SummaryA well polished RTS featuring a crossover of several ancient mythologies
The GoodI didn't expect much from this game when it first came out, so I would only pick it up much later when it hit the bargain bin. It turned out the game would've been well worth the full price-tag.
When I started playing AoM, I felt at home very quickly, having played games like AoE 1 and 2 and a few of their numerous clones. The game is easy to handle, no matter whether you've played any of the spiritual predecessors or not, and if you have, it's almost free of that "Gee, this is so simple in [insert game title], why can't you do it here?" you may have encountered in some other products. When you start playing in a particular pantheon, like the Greek or the Egyptian, a mini-tutorial will explain you how things work in brief, but sufficient demonstrations. The story starts out slowly, with your new alter-ego, the atlantean hero Arkantos, is sent on what seems to be a purely representative task - to aid the ongoing siege of Troy with a small task force from your homeland. Unsurprisingly, things turn out to be a bit more complicated quite soon, and in the struggle against his new adversary, Gagarensis the cyclops, Arkantos meets old friends and makes new allies in order to oppose Gagarensis in a wide variety of environments, from Greece to Egypt, from Atlantis to the Norselands. The melding of the different mythologies in these regions is very well realized, in my opinion, and with very few exceptions, the 32 levels are fun to play and offer a satisfying experience. The different minor gods you can dedicate your temples to open a number of possible strategies, even when playing in the same mythology, and the switch to a different pantheon, which occurs occasionally (usually related to where the current scenario takes place), keeps things interesting. Difficulty and balancing are sufficient, and playing on normal gives an average challenge, not too hard, but not too easy either, and thankfully only rarely frustrating.
The BadLike I already wrote above, this game is largely free of real game-stoppers, which is really good news, in my humble opinion. ;-) However, a few things are worth mentioning: In several of the levels, the "path" of minor gods the game has already chosen for you feels as if it's only there to make the game harder for you, for example having minor gods that favor ranged combat in a mission where some melee punch is what you really need. On normal difficulty, this usually won't stop you, but only slow you down a bit, still, I found it somewhat annoying on occasion. Also, a few (very few, thankfully) of the games' levels are HIGHLY frustrating, breaking the trend in an unpleasant way. Apart from the showdown-level in the end, where it's arguably a good thing to meet proper competition, two or three are in the middle of the game, which bothered me, especially one where you had to flee from a superior force with an ox-cart that moved like the speed of a slug. You'll know which level I mean once you get there. ;-) Another thing is that almost all (if not all) of the levels are completely prefabricated, meaning the AI will build nothing, not even buildings you have destroyed. Also, it seems to have infinite resources at least in some of the levels, which I never find to be a good thing. Also, the Norse are a bit of a pain to play, due to their only gaining favor when actually fighting, the rates of which are far too slow for my tastes, making them always short on favor. Furthermore, their mortal units are more dependent on gold than those of the other mythologies, which makes you miss the ability to mass-produce units which cost mostly favor even more. A minor annoyance, especially in the single player campaign, where they are the last pantheon to appear, in a time where the game is supposed to be a little bit harder, but an annoyance nonetheless. Especially for the multiplayers and skirmishers of you, the lack of a level/campaign editor has to be recognized on the negative side. While it may have good reasons an editor isn't present, it's missed anyway. Oh, and - lastly - these groups of persons will likely be unhappy with the rather limited size of the maps, too. While absolutely sufficient for the singleplayer levels, the smallish maps can't properly handle a higher number of combatants.
The Bottom LineMinor drawbacks in mind, I still would recommend this game to almost everybody with even a passing interest in RTS games and/or ancient mythology. In these times, where developers and/or publishers often confuse their buyers with their beta-testers, it's always nice to see a game which is highly playable and polished out of the box. The campaign takes long enough to make the game worth it's price tag (especially the bargain tag it's likely to bear at this time), skirmish and multiplayer are interesting, too, at least for a while. With the "Titans" addon released recently (I haven't played this one at the time of writing this) which adds even more content, the single player hardly can go wrong with "Age of Mythology". If you're focused on multiplayer only, though, it might not be what you're looking for.