A few levels make excellent use of a low-lying fog effect. Seeing your soldiers fight it out knee-deep in fog is a sight to behold and really adds to the atmosphere of the game. The water lapping at the shores and the awesome snow effect of the Norse levels will likewise leave you speechless. Lighting effects are also top-notch with really cool eclipse effects.
You can get a good look at the game from a variety of angles but, while the rotating and zooming camera is nice, it's an entirely optional feature. Sadly my new MX700 mouse seems to have a problem with the rotation, meaning I've had to use the arrow keys on the keyboard to get the best angle for the action. The default angle for the camera is sufficient for most needs though, so camera rotation is completely optional.
The music is quite good but, after 32 missions and hours of multiplayer, it seems really repetitive. This one theme seems to stick out nearly everywhere in the game. I can't describe it exactly but ask anyone who sits next to me and they'll instantly launch into a spirited rendition of what can only be described as "unwhistleable."
Things are much better in terms of voice acting. You don't get the varied nuances of the Warcraft III units but, given the number of units here, that's not surprising. The voice work for the cutscenes and the heroes displays just the blend of sinister and campy. The best of the sounds are the howls heard in the Norse forests. Small, appropriate voice cues also clue you in to major game events as well.
But as good as it all is, there's still room for improvement. I can look past (and even occasionally enjoy) some of the liberties taken with the mythology. And while the few bits of genuine humor in the game are welcome, including items like Boots of Kick Everything and naming pharaohs things like Bubba Joe may kill the mood for some people. The little pop-ups for mouse-overs are nice in general, but there really ought to be a listing of the corresponding hotkey included as well, especially since most of the hotkeys aren't even listed in the manual (you have to check the readme to get the full details).
Also on the standpoint of presentation, I really miss the cool summary screens that use to accompany every mission in the Age series. Seeing how many units you built, killed, etc. really helped to give a little more character and context to the games. As it is, all the missions are simply pass or fail and you move right on to the next one immediately. Why at least aren't there numerical scores for how the sides stack up?
Being asked to play nearly every RTS that's released in a given year is a tall order. After time, it's easy to become jaded and lose faith in a developer's ability to surprise you and offer something that you haven't seen somewhere else before. And while the Ensemble team has always managed to score high marks for their games, Age of Myth is their best effort so far.
While the Age of Empires series has been one of my perennial favorites (easily on par with Blizzard's Craft and Westwood's C&C franchises), this latest title blows open the doors of the series by taking a step away from history and giving the designers a bit more latitude. The ancient and medieval armies of the previous games were compelling enough. They are even more so now with a whole range of divine powers and mythological units.
I can't recommend this game enough. It's particularly gratifying that, in a year with so few RTS games (and fewer good ones), Ensemble has favored us with such a fantastic complete package. It's a real ornament for the genre and a benchmark that won't soon be surpassed. After thousands of words of explanation, the short take is this: if you love the RTS genre, you have to own this game. I won't take any excuses.
|out of 10||click here for ratings guide|
The meaningful and engaging single player campaign provides a nearly flawless experience. The code is solid and stable.
Some fantastic effects and believable animations make this one a joy to watch. The differences between the armies and environments are awesome.
Great, if repetitive, music is married to first rate voice-acting and some decent battle sounds. The cues are implemented well.
I haven't played an RTS this fun in a long, long time. This is the most refined of the conventional RTS models out there.
A long and interesting campaign is only the beginning. Players moving on to skirmish and multiplayer modes will have their hands full.
(out of 10 / not an average)
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ESRB Content Descriptors: Realistic Violence
1.5GB free disk space
16MB 3D accelerator