Age of Empires III

aka: Age of Empires 3, AoE III, AoE3, Rocket
Moby ID: 20055
Windows Specs
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Description official descriptions

Age of Empires III is the third installment in the series of real-time strategy games. The main idea of the gameplay remains unchanged: with the limited amount of resources and a handful of settlers, you must think about the expansion of your colony. Besides the strong economic thread, you should also think about the development of your army. Like in the previous games your people start in an early part of humanity's history and progress to new ages (up to the industrial age) with better weapons and other possibilities.

The game offers you a complex single-player campaign that is divided into 24 missions and three acts. You take the role of Morgan Black and his family which struggle against a mysterious European cult. You can also challenge yourself in the multiplayer mode where you can command one of the eight European powers (from French to Russian). A new addition to the game mechanics is the home city in Europe which regularly sends supplies or military reinforcements. It is persistent and after multiplayer successes you gain the ability to upgrade it through a tech tree.

Spellings

  • 世紀帝國3 - Traditional Chinese spelling
  • 帝国时代III - Simplified Chinese spelling

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Credits (Windows version)

239 People (212 developers, 27 thanks) · View all

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Reviews

Critics

Average score: 83% (based on 92 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 91 ratings with 5 reviews)

Show me an AOE fan that actually likes AOE 3? I didn't think so.

The Good
Hmm...probably difficult to make a game better than Age of Empires 2...oh wait...they did. It's called Age of Mythology. So I wonder what happened in "THIS" Age of Empires?

Anyway, I've asked around most of me buddies about their experiences with Age of Empires 3 and comparing it with my own. Let me tell you, just mentioning the name put a frown on ones face.

But before I drop the bomb, a brief head-up on the changes to AOE 3.

Yep, they changed 50% of the gameplay. Though I do admit, it is quite creative on some ends. The most noticeable change unit creation and age advancement. You don't build units, you order them from the motherland. So you've got this first main map where the standard game, and you have the motherland screen which...uh doesn't do anything really. Age advancement is an interesting twist, you get to choose what kind of "style" of advancement you want, represented by founding fathers. You advance an age, you can choose 1 out of 2 founding fathers per age. Each gives you a different additional bonus. Plus you get native American Indian allies...though there doesn't seem to be any technology advance for Indian genocide though.

Other that that, the game is somewhat the same...somewhat.

But probably the best thing I like from Microsoft games...(unlike their operating system), haven't found one single dang bug! Yipee!

The Bad
Don't we just love the bad. But firstly, do you know how overrated this game is? Checkout all those idiot commercial reviews, can't seem to find any commercial website that bad mouths this game...yep, in the end it always leads to player reviews.

Point of clarrification...the game isn't bad. Its very playable. But again, since its called Age of Empires III and the blokes who are most likely to play it are the fans of the previous AOE, you HAVE to compare it with the greatness of AOE I and II. And when you compare it, what do you get? Another total disaster. Here we go...

Graphically mediocre. For 3D graphics, I would expect something new...sheesh, Age of Mythology had a better impact the first time around when I first played it. This game is graphically ho-hum.

Unit limitation is probably one of the most irritation features. There are some units you just can't build, you can order only so many times from the motherland. Another irritating feature is the limited number of towers. Dang, I used to have like 20 or more towers in AOE 2, and that was minimal. Now your forced with 5 or so towers...can't build more.

Naval combat is somewhat improved, unfortunately the game suddenly becomes very slow when a ship sinks. I have to move my screen out of view of the sinking ship to have the game run smoothly again.

But for me personally, the most major let down isn't the gameplay. It's the story. In AOE I and II, they did a hell of a job teaching you history through a semi-fiction story. In this game, its practically all fiction. I didn't learn any new historical facts, just a bunch of knights following a stupid myth to the Americas...in addition to some Saracen knights also stuck there (since when did Arabs go to the Americas during the crusades?). Really...

The Bottom Line
Well, if your AOE fan...avoid this game at all costs! If your not, its a good strategy game.

In my book, Age of Mythology is AOE 3.

Windows · by Indra was here (20768) · 2005

Nothing groundbreaking, but a solid game

The Good
The best thing I can say about AoE3 is that it's very playable and polished. Many of the basic game concepts have been used plenty of times before, so it's not surprising they work well again this time around. For example, unlike Inderanta claims in his review, you STILL build barracks, stables and workshops to "build" infantry, cavalry and artillery units. You build houses to raise your unit limit, you build farms to increase your food income ... all not entirely new to the genre should know the drill. As in the predecessors, you still advance through the ages, and doing so grants you more powerful units and gives you access to upgrades and buildings (and more of the cards mentioned below).

However, some details have been changed compared to the previous games. For example you now have cards, a bit like in 7th Legion (but a lot less unbalancing). These are earned during the single player campaign or for gaining experience in skirmish or multiplayer matches. During the game, you gain XP in a number of ways, a small base income is granted automatically, then you gain more for killing enemy units and buildings, through trade routes (read below) etc. Every time you have amassed a certain amount of XP, you can play out a card, activating it's effect. There are a lot of cards with very varied effects, for example you can get resource shipments, troop reinforcements, unique buildings such as factories (allowing you to produce resources) and forts (forward bases with strong defense and a wide array of units available for recruitment), you can improve the rate your settlers gather certain resources, increase the stats of some of your units or even recruit powerful mercenaries (having to pay for them with shiny coin). Each of the nations in AoE3 has it's own set of cards from which you can choose, allowing for different tactics and granting each nation a certain degree of distinctiveness.

Then there are the natives. On most of the maps, one or more native tribes have villages. The player can build trading posts there, which forms an alliance with that village, allowing him to recruit a number of native units and research technologies, once again a unique set for each tribe. Native units don't add to the population, so having a lot of allied tribes can give a player quite an edge, even though native units are usually a bit weaker and a bit more expensive than ordinary units.

Additionally, there are trading post sites along trade routes. Claiming those grants a constant XP income, awarded in regular intervals when traders travel the route. Upgrading allows to gain resources instead and increases the frequency of income.

The Bad
Quite honestly, my biggest gripe with AoE3 is that it's from a line of "historical" games, but the single player campaign is based on a completely fictional story - which isn't very believable to start with. I mean, come on, a Knight of St. John following some Arab cult to the Americas only to find out there's yet ANOTHER cult, and that one is the one which is really bad, then having to chase that bad, bad cult through half of south and north America to stop them from finding the fountain of youth, doing things like fighting Russian soldiers in the grand canyon in the process... gimme a break. From what I recall, there were certain historical events during the colonization of America which could have been made into some interesting campaigns, so I fail to see why they had to pull such an abomination of a rabbit out of their hat.

There are treasure sites scattered across most maps, and I have to say almost all of them are really useless. The are usually guarded, often WELL GUARDED, by a number of hostile animals or rogue troops, and more often than not, you'll get something like 25 wood from them. A few offer interesting findings, for example some enhance stats of your explorer, but these are few and far between. Sure, you can ignore the sites altogether, but I deemed it worth mentioning.

Oh, and the explorer. It's some sort of hero unit, but of pretty limited use. He has some skills allowing him to kill animals with one shot (later even single enemy units) and can build trading posts (and later even town centers), but is pretty useless otherwise, at least IMO. He can be handy in the first few minutes of a game, but then can be parked in the backyard of one's base and forgotten about. I think it's safe to say the hero concept has been realized better by other games - for example the somewhat related AoM.

And then there's the AI. Let's just say it's not very bright. Ok, granted, most computer game AIs aren't, but it's really severe in AoE3. Most of the single player missions get around this by making heavy use of scripts, but in skirmish, you can't miss the flaws. For example, the AI doesn't build walls. Never. And it's really easy for players to confuse the AI by using walls himself. They can almost be channeled like water, and will only attack a wall on very rare occasions. Similarly, while the AI DOES build towers, they are usually not very well placed and a rare sight as well. The AI is also very ignorant in some ways. It's not uncommon it will cleverly amass a perfectly mixed assault force to effectively penetrate your defenses (analyzing defenses actually works well, to a degree) and then has the force march towards your base, past it's own farms, houses and town center - which are being reduced to ruins by YOUR assault force the very minute. That's right, the force will not lift a finger to defend it's own home unless you attack them first. Sometimes the force will reconsider somewhere on their way to your base, sometimes it won't ... and if you think the AI is actually being really clever planning to crush the player's base as the player crushes hers ... the forces are usually too weak to do this on their own, especially without further reinforcements. Additionally, it's not rare for the AI to simply cease and desist, without any obvious reason. It just won't build any more buildings and units, even if in perfect shape.

Some final thing I'd like to mention: I found the selection of maps for skirmish/multiplayer very bland. They are named after regions in America, like Texas, the Caribbean or Patagonia, and each sport a different mix of terrain, natives and trade routes, but despite being random per se, each generated map will be VERY similar to the last one in this region. For example, if some region for 2 players will have 2 trade routes, one north, one south, and 4 native tribes, and a canyon in the middle, and a lake in the east once, next time you play that region with the same amount of players, the map will likely have all those features again. You can download a couple of user maps to counter this, but this isn't a review of user maps, so ...

Speaking of user content ... there is no possibility to create custom campaigns, which I consider a stupid decision. Definitely takes away a lot possibilities for aspiring scenario designers.

The Bottom Line
A few more things worth mentioning, but neither really positive nor really negative to me, personally. For example, a number of limits have been introduced to influence gameplay in a certain direction. Thus, you can now only build a limited amount of towers (7, I think), to stop players from turtleing in, I'd presume. Similarly, navies are severely limited, the most powerful ships allow less than a handful of them being in service at any time. So fleets of more than a dozen vessels are a rare sight. Also, workers never need to return to storage buildings again. They'll just stand there gathering wood or gold or food until they can't find any more of the resource. You could basically have your workers gather wood on the far side of the enemies base, and unless he discovered and actively attacked them, it wouldn't be a problem for you - they would act like the trees were standing next to your town center.

Now, for the real bottom line. I steered clear of AoE3 for a long time because I was skeptical whether I could enjoy the fictional campaign. And I found I was right, at least to a degree, when I finally picked up the game much later when it had hit the bargain bin. However, ignoring most mission briefings and ingame movies, it provided me with a fair amount of hours of good old RTS fun, with hero-centric missions being in a clear minority. After that, there's the skirmish mode, which - despite it's weaknesses - can provide a good amount of fun by encouraging you to play on for a good while by allowing you to unlock new cards with the XP you earn for each battle fought. And you can play the game online...

so, it's still an AoE game at it's heart. Some changes have been made, most of which I tried to outline above, and you should take these into consideration. Gameplay has shifted focus a bit, with melee units playing a minor role and masses of rifleman being the way to go instead, but I think that's quite historical. At bargain bin price, I don't think purchasing this game can be a mistake. And at the time of this writing, an expansion is in the works, who knows, maybe it'll relieve the game of some of it's flaws.

I mainly wrote this because Inderanta's review seemed a bit biased to me, and I wanted to present a more balanced review. I hope I succeeded.

Windows · by Cadorna (219) · 2006

The best RTS since WarCraft II

The Good
The graphics are colorful and varied, animations uniformly excellent, sound effects wonderful -- especially the female German villagers, and the cannons firing in quick succession. Multiplayer is really where this game shines.

The gameplay is extremely well-crafted and well-balanced. There's eight different nations, from the English, who breed like rabbits, to the Dutch, who accumulate vast wealth thanks to their bankers. All the nations are distinct from one another, and there's all sorts of play styles for different personalities. The Russians are for unpredictable wildcats, the Ottomans are for those who prefer blitzkrieg, and the Germans allow you to hire great numbers of powerful mercenaries. Of course if you want to hire ronin (masterless samurai) you'll have to go with Portugal.

One last thing: AoE3 uses the Havok physics middleware package, so when you blast apart a windmill you'll see individual beams of wood go flying. This also applies to humans: fire at a crowd of pikemen, and they'll be airbound in a no time. It's a very nice touch to this already spectacular game.

The Bad
Single-player's only really value is to prepare you for multiplayer, and it doesn't do a very good job at that. Anyone who takes this game semi-seriously will make mincemeat out of you if your only experience is against the computer.

The storyline is instantly forgettable, but no worries, the developers surely developed this game with one thing in mind: massive multiplayer matches.

The Bottom Line
Pretty well a flawless game. Fortunately for me, I didn't waste my time on the previous installments of the Age of Empire series, nor any RTS since Warcraft 2, so when people tell you that AoE3 adds nothing new to the genre, they are both lying (Home Cities, for example) and suffering myopia from being too close to the genre. If you haven't played an RTS this is where you begin.

Windows · by Chris Wright (85) · 2007

[ View all 5 player reviews ]

Trivia

Engine

Age of Empires III uses a modified version of the Age of Mythology engine.

Physics engine

The Windows version uses the Havok physics engine. Few modern Mac titles use it because of its licensing fee. MacSoft gutted Havok from the game and substituted it with a significantly less expensive technology called PhysX, developed by AGEIA for its Mac port.

Awards

  • GameSpy
    • 2005 – #5 PC Game of the Year
    • 2005 – PC RTS of the Year
    • 2005 – Best Graphics of the Year (PC)
  • GameStar (Germany)
    • 2006 - Best PC Strategy Game in 2005 (Readers' Voting)
  • Golden Joystick Awards
    • 2006 - Online Game of the Year
  • PC Powerplay (Germany)
    • Issue 04/2006 - #1 Strategy Game in 2005 (Readers' Vote)
    • Issue 02/2006 - #3 Strategy Game in 2005
  • Puget Sound Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication
    • Early January 2007 - Distinguished Award for Technical Writing and Editing (for the manual and quick reference card)

Information also contributed by Scaryfun and Sciere.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by UV.

Macintosh added by Jeanne.

Additional contributors: Unicorn Lynx, Jeanne, Corn Popper, Silverblade, Maw, Abi79, Zeppin, Litude, Paulus18950, Patrick Bregger, piltdown_man, Flapco.

Game added November 16, 2005. Last modified February 23, 2024.