Written by  :  BJ Hoskins (10)
Written on  :  Jul 26, 2003
Rating  :  4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars

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Age of Empires meets Civilization…FINALLY!

The Good

The aforementioned summary describes a wonderful game hybrid, which I’ve been dreaming about for the better part of a decade; the chess-like strategy of Civilization mixed with the intense real-time combat of Age Of Empires, which Microsoft and Big Huge Games seem to have achieved with ease.

The real-time portion of the game will be spent in the Age of Empires-like universe. From Age of Empires, the easy-to-read, no-nonsense interface has been utilized when it comes to advancing through the ages, creating/moving units, constructing buildings, and gathering resources. This in my opinion was always the Age series’ best feature. Even a complete novice could grasp this system with no problem. Also, the buildings, unit animations, and overall appearance will very much remind one of the Age series (which is to be expected since Microsoft published the game). Logically, the turn-based part of the game gives a nod to the Civilization series, where we have a “world map”, in which the player has the option of moving their armies in for attack/occupation, and conducting diplomatic business with other nations, and purchasing territories. There is also of course a “turn” button, where the player can decide whether they want to attack a location, or skip out on battle altogether and receive money for it from military surplus. As strange as this may sound, it’s almost…almost…possible to the play the entire game without fighting, much like in Civilization. But hey, where’s the fun in that?

It should also be mentioned that even when in real-time mode (or “Age mode” if you like), the concept of nation borders and city construction is vital to winning the scenario. The more cities you build, the larger your nation borders will become, just like in Civilization (the borders can also be extended by constructing buildings such as castles). Enemy units and the player’s units can also suffer attrition damage when crossing over an opposing nation’s border. Excellent!

The Bad

Sadly, even my dream strategy game has a flaw or two, like any game does. For one thing, I found the time limits to be a bit annoying. Occasional time limits are acceptable when it applies to the victory conditions, such as preventing the opposing nation from finishing a Wonder for instance, but a time limit in every scenario is unnecessary. Much of the time I felt rushed, blazing through my research and scrounging for every single bit of resources I could find before the damned clock ran out. It didn’t really allow for careful city planning, so my nation ended up being scatterbrained in a number of ways, with my poor little trade caravans running all over the place. In addition to this, there were times when I thought the “Age mode” was a bit too easy, even at high difficulty settings. In no time, I would have the opposing nation’s borders run over and taking out their cities one by one, killing their units and stealing resources in the process. I don’t know if it’s an AI issue or what, but the opposing nations oftentimes didn’t seem all that assertive in protecting themselves from my wrath (including nuclear strikes). Oh well. Of course a game like this is a fairly new thing, so hopefully this type of game design will be improved in the future.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, this is a game that will win over all sorts of converts. Novices, RTS fans that hate TBS, TBS fans that hate RTS, or gamers that don’t care for strategy at all; I believe that they’ll all find something to love in this game. Also, it has enormous replay value, be it single player or multiplayer. As another reviewer said, this is indeed the next-generation strategy game, and I hope other strategy franchises take note of this truly awesome game, because it is a force to be reckoned with.