed with a gaming PC with a solid processor and graphics card. Gamers are highly recommended to turn *everything* up all the way if possible, including the difference-making anti-aliasing features. Tweak these all the way up, put it at a nice resolution (1280×1024 minimum suggested) and enjoy a robust graphics engine. What will impress most about Age of Empires III’s graphics will be the beautiful environments, and the eye-grabbing special effects for explosions. Huge battles look great as well – all in all a good job on the graphics.
The soundtrack of AoE3 isn’t anything new or innovative, just the usual stuff we hear for typical RTS games. Imperialistic “marching” music supplanted by sound effects for each of the units. The “booms” of the canons do sound great with the right sounds system.
The best aspect of Age of Empires III is the robust single-player campaign mode that has tons of missions and is very lengthy. There are three connected “acts” of the game that each span one generation. The goal is simple – conquer the New World (Americas) for your home country back in Europe. In addition to this single-player mode, there’s a skirmish mode to take on the computer or friend with (LAN), and you can play on-line on the net with the matching service. The matches are all cataloged, so the matches and outcomes are kept in record to rank players.
The game itself will be very familiar to those of you that played Age of Empires II and/or the expansion set. The story puts gamers in charge of a small colony, and that you must work and fight your way to conquer the New World. There are “workers” to gather the resources, buildings that allow you new units (soldiers, resource gatherers, etc), and more buildings to get your upgrades with. All pretty much standard RTS stuff – but there are four resources in this game (as opposed to the traditional two), and there’s an economic aspect to the game that can manage your resources far beyond simple resource gathering.
The first person campaign can be played through with any of the eight nations included with the game, each with their own unique abilities. Instead of a starting “hero” character, you get an explorer (which blends into the realistic philosophy of this RTS). Through missions you take on more and more, take on more of the map, and either invade or defend your territory from anything and everybody. All in all the single player campaign mode offers up a lot of fun and depth, but playing skirmish games against the CPU is a lot of fun as well. Overall, the gameplay of Age of Empires III is familiar (to Age of Empires II players especially), challenging, and most importantly, plenty of fun.
ONLINE / MULTIPLAYER
With three full acts of the single player campaign that each span a generation, eight ways to play through the single player campaign (each country), a skirmish mode, and an online rank-enabled mode, Age of Empires III has some of the best longevity out there for gaming today. There’s a lot to do, experience, and get through on various levels of difficulty – all adding up to a great (and long) gameplay experience. Great longevity to say the least.
One of the big hits that Age of Empires, as a franchise, is able to hit on is the realism of the storyline and units. There’s no “magic” or hero units, just well placed armies that rely on your strategy to get them through battle. The building of your towns and empire are always key. Although much of the core game of AoE3 is very similar to what we’ve seen in previous versions, there’s a brand new storyline (conquering the New World), and the “Home City” feature brings a nice level of strategy to the game as well. The “Home City” acts as the capital back in your European home, and gives you bonuses, units, or other helpful items to help you on your way. These things build up and carry over through the campaign, which adds a nice layer of depth to the title that wasn’t there before.
Overall, Age of Empires III is a great addition to the franchise as a whole, and the new storyline of conquering the New World should definitely appeal to all AoE2 fans, and RTS buffs in general. The graphics of the game, when put on their full potential, are very solid, and the soundtrack is adequate but somewhat uninspired. Nevertheless, the gameplay of the title is the core strength, and getting through the single player campaign will suck you in for uncountable hours into the night. A fun game to say the least, and comes highly recommended for RTS fans.