Age of Empires III (PC) review
"I play real-time strategy games like I used to play with Legos. I build up a lot of structures for no real reason whatsoever, then I pull them all apart and start over again. I have very little interest in combat in most RTS games. I just like building up cities and managing my populous, which most players consider the boring part of RTS games. Because of this, Iíve found a lot of the newer games disappointing because theyíre so combat-oriented. Sure, micro-management isnít always that fun, but ..."
I play real-time strategy games like I used to play with Legos. I build up a lot of structures for no real reason whatsoever, then I pull them all apart and start over again. I have very little interest in combat in most RTS games. I just like building up cities and managing my populous, which most players consider the boring part of RTS games. Because of this, Iíve found a lot of the newer games disappointing because theyíre so combat-oriented. Sure, micro-management isnít always that fun, but it adds a certain level of realism into the games. I mean, did the British and Spanish really establish their colonies in the New World without harvesting resources to pay for their expenses?
This makes Age of Empires III all the more refreshing. Not only are there lots of people to move around and send to work, but youíre also rewarded for building civilians and buildings. Should you create some new workers, you get points that can be used to upgrade your home city, which provides you with benefits like resources, soldiers, and upgrades that make your colony more productive. This concept of a home city is a great addition into the Age of Empires formula. Your home city isnít lost when you pull apart and start over either. Instead, the benefits of your home city transfer over into the next game, where you can accumulate even more experience and gain even more new bonuses.
These bonuses might sound like cheating, but theyíre well balanced. You can only use your bonuses after earning them through creation of new buildings and units, so you canít rely on them solely for all of your resources or all of your soldiers. However, they do provide a nice crutch when starting up your new colony. Another major break from the mold of the previous games in the Age of Empires series is the fact that you now play as a colonial power vying for dominance in the New World. I was initially skeptical about this decision, but in practice it works nicely. I was nervous that the feel of the game would suffer because it was focused on one continent rather than the entire medieval world like in previous games, but that didnít happen. Each map is diverse and sprawling with life, with bison roam in the Great Plains and vultures pick apart carcasses in the desert.
Of all the changes to the series, the graphical additions are the most obvious. Gone are the days of that flat, static Age of Empires games. I remember being amazed in Age of Empires II Ė yes, amazed Ė when a small yellow bird would fly across my screen. Now, in Age of Empires III, deer run around, visibly eating grass and reacting naturally to my units getting in their space by running away. Even on a modest screen resolution, each unit can be distinguished from other units, except of course in the heat of battle because now when you attack a building, rubble goes flying in every direction. Battles feel truly chaotic and thatís possibly my favorite addition of all.
And what does that mean? It means Age of Empires III, for the first time in any of the dozens of RTS games that Iíve played, has made me actually enjoy waging war. Battles now feel hectic, exciting and intense. I now click my mouse on enemy units as feverishly as I can in hope to gain some advantage in battle. Iíve even increased the difficulty, something Iíve never done in an RTS. Instead of playing on easy mode where I can relax and build up my civilization as slowly as I want without fear, Iíve been playing on higher difficulty levels so I can wage better and bigger wars. You might say I do it because Iím a graphics whore and you might be right, but I think itís just honestly the first time battles in an RTS have ever felt genuine. To me, that makes Age of Empires III a step above the competition.
Community review by asherdeus (March 20, 2006)
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