Age of Empires III Review

Publisher: Microsoft Corporation

Developer: Ensemble Studios

Category: Strategy

Release Dates

N Amer - 10/18/2005

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Age of Empires III Review

I love the Age of Empires franchise, I believe that this is one of the best Real Time Strategy games around, and my beliefs are proved true with each new game that comes out. The talented developers at Ensemble Studios really help innovate this genre by putting in new concepts and ideas with each successive game in this franchise. Their latest release: Age of Empires III, takes the franchise back into its historical roots, unlike the last game which was based in mythology. Read on to find out why you need to go purchase this game as soon as possible.

Age of Empires III takes off right after the last game in this series, which was Age of Empires II. The last game had players come out of the Roman Empire and build themselves a true medieval paradise. This game picks up right after that time period where the world was fascinated with expansion into the “ New World.” This is where kings and queens put their faith in their servants to travel across the seas to set up colonies to bring new and previous resources back into their empire. This was a true time of expansion into the complete unknown, because no one knew what laid before them, but the prospects were golden.

The campaign for this game is enthralling as ever. There are three different acts that players can participate in, and you will not want to quit until you have done them all. The first one puts players in the shoes of Morgan Black and his family help the Aztecs fight against Spanish conquistadors. The next one has the French verses the British in the famous French and Indian War. Then the last one has players taking on the role of Simon Bolivar as he leads various revolutions in South America. Each of these scenarios will have player’s captivated until they see the ending screen.

After players complete the in-depth campaigns, they will find that there is other things that can be done in this game. If you want you can always get a quick skirmish game going on, but this game demands multiplayer mode, and Ensemble Studios provided this for the players. Players can either play via a LAN or play on Ensemble Studios own matchmaking service. This is a good way to find and meet people online who love this game and are always willing to duke it out against you to find out who is the best of the best.

The biggest new feature in this game is the Home City. Each civilization in the game has a European city that will back the players up throughout the entire game. This may come in the form of giving you new units, supplies, and improvements to your units. These units are normally dropped off near your town center so it is always easy to find where the new stuff you wanted is. When you have finished a campaign, players will be be able to enter their Home City to customize their shipments which includes adding new ones or boosting the properties of the old ones.

Every so often when players complete a mission or game, they will not only be able to change the settings of the shipments but they will also be able to upgrade their city as well. This provides players with a whole new level of strategy to undertake. Players will be able to put more focus on such things as their Army, Navy, and many other things. Also you will be able to change the appearance of the buildings, weather, and even the people that are roaming the street. Think of the Home City as a character in an RPG game, the better you do in the game, the better the Home City becomes, which will help players out in missions down the road. This new feature really adds a whole new perspective to the gameplay. Players will want to constantly upgrade their Home City so it will become the envy of everyone else, and it is also a nice diversion from the main game.

The are a few other additions to the game, although none of them are as big as the first one. Once players start off in the game they will want to do a few things such as explore the area as soon as possible so they can find various treasures that will really help boost your gameplay during the first part of the game. Another new addition to the game is taking a cue from the Age of Mythology game, meaning when you upgrade to a new Age, you will be able to choose between two different political fractions. Depending on which one that you choose they will provide a unique one time bonus to you which comes in the form of supplies, units, or buildings. As you explore the map you will also be able to create alliances with the native tribes, which will offer players some unique abilities that other civilizations will not have access to, such as new Indian warriors that can aid you in your battles that you will fight.

One thing that I really enjoyed about this game is that you do not have to build any special buildings when you are mining the different resources. In past games you would have to build a building next to the different resources to help speed up the time it takes to get access to them to use. In this game all you have to do is send your settlers to the spot and they will start chopping the wood, gathering the food, or mining the silver/gold and you will gain the instant benefits. This makes it nicer so players can focus on the more fun aspects of the game such as building their armies to prepare for the inevitable battles.

Age of Empires III is one of the best looking games on the market. This game is so gorgeous that it can truly be compared to the benchmark of graphics in games, the first person shooter. I do not know how the developers at Ensemble Studios were able to pull it off, but this game is just oozing with graphic goodness that will make your eyes cry tears of joy. What players will notice first is that the game feels that it is truly alive. They sun is always shinning in this game, which means that all of the units and building cast off real shadows, and they even cast shadows on other units. The water in this game is just awesome looking from seeing the foam around the shore, the water in motion, and even the reflection of ships and other things that are on the sea.

Not only are the new effects awesome to behold, but everything in this game is highly detailed. The terrain that players will be playing on is loaded with details. Players will come across highly detailed trees, cliffs, and even river beds found on each map. If players just take a minute to look around during the course of the game they will also see the attention to details that the developers took. For instance at times you will see birds flying throughout the level, which makes this game feel even more real and alive.

What is really nice is the attention to detail on all of the buildings in the game. Just like all of the other Age of Empires games, players will be able to tell what each building is for just by looking at them. When something is destroyed, the new game engine makes it look deformed. What I mean by this is that unlike many other RTS games, when a building is under fire it will start to look deformed because the building will start throwing off different debris. Then there is the high number of troops that you can command at the battlefield, which can be given different orders and formations. This gives players more control over all of their units and gives players the satisfaction that they can create their own strategies and see them being successfully pulled off.

As to be expected in an Ensemble Studio game, the music and sound effects for this game are really well done. The music chosen for this game really makes players feel that they are in this time period fighting it out against whatever lurks on the planes of the new world. The sound effects are also really well done. No matter what setup you have you will feel the explosions of the cannon balls, the muskets firing their endless volleys, and the destruction of a building. It all sounds extremely realistic, and makes the game come that much more alive. The voices that the developers use also fit really well with the setting. It always cracks me up to click on all of the units and hear what outlandish things they might say next.

Age of Empires III is rated T for Teen.

The system requirements are:
AMD/Pentium 4 1.4 GHz
256 MB of RAM
Windows XP
CD-ROM
DirectX 9.0c
64 MB of VRAM with T&L
2.0 GB of Hard Disk
Keyboard and Mouse.

For those of you considering the Collector's Edition here is a list of the extra items it includes:

Oversized Box
Large Hardbound Art book*
Making-of DVD
Soundtrack
Large poster
Tech Tree
Strategy Guide
Game manual

One of the best things about the Collectors Edition is the *Large hardbound Art book: 'Art of Empires'. This book first recaps Age of Empires I and II, with some of its art and screenshots, which gives players various points to reminisce about. Then a couple of pages later, players are treated with one of the best compilations of artwork from the game Age of Empires III. It is amazing all of the time and effort that the art department went into making this game. So many of the pictures in this book are just breathtaking. The book is a hard covered so it will last quite sometime on a persons coffee table; in other words it was made for general wear and tear. One of the more interesting things about this book is the last page. It has Age of Empires and shows I - V, the first three are characters from the first three games. The caption next to IV shows a guy in modern warfare, while V shows a futurist “Halo” like combat suit. Is this an indication that Ensemble Studios will continue to make at least two more Age of Empires games? Hopefully that will be the case but only time will tell.

Scoring Details for Age of Empires III Review

Gameplay: 9.6
If you have ever played any RTS then you will know what to expect here, and then some. The developers incorporated many of the gameplay ideas from Age of Mythology as well as putting in some new ones. Players will love growing their Home City into a magnificent place.

Graphics: 9.6
Age of Empires III is hands down one of the best looking Real Time Strategy games I have ever played. You will be amazed at how gorgeous this game looks!

Sound: 9.3
The music in this game really fits the time period in which you are doing the battles in. The sound effects and voices are also top notch just like all of their previous games.

Difficulty: Medium
Depending on your skill level will you choose, will define how hard this game will be for you.

Concept: 9.5
I really liked all of the new additions to this game, from the experience points you get for killing and destroying things, to growing your Home City to become a wonderful place. It is really amazing how much was added in this game, and how fun it makes it.

Multiplayer: 9.5
Ensemble Studios created its own matchmaking service with their last game called Ensemble Studios Online or ESO, and it puts other matchmaking services to shame. I have encountered little or no lag in any games I have played in.

Overall: 9.5
Age of Empires III is a must have game for any Real Time Strategy gamer. There are so many new additions in this game that it will boggle your mind. This is one of the best looking games, much less an RTS game, that is out on the market currently. This is one purchase you will not come to regret.

GameZone Reviews

9.5

GZ Rating

Gameplay9.6
Graphics9.6
Sound9.3
DifficultyMedium
Concept9.5
Multiplayer9.5
Overall9.5

The time to conquer a new world has finally come.

Reviewer: Michael Knutson

Review Date: 10/16/2005


Avg. Web Rating

8.4

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