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Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties (PC)
Publisher:  Microsoft Developer:  Big Huge Games
Genre:  Real-Time Strategy Release Date:  10/23/2007
ESRB:  Teen More Info on this Game
Expansion Pack for:  Age of Empires III
By Tom Chick | Oct. 24, 2007
East, West. West, East. Now let's have a wild and crazy real-time strategy party.
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Pros Cons
Lively new civilizations; lots of new gameplay; much-needed interface improvements; gorgeous new artwork. No love for the Old World; a few interface nits remain.

Imagine how it could have been. Japanese monks and samurai with Cherokee allies fighting Indian swamis and elephants for control of the fertile coast of New England. How's that for outrageous? But wait, there's more! How about the Aztecs conquering Japan, or Sioux cavalry running amok in Ceylon?

As if it wasn't silly enough to have the French settling Texas, Age of Empires III has completely lost its marbles. With three new Asian civilizations and a whole mess of Far East locations, Asian Dynasties turns this series global and goony, abandoning all pretense of staid historical stuffiness in favor of a wide-open free-for-all of East meeting West and thoroughly upstaging it with some clever and funky innovations. History? Bah. This is gameplay.

Each of the Asian civilizations has its own bag of twists. The Japanese don't eat animals, but they encourage them to graze at their shrines (they respect nature, you see). The Chinese don't train individual unit types, but they gather armies in pre-packaged collections (they are a diverse culture!). The Indians spend wood instead of food to recruit villages (who knows what's going on there...).

The twists keep coming. The Asian civilizations age up by building magnificent Wonders of the World that don't just sit there and look pretty. Each Wonder tweaks the gameplay just enough to matter. Some wonders even give you Age of Mythology-style god powers. Not content to leave well enough alone, the Asians mess up the whole resource model. Early on, they can build rice paddies, which can toggle between gathering food or coin (the Europeans and Native Americans have to wait for late-game plantations to gather coin from anyplace but mines).


Each Asian civilization accumulates a free resource called export. The symbol is a spice leaf that looks like tobacco, or maybe something more illicit. These leaves can be spent on an alliance with your choice of Western nation, which is sort of like having an off-map native settlement. The difference is that the longer you wait, the more powerful stuff you can buy. Save up your export long enough and you'll be rewarded with a gaggle of British redcoats and their trusty falconets, or maybe a stout Portuguese naval force, or French gendarmes bringing culverins to the party. East meets West indeed.

The new map scripts add tons of gameplay, and not just for the King of the Hill and Regicide modes (control a victory location while a timer counts down and kill the other guy's hero unit, respectively). A Silk Road map is a battle over a dense line of trading posts that rapidly change hands. Maps like Honshu and Ceylon are a great opportunity to flex Age III's robust naval model, now more attractive for all the naval treasures guarded by pirate ships and great white sharks. All the Asian maps have new native settlements... although the Jesuits aren't exactly natives. But Westerners make plenty of appearances among the Asians. Monasteries are a great location to recruit reformed pirates, cowboys and outlaws, for instance. There's a great salty/sweet contrast seeing Westerners throwing in their lot, Tom Cruise-style, with samurai and naginata riders.


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