Age Of Empires III

by Wencke Schuncken
author awarded score: 85/100

Age Of Empires III Review
Published By: Microsoft
Developed By: Ensemble Studios
Format Reviewed: PC
Review by: Wencke Schuncken

When you walk into a gameshop and there’s a new edition of a game which you liked to play in the past, what are you going to do? You grab it without actually bothering what has been upgraded, what extra features are in it, what’s the new story about, etc. Just grab it, buy it and go home as soon as possible to start playing and bringing back good gaming memories in a newer version. I could mention a couple of game sequels which I would buy without any hesitation but this time it’s about Age Of Empires III.

It seems already so long ago since I played previous editions of Age of Empires (AoE). Just checked and it was October 1998 when the first AoE game was released! Yes, it’s ages ago since I played the first part. Of course a lot changed during the years regarding graphics, design, stories, etc. But let’s forget about the past, it’s 2005 and AoE III is the game we’re going to talk about.

Age Of Empires III Review

After starting the game and being amazed by the intro it’s time to choose a game mode. There are several gaming modes to choose from which are common for strategy games; in the single player mode you can choose to play the story driven campaign mode or go skirmish while battling against the PC. In multiplayer mode you can challenge equally ranked real opponents of course via internet but it is also possible to play via LAN with friends. I’m always starting of with the campaign modes as it is story driven and you’ll learn all of the aspects in a playable enjoyable way, instead of reading the manual before starting to play the game. The main description for the AoE gameplay is to create, build a successful settlement which contains a strong economy and a good military base. Once created you need to conquer other parts of the world, or should we go for the whole world? Not so optimistic here, first go into campaign mode to learn the basics and enjoying how the story evolves. There are three difficulty levels to choose from although the easy mode is really too easy if you ask me. But nevertheless for every gamer a suitable difficulty level to choose from.

There is a new features in AoE III: the Home City. Each civilization has access to their European Home City for economic, technological and military support. During the game you can contact the Home City and order them to provide you with supplies or military reinforcements. This feature is quite handy and the better you perform in the “new world” (America), the more powerful your Home City will become back in Europe. Play the game successfully and after a few rounds you gain the ability to both upgrade and customize your Home City. For example instead of a delivery of 300 gold, it’s possible to upgrade and get 700 gold at once from your Home City when requested. Regarding customizing you can change the buildings and place a juggler in town for example. The customizing didn’t make much sense in my opinion but the upgrading of economics, technology and military support was very welcome when I was in need in the new world.

Age Of Empires III Review

The campaign mode evolves by a story and is divided in three parts, acts. In total 24 campaigns are available and it all starts with Morgan Black in Malta where you need to fight against the Ottomans. Later on your going to meet other civilizations, make friends and discover that some of them are actually your enemies. Time will learn. Each campaign has its own primary objective but also secondary objectives become available to gain extra experience points which contribute to upgrade and arrange more shipments from the Home City. Examples of objectives are building a town center, barracks, docks, defending forts, destroying enemies town centers and outposts, find navigation charts, etc. The story is based on the family Black starting in the sixteenth century and how and why they left to the new world. During the campaigns your going to meet lots of other civilizations / Europeans such as the Spanish, British, French, Portuguese, Dutch, German and Russian. They even speak their own languages which is very cool if you recognize what they’re saying or talking in your language.

Age Of Empires III Review

The graphics are a huge improvement compared to the previous Age Of Empire games which are quite dated as we speak. The intro is breathtaking and so are the animations between the campaigns. Ensemble Studio really did a great job designing a Real Time Strategy Game. They used Tone mapping which is a photo imaging technique which balances the colors in a scene on the fly. The end result is a rich, warm game where bright colors are vibrantly rendered alongside darker counterparts such as shadows. The effects are also well done as water glistens like water and metal shines like metal. If you want a more detailed look of the buildings, units or environment you can zoom in. I liked the way the main characters were presented and how they react in the game. They are individually styled compared to the military units which are all the same per category (pikemen, crossbowmen, horsemen, etc). But that makes it easier to recognize them in the “battlefield”. The main characters can also be recognized by a star shaped form while selecting them. If you lose track of them, you can always click on a shortcut button to find them, even when they’re dead. If you send other units to the place where they died, they’ll arise from the death.

The sound isn’t spectacular. Plain simply music with sound effects of shooting units, canons, building collapsing and so on. The fun thing which I particular liked was the different kind of languages used in this game. Little foreign words coming out of the speakers and when I finally heard the Dutch, my day was saved. Not that it contains a huge vocabulary. Oh no only a couple of words of each language are used. As they use it over and over again it can become repetitive and boring but it won’t get irritating. And if it does, turn of the sound and play along. Everything you need to know is visualized on screen whether written or displayed (map). The main background tune is always the same and totally not disturbing or annoying, note that most of the sound you register are the sound effects and the talking of units.

Age Of Empires III Review

Regarding the female point of view, I’m really enthusiastic. Especially in the campaign mode in act / part III as the main leading role is done by Amelia Black. She’s the great-granddaughter of Morgan Black, the first character you’re going to play with. It’s up to her to build railroads, to beat other railroad companies, find the goldmines in Colorado and finally to find out if the family stories are true or only a legend. So from the three campaign acts / parts, one is devoted to a female leading role. Not bad. But Amelia black isn’t the only important female character in the game. Her grandmother which we meet in Act / part II is an Native American lady called Nonahkee and if we go back even more in time we meet Lizzie the Pirate and Elisabeth Ramsey. And what to think of all those hardworking ladies who work to get some food, gold and wood and aren’t afraid to take a gun to defend themselves!

Age of Empires III is an easy to learn / playable Real Time Strategy game. The story in the campaign mode is very addictive and you want to discover how it evolves. Once the story has been told and all 24 campaigns have been successfully achieved, you can always go back and play a certain part which you liked or try the campaign mode on a more difficult level. Otherwise you always have the option to play against the PC or go online to test your skills. The 3D graphics are stunning and loved to watch the movies in between the campaigns. Also the integration of the different languages of the civilisations is excellent, but it’s a shame that their vocabulary isn’t big and only contains about 10 words maximum. It’s a (gender) varied and easy to learn game which is fun to play, no matter which gaming mode you’ll choose.