GameSpy.com GameSpy PC GameSpy PC
  SEARCH: The Web GameSpy  
Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs (PC)
Publisher:  Microsoft Developer:  Ensemble Studios
Genre:  Real-Time Strategy Release Date:  10/17/2006
ESRB:  Teen More Info on this Game
Expansion Pack for:  Age of Empires III
By Allen 'Delsyn' Rausch | Aug. 8, 2006
The Native Americans get their due in the new expansion pack for Age of Empires III.
Spiffy Iffy
Three new Native American civilizations; WarChief units and Fire Pit buildings; new Revolution feature. Naval warfare still an open question; saloons may introduce an unwelcome random element.

<A HREF="/web/20080511155222/http://de.ign.com/event.ng/Type%3dclick%26FlightID%3d55106%26AdID%3d90319%26TargetID%3d11792%26Targets%3d6556,7012,7097,6915,6894,6507,11792,7898,5779,10619,13523%26Values%3d34,46,51,80,91,101,110,150,206,227,235,268,426,836,1557,1590,1825,2370,2683,2684,2721,2993,3163,3416,3543,3932,4295,4662,4800,5733,5999,6612,6623,8148,8978%26RawValues%3d%26Redirect%3dhttp://www.direct2drive.com/" target="_blank"><IMG SRC="/web/20080511155222im_/http://ads.ign.com/advertisers/default07/cube2/cube2_medrec.jpg" WIDTH=300 HEIGHT=250 BORDER=0></A>
As much fun as Age of Empires III was, it sometimes felt as if something was missing. Maybe it was the strangely subdued presence of the Native Americans. Ensemble's Bruce Shelley actually discussed this during an October 2005 conversation with GameSpy. The upshot, according to him, was that the team decided, for a variety of reasons, to focus on the European experience in the initial release. That'll change, however, in The WarChiefs, the upcoming expansion pack for Age of Empires III.

"One of the major goals for The WarChiefs was always to present these Native American civilizations," said Wallace Wachi, the game's producer, during a recent demonstration of the game. According to Wachi, there were just too many interesting and fun things the team wanted to do with Age of Empires III to not explore the American Colonial era from "the other side." After discussions with Microsoft's in-house committee of Native American employees, the ultimate recommendation came down to accurately representing the Native American culture and making sure that they could go toe-to-toe with the European civilizations on an equal strategic footing. The last part, Wachi notes, was never in doubt. "It wouldn't be much fun if a player couldn't win with the three new civilizations."



Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs introduces three new players into the game's strategic mix: the Iroquois Confederacy, the Sioux Nation and the Aztec Empire. In the version I played, only the Iroquois were available, but even my limited time with them quickly demonstrated the different strategic "feel" of the new Native American tribes. First, the Native Americans tend to lean more on their WarChief unit. These units take the place of the Explorer unit and are much more versatile than their European counterparts. Not only do they have the standard ability to explore the map and uncover hidden treasures, but as the Ages advance, the WarChief develops an aura that gives a substantial boost to those units next to him. The Iroquois WarChief offers a health bonus, the cavalry-focused Sioux get speed and Aztec warriors near their WarChief get bonus experience for everyone they kill. Wachi tells us this increased utility isn't a coincidence. "One of the things we noticed in playing was that by the third age, Explorer units tended to get left to die. We wanted to change that."

The other key element of Native American strategy is the new Fire Pit building. While its appearance will vary based on the actual culture, this religious ritual center can host up to 25 gatherer units that will perform a variety of tribal dances. Each dance imparts specific global bonuses to the player, although the strength of the bonus is dependent on how many dancers there are. Bonuses range from the obvious, like more unit health and damage, to the more subtle, like experience multipliers and production speed boosts. The trade-off for these bonuses is that gatherers dancing in the Fire Pit aren't out collecting resources or building stuff.

The Fire Pit's importance was emphasized during "The Rescue," a new mission in the game's 15-scenario single-player campaign. The Rescue is an involved multi-stage assault in which the player must continually take and secure ground while protecting settlers in order to build up enough strength to assault a fortified position in a cave. In the mission, the player is continually juggling between the need to rebuild armies, defend against counterattacks, and build up assault forces to take the next piece of real estate. Without continually switching the bonuses available from the Fire Pit, the scenario becomes prohibitively difficult. During my games, it eventually became a bit of a rhythm: fertility dance to help create new cavalry and infantry, damage-to-buildings bonus when taking down the prisons to rescue settlers, and health bonus to soldiers when repulsing a counterattack. Wachi himself pointed out that it is possible to win without using the Fire Pit, but not very easily, and certainly not against a human opponent in multiplayer who knows what he or she is doing.


Next:   Page 2 »
Page:   1   2