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Age of Empires Print E-mail
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Written by Daniel Westerstal   
Wednesday, 26 July 2006
Microsoft wanted a piece of the successful strategy market so long dominated by Sid Meier’s Civilization games. They hooked up a game developer (Ensemble) and published Age of Empires, was it an instant success? Read on to find out.

When Age of Empires was released the gaming community hadn’t seen anything like it. The game combined country building from the Civilization series with real-time strategy seen in Command&Conquer.

The concept of the game is you leading a civilisation from the Stone Age and forward. To ensure that your people survive and build things you need to gather resources. There are four main resources, gold, stone, wood and food.

In order to gather the resources you need to build villagers, they do everything from construction to hunting. The two key resources in the beginning of the game are wood and food. They are pretty simple to gather, it’s just to order your villagers to chop down some trees and go hunting. After a while you can also build docks and get food by fishing.

The environments are superbly made with great detail even with today’s standards. There are lions, crocodiles, deer and all kinds of animals in the landscape. Of course you are meant to hunt them, but they add some detail.

Age of Empires comes with the usual game modes; campaign, custom game and multiplayer (serial, LAN or the Internet). The campaign mode is perhaps where Age of Empires differs from the rest of the pack. The Civilization series has relied on a custom game set by the player with no storyline. In Age of Empires campaign mode the player nation has a story attached to it, so you simply go through each scenario with an objective. The objectives are not that clever and usually involved wiping a conquering nation off the map. But you can definitely learn a thing about history from the campaigns, there are even history notes attached.

While similar games focused much on diplomacy Age of Empires is more about war. Yes there are diplomacy options but they are fundamental, it’s a matter of selecting; peace, war or neutral. To me it’s a huge problem since there is no reasonable way to communicate with other nations, it drags the game down.

The battle part of the game is interesting. There are a number of units you can build during the game such as catapults, centurions, war elephants and elephant archers. All of the units are old style; players looking for the latest Abrams tank will get disappointed. In that sense the game should attract history buffs.

The seas matters a lot since you can fish, this also means that you will engage in frequent sea battles, often about fishing waters. Ensemble really managed to capture how important the sea has been to the evolvement of mankind. You can also use a bit more sophisticated strategies at sea than on land.

Getting involved in larger land battles in Age of Empires can be frustrating. There are no advanced orders available, you can simply move the units or order them to stop. This causes all kinds of situations. A unit left alone facing a whole army will for example attack instead of running away. If you like to send scout units you will notice that they attack instead of staying hidden.

Age of Empires was a groundbreaking game when it came out; it’s still fun to play and doesn’t look to bad. But it lacks some features that more recent games have. Perhaps the biggest problem with Age of Empires is the lack of sufficient diplomacy options, it makes the game shallow.


Discuss this game!
Related:
Sid Meier’s Civilization, Sid Meier’s Civilization II, Seven Kingdoms
Developer: Ensemble Studios
Website for Game: http://www.ensemblestudios.com/aoe.htm
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
O/S: Windows 95/98/ME/XP
Cost of Full Game: N/A
Year of Release: 1997

Requirements:
N/A
Tested on:
AMD Athlon 64 2.2 GHz, 2x512 MB RAM, Geforce 4 64 MB



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