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SummaryNothing new under the sun
The GoodIt's almost identical to Age of Empires II, which should be something good, because that was a great game.
Nice gameplay, very nice graphics, nice music.
The BadIt's almost identical to Age of Empires II, which is really sad, because the game feels like an expansion pack.
Same gameplay, same mechanics, same music.
The Bottom LineThe third edition of Age of Empires sticks religiously to its winning formula, in detriment of creativity and innovation.
There's a common phenomenon taking place these days, regarding the creative path game developers are supposed to follow ... or not follow at all.
The first example of how a mercantilistic approach, biased and conditioned by marketing charts and sales numbers can put the entire game industry at a stall is Half-Life 2. After seven years of long wait, Gordon Freeman came back to defend his crown in the sequel to the "best videogame ever" with nothing more than ... better graphics. Not an ounce of creativity, not a twist in the plot, not even new weapons. Absolutely nothing but state of the art rendering and lightning. What was the result? A lenient, inaccurate and deceptive battery of reviews, serving buyers a mediocre game in a silver platter.
The second example packs a number of titles, including the the latest of the NBA Live series, Football Manager series, Battlefield 2, The Sims 2, Unreal Tournament, etc. The common denominator? Better graphics as the main and only added value. The result? Great sales at the expense of creative stagnation.
Not every game should "reinvent itself" each and every year, but most of these games seem nothing like very good graphical patches for the prior version. That's all. The code remains almost intact, ideas are still nowhere to be found and innovation is just "commercially too risky".
Many of these games i speak of wouldn't even be on the map if it wasn't because someone took a little leap of faith and tried something more or less new. Now that they're in the comfort zone ... why fix it if it keeps selling well?
Expect nothing else from Age of Empires III that you haven't seen in Age of Empires II. I commend the people who worked on those very nice graphics, but i'm utterly disappointed at the rest of the people at Ensemble Studios for delivering nothing more than a campaign patch, with some new levels to play.
After SIX years, one would have expected a little more than just revamped new levels.