Counting Steps: Pokemon Go!

General info:

Official websiteWikipedia entry

  • Developed by: Niantic
  • Published by: Nintendo, Pokémon Company
  • Original release date: July 6th, 2016
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Written in Unity

I was late to the game with Pokemon. My generation was in elementary school at the height of the Pokemon craze. From what I hear, it was a grand ole time. Due to some satanic-panic logic (that remains unclear to me) Pokemon was forbidden in my house, growing up.

In fact, that was the reason behind most prohibited activities of my childhood. No Casper. No Power Rangers. No Pokemon. All of that exclusion kept me away from the cool kids’ table. Nobody deserves to be bullied, but looking back, I wasn’t any of the things you usually see in kids that get picked on. Not being an obvious target wound up hurting me in the long run. “How could you get picked on? You’re the biggest kid in class!” I was. Eventually, I had to figure out how to get with it or get left in the dust. 

Not only was it banned at home, most of the disciplinary action I witnessed in grade school revolved around punishing kids for bringing Pokemon cards to school. That prohibition was my “in.” After confiscating a large quantity of Pokemon cards, teachers carelessly tossed the collection in one pile onto the floor. 

Predictably, there were dogpiles. Whatever lay on the floor was up for grabs. I was left out of the conversation, but I certainly overheard them. What 9 years old could resist the opportunity to brag about their 1st edition Charizard? Or their holographic Pikachu? The kids making fun of me gave away exactly which cards I should steal from them. With everyone’s eyes on the prize, nobody noticed the only kid in class who couldn’t play Pokemon joining the ambush. On a few occasions, I’d crawl out with quite the score. 

My brothers obtained their own collections over time. Only, they would get caught. Every time one brother was busted, I’d overhear my parents threaten to search every bag in the house. While they sniffed for clues, I’d ditch my cards among the discarded contraband in the kitchen garbage to save my skin. In the end, every heist proved fruitless. My name’s Eric Fellner, and I stole my friend’s and classmates’ cherished Pokemon cards so I could throw them in the trash.

July 2016. Imagine my surprise the day Pokemon Go comes out, and my mom has it downloaded on her phone. After all that effort! After years of enforcement! 

Possibly the allure of augmented reality swayed my mother’s feelings on the matter? Maybe she admitted to herself the ban never had any rationale to start with? Whatever occurred, Pokemon Go was my first game in the series at the age of 23. 

It was a good summer to start! I had returned from a month-long stay in Brooklyn, which was honestly the time of my life. I had booked my first show for my return to North Carolina. A month of walking around the city got me into great shape. To my knowledge, the relationship I was in was going well. July 2016 was starting off as the peak of my “Jordan-year.”

Additionally, the whole world seemed united in (at least novel) interest in this game. And I could finally buy-in! My co-workers at Starbucks would dip into the parking lot catching Pokemon while they took drive-through orders. All hours of the night, pods of kids and adults alike crowded what was suddenly considered “landmarks.” In search of resources. Battling over gyms. Trying to “catch ‘em all.” You’re familiar with the game.

Counting on!

Personally, I loved using the game as a pedometer! It kept me in great shape. Endlessly running through the neighborhood and shopping centers felt as true to the core gameplay loop of Pokemon as you can get. Only, there was slightly less animal violence.

Then, July came to a close. One night, I stopped in late to see my grandfather who lived in town, Popop. We had open plans to visit a 24-hour bakery in Charlotte called Amelie’s. Unfortunately, he passed in his sleep sometime before I arrived. 

Between that night and the funeral, the girl I had been seeing ended things over text. The next week, I played that show I had booked while I was in New York. Due to similar circumstances in the other bandmates’ lives, the band immediately disbanded. 

After a month of riding high, things crashed spectacularly. My enthusiasm for Pokemon Go died amid the chaos and depression of the time. I didn’t feel like running. I didn’t want to see people out, people together. It’s no exaggeration that week in August took years to recover from. Not just emotionally. Regaining the sense of momentum I felt that summer took time. Pokemon Go forever resides in my memory as the pop-culture phenomenon that coincides with that period of my life.

February 2020. After a couple rough years, I was quitting the worst job of my life (thanks for nothing, Target) to teach guitar full-time. Playing music, for a living. Then, wouldn’t you know it? COVID-19 struck! 

Boy did it. And the job I just went all-in on was at high risk of being yanked from under me. Reflecting now, I wonder if the sink or swim of the moment shocked me into a state of flow. One day, my boss and I devised a plan to transition the entire studio to a remote format. The next day, the admin team and teachers were executing that plan. We were infinitely fortunate. We never missed a single day of lessons.

My girlfriend lived two hours away in Raleigh, and we decided to lock down together while I could work remotely. Despite having some work, I still had a considerable amount of free time. We were 5 miles from Moore Park, the center of downtown Raleigh, with everything in the city closed. As that normal set in, I found myself running across Raleigh playing Pokemon Go. Me and my Snorlax, Popop.

Normal is hopefully starting to shift yet again, and I continue to log (slightly fewer) kilometers in Pokemon Go. I’m no longer interested in Pokemon to get along with classmates, and if tragedy strikes, I’m a little better prepared. Pokemon Go is more of a glorified pedometer more than augmented reality, but my fondness for it still runs deep.

This piece is part of a larger collaboration, Pokemon: Creator’s Catch. Click here to check out all the work by other great writers and artists!

Gaming Nostalgia: the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series

downloads

I’m so happy that I was able to claim the whole Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series for this amazing Pokémon collaboration. Together with several other content creators, I took a retrospective look back at the Pokémon franchise in this hub article. If you arrived from the hub article to this article about the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon series, welcome! In this article, I’m going to talk about my memories with these games and look back at this spin off series and maybe try and discover why Game Freak made so many sequels of this game. I want to give an important side note, this article isn’t going to cover all the Mystery Dungeon games. It’s only going to cover the games that I have played. Basically, it’s a personal retrospective. So, before we really start, feel free to leave a comment down below with your opinions, thoughts and memories of these games and/or the content of this article.

2005 – Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team & Red Rescue Team (Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS)

Pokémon_Mystery_Dungeon_-_Blue_Rescue_Team_Coverart

If you read my blog in the past, you might know that I started blogging in 2010. That was a blog in my native language Dutch. It was more of a personal blog that now transformed into this English blog. 

On there, I took a look at these games but since that blog is archived, that article is archived as well. Yet, don’t worry friends. I have added it to my endless list of games I still have to write about on this blog. 

Now, how did I learn about this game? Well, I love to tell this story. Back in the day, I went each and every summer to the sea side on holiday together with my family. Before we left, my aunt took me to our local video game store to rent some games for the trip and the holiday. It was still a while before I got my own Nintendo DS but when I noticed that there was a new Pokémon game for the Gameboy Advance and the Nintendo DS, I didn’t hesitate and rented out Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Red Rescue Team. 

I was so happy to play a new Pokémon game since I had almost beaten Pokémon Ruby. That year was also the first year I slept in my own room and not together in the room with the bunkbeds where my aunts and sister slept. 

Just to give you an idea how much that game impacted me, the memories of that year’s trip have heavy ties to that game. When I was replaying this game for a bit to better write this article, the memories came flooding back quite hard. The various sand castles I had built and the activities I did with my friends in the holiday park. 

Sadly enough, I had to say goodbye to the cartridge since renting isn’t for ever. I didn’t enjoy returning the game after the trip since I got quite close to beat the game. I can’t remember exactly what happened next but when I got my Nintendo DS a while later from that same lovely aunt, I had gotten my hands on the DS version of the game. You can be sure that I played quite happily through that game. 

In past articles, I talked about how the “Farewell” music having a big impact on me. I’m actually listening to that track while I’m writing this section. This track does something with me. It brings back memories of those trips to the sea side which are memories I never want to say goodbye to. Glorious memories with various friends and family that shaped me as a person and made me look forward to those trips. 

I also remember quite well that the ending of this game was one of the first times I truly cried. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but for the people who have played this game know what I’m talking about. How the writing and music comes together extremely nicely after your long and big adventure with an amazing way to tell the generic message about the strength and importance of friendship. It might sound quite cheesy but I love how beautiful this story comes together. I played a game with an amazing message about friendship while I forged new friendships and enjoyed them without any regrets. 

2007 – Pokémon Mystery Dungeon – Explorers of Time / Darkness + 2009 – Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of the Sky (Nintendo DS)

Pokemon-mystery-dungeon-explorers-of-timeReview of this game

To tell this story, I want to take you back to summer of 2007. In that summer, I learn about this game existing through a magazine. Seeing that the Mystery Dungeon game got a sequel, I was extremely hyped and I started to save up money. 

But then, The Legend Of Zelda – Phantom Hourglass happens. Besides being a big Pokémon fan, I’m also an extremely big Zelda fan. So, I started to play Phantom Hourglass. By the time I have finished the Zelda game, I got myself Pokémon Pearl

Fast forward a bit to Christmas of that same year. It was time to put together a Secret Santa list. While I was browsing the website of my local game store, I noticed that I had almost forgotten about Pokémon Mystery Dungeon. So, I placed the game on my list. And I think you know what happened. I got this game for Christmas. 

That evening, I was a bit of an anti-social person. I was so extremely hyped for this game and because I finally got my hands on it, I started to play this game right away. I can’t remember why I hadn’t bought this game earlier but hey, we don’t remember every single thing.  

It has been almost 15 years since I played this game but I still remember various moments that happened in this game. The atmosphere, writing, music, pacing and various other elements of this game are just engraved in my memories. When an expanded version of this game got released two years later called “Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of the Sky”, I wanted to have that game as well. 

Now, I had to admit that it took me quite a while before I got that expanded version. In a matter of fact, there is a small story behind that as well. I remember that I bought a copy of “Explorers of the Sky” online from a website I have bought various games from before. When the game arrived, it arrived in a shiny box but there was something wrong. There was a copy of “Explorers of Time” inside of the case. So, I was able to return it and they sent me a whole new copy. Thankfully, with the correct game this time. I remember that it felt quite sketchy to send a whole game through the post instead of sending it as a package. 

Oh well, I’m glad that I have the expanded version in my collection now. For some strange reason, I haven’t played that expanded version. I think it’s because I don’t want to destroy or ruin my nostalgic feelings with game since these Mystery Dungeon games have so much nostalgic meaning to me. But, I think that it’s time to play the expanded version since the memories of writing this article and working on the collab are memories I don’t want to forget either. Let’s go and celebrate the Pokémon franchise. 

2013 – Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Gates to Infinity (Nintendo 3DS)

PMGTIReview of the game

So, in late 2012 I decided to delete my personal Dutch blog and in the middle of 2013, I decided to completely rebrand myself and my blog in English. When I look back to my earlier work on this blog, I see the growth I have made.

This game was also the first game that inspired me to look more critical to the games I’m playing. To start analyzing why certain mechanics work and why certain mechanics don’t work. It inspired me to write my first ever rant on this blog. If I would have written this article today, I think it would be a bit better structured, but hey. Hindsight is 2021. 

In August of 2013, I decided that I wanted to write a review on this game. I remember opening the editor on that day and opening my notes. And then I started writing the article. Usually, my articles where around 1k-words long in that time. Expect, for this game I kept writing and adding to the article. And I kept writing and writing. Before I knew it, the review was over double of the length of my usual articles. 

That review is what inspired my current style of writing. Trying to find all the things that a game does right and explaining what a game does wrong and how it could have been improved. I know full well that a writing style is something that grows and changes over the years, but the initial spark to write better articles was with that review. 

So yeah, thank you Gates to Infinity to help me improve my writing skills and to help me build a blog that I’m quite proud off. Of course, the game itself is something that I quite enjoyed a lot as well. While it has some rough edges, but I still found it an enjoyable game. Critics really didn’t like this game and most of them tore it apart. 

But, I enjoyed building the paradise to it’s full glory and the story of this game. Now, if you want to know more about my opinion on this game, I highly recommend that you read the review since I still agree with everything I said. 

2015 – Pokémon: Super Mystery Dungeon (Nintendo 3DS)

250px-Super_Mystery_Dungeon_EN_boxartFirst Impression of this game

So, in 2015 we got what we thought was the final game in the Mystery Dungeon series called Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon. The final climax of the series that would end off this enjoyable dungeon crawler with a bang. 

Now, I have to admit that I was afraid that this game was going to be mediocre. Thankfully, I have been proven wrong. This game is one strong entry in the Mystery Dungeon series. The reviews from the critics where more favorable compared to the previous entry.  

Now, you might have noticed that I haven’t written a review for this game yet. That’s because not only did I got distracted by various other games… I have to admit that I sort of rage quitted the game at one point near the end where I was unable to beat a certain dungeon since I barely had enough items. 

Now, when I was putting this collab together, I started to play this game again from my save file and I got through that part. So, I’m now almost finished with the game and I can’t wait to finally beat it and write a review about it. Since I want to share my thoughts on this game after beating the game. 

Man, playing this game was always so bittersweet. Since I knew it was the final game in the spin-off series and to be quite honest, I don’t want to finish this game. Since for some reason, I don’t want to close the book on this series. Ever since the first game, these spin-offs became a huge part of my life. If you read through this whole article, you see how much these games mean to me. Then again, all nice things must come to an end and maybe it’s time to wrap everything up and let everything come full circle. 

2020 – Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX (Nintendo Switch)

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Then again, this series might not have come to an end. It’s possible that this game is just an one off remake of the series but who knows… It’s possible that Game Freak is working on bringing this spin-off series back. 

I have to admit that I haven’t bought the game on release. A lot of that had to do with the fact that the game released in early March last year and then COVID started happening in my home country and my life is extremely occupied with other things like my job and various other projects. 

So, in late 2020, when I started looking for writers for this collab, I finally decided to buy myself a boxed copy. Since then, I have been playing this remake in between the games I play to review or write about on my blog. To be honest, I’m quite glad that I bought this remake. Since this remake improved so much on the original game, it’s amazing. 

I think that this remake is going to be one time remake of the original, but like I said previously, I’m silently hoping that there will be more stories told in this spin-off style. So crossing my fingers for either another remake or a brand new Mystery Dungeon game.

And that was it

I feel that I’m going to repeat myself when I say that this spin off series means quite a lot to me. While it’s sad to know that the Switch remake might be the final game in the spin-off series, I’m also happy that it ended on quite a high note. 

The reason that the spin-off series ended was because the developers didn’t know where to take the series next. Which I can totally understand, since each story is quite unique.

I think that the Mystery Dungeon series is to Pokémon what the Mario RPG games are to the Mario series. A series of well loved spin off games that have touching and humorous stories that to be quite honest, sometimes are better than the original stories. 

In any case, I think I can ramble on and on about this series and before I start repeating myself a million times with different words I want to thank Game Freak and Chunsoft from creating this amazing spin-off series. While I silently hope that there are going to be more games in this style, I’m quite happy with the games that were released. Thank you for this memorable series. 

And with that, I feel like I said everything I wanted to say about these games for now. Thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care. Also, be sure to check out the hub article if you want to read more articles from other amazing content creators about the Pokémon series. This retrospective collab was so much fun to work on and it allowed me to write an amazing piece like this one. 🙂 

 

Writer’s Raid: Tomb Raider III – The Adventures of Lara Croft

Tomb_Raider_IIIWikipedia entry

I remember quite well buying a copy of Tomb Raider IV & V in one bundle. When I came home and placed the install disc for Tomb Raider IV in my PC, I was surprised that Tomb Raider III started installing. I didn’t mind so much, I found the files for Tomb Raider IV on the disc labeled Tomb Raider V. I already owned Tomb Raider V, so I got extremely lucky there. Since I took a look at Tomb Raider IV in the past, I think it would be more interesting for this project to take a look at Tomb Raider III. Now, what do I mean with “this project”? Well, a group of writers and myself took a look at the whole Tomb Raider series and like the Zelda project last year, there is a hub article you can find here if you want to read the other amazing articles.

The Adventures of Lara Croft

TR3-1In this game, Lara is searching for the Intifada Stone. When she finds the artifact, she gets approached by a researcher from RX Tech, who informs her about a meteorite that landed in Antarctica millions of years ago. This meteorite was used by the Polynesians to create various powerful stones, one of which is the Intifada Stone. So, Lara starts a quest to find all the stones before they fall in the wrong hands.

The story is quite interesting. The main arc of the story, I explained above. But the story takes Lara on several different journeys with their own story. It’s a bit like Tomb Raider V, but the big difference is that they aren’t remembering Lara’s adventures after her death.

So, compared to Tomb Raider II, what is new in this game? Quite a lot actually. The game was primarily made for the PlayStation and was meant as a sort of next-gen Tomb Raider. Core Design created a totally new engine for the game and a lot more. If you want to read up on the development, the Wikipedia page I linked above has a lot more to talk about.

The game did rather well. The game scored an average of 7/10 from different publications. If you look on GameRankings.com, the PS1 version even got a bigger score than the PC counterpart. It’s a 5% difference.

Now, the version I have in my collection is “Tomb Raider III – The Lost Artefact”. This is a version with some additional levels included. With these 5 additional levels, the game takes a nice 25 hours to beat the game, making this the longest Tomb Raider game in the series.

The story of the expansion pack takes place in between the story of Tomb Raider III. So, it’s no epilogue or prologue. Also, this expansion pack was only released for people who owned the PC or MAC version. Sadly enough, this game was sold as a standalone game. The previous two games also had an expansion pack which was either part of a re-release or free to download from the official website.

The game also provided quite a lot of new things and moves to play around with. Lara got some new abilities like using the monkey bars. The new things in this game include new swimming and water mechanics, quicksand and various other things.

I’m glad that I played this game on the PC since on the PS1, the save feature is restricted. The save feature works sort-of like the save feature in the early Resident Evil games. Where you have to find Ink Ribbons for the typewriters to save. In Tomb Raider III, you have to find save crystals to use the save feature in the main menu.  Since I love to save often in the older Tomb Raider games, I would have been so frustrated if that was also the case on the PC.

During the game, you go to India, UK, USA, and Antarctica. You can also visit Lara’s home in this game. If you are a first-time player, I highly recommend that you explore Lara’s home first. This way you can get used to the controls and the mechanics of Lara’s jump in the gym. Also, yes, I have fond memories of locking Winston up in the freezer.

How does it hold up?

TR3-2For me personally, this game was fun to play through. The game tested my retro gaming skills quite a lot and I enjoyed walking around the levels. While I had my share of frustrations when missing a jump or not directly knowing where to go, I still had a lot of fun exploring this game.

Now, this game hasn’t aged like fine wine. This game isn’t for everybody. While I don’t mind the dated visuals, I can understand that some people would hate the visuals. The visuals are early PS1 visuals. Yet, I feel they still have some charm and still look better than Tomb Raider I or II.

This game has decent controls. The big issue I have with them is that you can’t rebind the keys easily. There is some trickery you can do, but it shouldn’t be this annoying. Also, since I use an AZERTY keyboard layout, some keys were in different places. Thankfully, I got used to the controls after a few levels and I was able to pull of great moves.

Something that did age quite well, in my opinion, is the music and sound effects. While the soundtrack is extremely short, it’s still a joy to listen too. The soundtrack really fits the mood of the game. It’s relaxing when you are climbing and tense when you are fighting a boss. The sound effects pulled me into the atmosphere of this game.

TR3-3I really enjoyed the puzzles in this game. The only thing I had issues with was the vehicle sections. But, that was mostly because I didn’t know you could speed them up. After I learned how to do that, I had fewer issues with them. While it’s quite possible to play this game without a walkthrough, I used BadAssGamez’s walkthrough when I was stuck. He finished this game without using any medkits and got all the secrets as well.

In his video’s he also shows tricks on how to skip certain fights or how to easily defeat enemies. If you aren’t used to old-school Tomb Raider games, I highly recommend that you watch his walkthroughs if you need some help in beating this game. If you are used to old-school Tomb Raider games, this game will provide you with various challenges. My favorite level was the 8th level, the Temple of Puna. Mainly because it had various moments that reminded me of Indiana Jones.

I think that this game is still worth a playthrough. If you enjoy playing retro adventure games, I can’t recommend this game enough. I do understand that this game isn’t for everyone. There are moments where the game clearly shows its age. Don’t expect a game with a more modern polish, expect a game that challenges you in various areas that takes you back to when you were young and played games after homework on your parent’s computer.

If you want to give this game a try, it’s still being sold on Steam for 7€ and on GOG, you find Tomb Raider 1+2+3 together for 9€. So seriously, what are you waiting for?

That’s everything I wanted to say about this game. If you are interested in a full review of this game, please tell me in the comments. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Review: Age of Mythology Extended Edition (PC) ~ And on the 7th day he gamed.

ageofmythologyextendededitionSteam store page

Ah, Age of Mythology. I got introduced to this game when I wasn’t able to understand English. It was at a co-worker of my mom’s house. I was playing the games on the PC I didn’t own. The first time, I played with the Egyptian culture, since I have quite a fondness for the old Egyptian culture. A few years later, I found Age of Mythology in a garage sale. It was a French version, but I didn’t mind. I was finally able to play that one game I played for myself. Back then, my French was better than it is now. It didn’t take long before I found a copy of the Gold Edition with the Titans expansion pack. I played the game quite a lot back then. I even dabbled in online play. Fast forward to 2014 and Age Of Mythology Extended Edition releases. Overjoyed, I start it up and have a nostalgic wave. But, is the game any good and does it still hold up. Let’s find out. 

Tale of the Dragon

To my surprise, in 2016, the game received new content. This new content isn’t too well received if you read the Steam reviews. But, I’m running ahead of myself here. First, let’s take a look at the story of this game. In this game, you play as Arkantos, an admiral from Atlantis. Something strange I have to point out is that the Atlanteans were added with the expansion pack “Rise of the Titans”. 

Anyways, Arkantos gets a mission where he has to help Agamemnon in the Trojan War. Things go south right away and Arkantos’s fierce enemy Kamos tries to boycott him. The story of this game is quite long. It has over 30 missions and it will take you 30 hours to finish the main campaign. If you decide to play the additional campaign the DLC brings, you get a 10 hours additional playtime.

694637-age-of-mythology-extended-edition-windows-screenshot-ordering.png

During the story, you come across various allies and go on a big adventure. The writing in the game is good. Personally, I prefer the stories in this game more than the stories that were told in Age of Empires I & II. The way how they used the mythologies and stories to create one huge story is just amazing.

Something that still holds up from the original is the voice acting. During the story, you come across Greek, Egyptian & Norse missions and each character feels and sounds unique. My favorite missions were Egyptian missions. The reason for that might be because I’m really fond of Egyptian mythology.

But, would I say that the voice acting is actually good? Oh, no. The voice acting is cheesy and over-the-top. And to be honest, I love it. It adds to the craziness of the story and atmosphere. I get the impression that the voice actors had an amazing time in the recording booth. The voice acting just clicked with me and actually made me laugh out loud sometimes.

The two base campaigns of the game are a blast to play through. I’m also glad that the downloadable short campaign “The Golden Gift” is also added in the Extended Edition. This was a 4-mission long campaign you were able to download from the official website as a sort of update/free expansion.

So, I also played a bit through Tale of the Dragon for this review. While I can understand the negative reception of this DLC, I would still recommend it. Now, there are some balancing issues and the multiplayer with the new Chinese civilization is sometimes quite unstable. But, it provides some new and fresh challenges in the game. I have to admit that I haven’t experimented with them too much since I love playing with the Egyptians the most, but from what I have played; the Chinese look like a lot of fun to play with. If you want a more in-depth review of the DLC, I would recommend that you read Moshfish’s review on it. It’s an amazing summary of what’s good and what’s bad with the DLC and I agree with a lot of it.

I want to add one thing to the Tale of the Dragons review. I don’t know if it’s just me or if other people experienced it as well, but in some missions, I didn’t have background music. Also, I found it a missed opportunity to add additional Asian tracks to the soundtrack.

Something minor that I experienced as well is that when you use a God power, usually a name is display who uses it. In the main campaigns, that’s Arkantos. In Tale of the Dragon, it’s nobody… No name is displayed.

God powers and such

age-of-mythology-extended-edition-windows-screenshot-arkantos

This game plays like your typical RTS game. If you have played games like Age of Empires II or Rise & Fall – Civilizations At War, you will feel right at home. Your main goal is to build your civilization. You do this by assigning villagers various tasks to collect resources or create buildings. With these resources, you can create more units to improve your economy or create an army to defend from enemies or attack them.

There are, including the DLC, 5 different civilizations to play with. The Norse, Greek, Atlanteans, Egyptian and Chinese. Each civilization has it’s unique units and quirks. For example, the Norse has a special cart, the Oxcart, that is a sort of movable drop off point for resources. The Greeks need to have villagers praying to great favors while the Egyptians need to build statues of their gods to create favors. 

The best way to learn how to play with these civilizations is to play through the campaign. By the end, you will know the basics and some advanced mechanics with each civilization. But, if you are totally new to RTS games, there is a “Learn To Play” map where you get the basics of RTS gameplay. You learn how to play with the Greek civilization. The unique elements for each civilization are explained in a cinematic. Now, there is no Greek one and in the Chinese one, some bits take a bit too long.

If you ever want to know more about a unit or a building, you can just click on the portrait. You get a very detailed screen with a lot of information. This information contains the unit’s or building’s things like strengths, weaknesses, and uses. You can also click on “contents” to read a full in-game Wiki. Too bad it doesn’t have a search feature or a better menu system. If this was expanded upon, this would have been an even better tool.

You can play through the campaign on 4 difficulties. I mostly played through the campaign on the normal (moderate) difficulty. I would recommend that you play the game on the Normal difficulty first and decide if the game is too easy to too hard for you and switch if needed. Overall, the game is quite balanced and I rarely had moments where I found the AI was quite unfair.

There are a few unique mechanics in this game. First, let’s talk about a new unit class. Besides your typical triangle of sword, bow, and horse; there is a 4th unit class. Myth Units. These units can be trained in temples and are effective against human units. Each civilization has unique to the mythology of that civilization. For example, centaurs for the Greeks and sphinxes for the Egyptians.

The second unique mechanic is the Titans. When you reach the last age, you can start building a Titan Gate. When this gate is completed, a titan unique to that civilization is summoned. These are huge and powerful units that can be used as tank units to attack the enemy. Now, you can only place this Titan gate once, so if it’s destroyed, though luck. Also, the Titan is quite weak to Hero Units and siege units. So, be careful if you use the Titan.

Now, if you have played Age of Empires III, this mechanic might be sort of familiar. When you advance to the next age, you can choose between various advisors who give you a certain reward when you advance. This isn’t different in this game. When you advance to the next age, you can choose between two minor gods. The god you choose decides which myth unit you can create at your temple and which god powers you can use.

Yes, the final unique mechanic is the god powers you can use. Each civilization has it’s own unique god powers which range from offensive to defensive powers. You can summon earthquakes, spy on the enemy for a limited time, summon a healing spring, have a moment where nobody can attack… There are a lot of them. Most of them can only be used once during gameplay. Some can be used more than once, but they all have a limit.

If you want to read more in-depth about how this game works, I recommend that you take a look at this website: http://aom.heavengames.com. It’s a huge website containing very detailed information and strategies on how to play this game.

Most of my time has been spending in this game playing random matches versus the AI of this game. In the past, I was quite skilled in this game. I knew most of the keys to quickly and efficiently create my base and build up my army. While I love the economic play in this game, I’m horrible when it comes to balancing my army. Since I played a lot with the Egyptian civilization, I don’t know a lot about the other civilizations.

If it’s not clear by now, I think that the gameplay in this game is excellent. The campaign has quite a lot of challenges but just playing on a random map versus the AI is quite a lot of fun as well. There are some things I would love to change about this game but there is a very active modding community providing a ton of mods in the workshop fixing bugs and fixing most of the issues I have with this game.

Let’s dance

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The soundtrack of this game is amazing. The soundtrack is orchestrated and uses an amazing mix of various instruments.

Each civilization has it’s own unique theme and unique tracks. Also, the developers enjoyed themselves way too much with naming these tracks. The main theme of this game is called “A Cat Named Mittens” and one of the most relaxed and most chill tracks is called: “Eat Your Potatoes”.

Together with very good sound effects, the audio of this game is a hit. To this day, when I listen to the soundtrack casually, I remember how the villagers sound and other sound effects. Something I really like is how the sound effects are played in stereo. So, if you move a unit from the left to the right, you will hear your unit in your left speaker.

Now, the rest of the presentation of this game isn’t that great. Don’t get me wrong, the game looks great and the theming is very well done but some character models look out-dated. While I personally don’t mind that much, I feel like this extended edition could have done a lot more than just simple widescreen support. The additional visual polish isn’t much to write home about. Just look at this Imgur library created by NecessaryDerp from 2014 where the graphics from the original are compared to the Extended Edition: https://imgur.com/gallery/L8WEE

Am I saying that the game looks ugly? No, I’m not. Like I said before, the game still looks great. The improved visuals for the liquids like water and lava are quite pleasing to the eye. And to be honest, the only moment I find the graphics dated is when you are extremely zoomed into the map. Also, thanks to the magic of Steam Workshop ingratiation, you can use a lot of mods to improve the visuals to your liking.

In the past, the online community of this game was quite alive. There were a lot of people playing this game. I remember that were at least 100 different lobbies. Nowadays, the online community of this game is dying. The day I publish this review, there were only 5 lobbies. It’s a shame since I played some great game mods online. From King of the Hill to a sort of Dota clone.

There is one thing I really dislike in this game and that’s the save and load menu. Now, it works fine but I wish it displayed more information. For example, if you were playing a random match or if it’s a save in a mission/scenario. I haven’t found a mod that’s able to solve the issues I have with it.

A nitpick I have with this game is with the map. I love how you can rotate the map holding the CTRL-key down, but there is no identification on what position it was originally in. It’s a minor thing.

Something that frustrates me the most is that this game doesn’t receive additional patches. The updates stopped in 2016. Yet, the developers keep updating Age of Empires II HD. This game could use a lot of minor polishing updates but the focus of the developers is on their other products.

So, that’s everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s time for a conclusion.

Conclusion

The bad:

-The visuals are just okay.

-The Tale of the Dragon DLC misses some polish.

-The in-game wiki could have been so much better.

-The save menu should display more information.

-Dying online multiplayer community.

The good:

+ A lot of unique mechanics like Titans and God Powers.

+ You can use mods.

+ Amazing and addictive RTS gameplay.

+ Amazing soundtrack & sound design.

+ Cheesy and over-the-top fun voice acting.

+ Good story.

+ …

Final thoughts:

I might be blinded by nostalgia and quite biased while reviewing this game. But, I think this game still holds up well. Yet, I fell in love with this game the first time I played it. I have a lot of fond memories with this game and reviewing the game just makes me want to replay the game some more.

This game isn’t perfect and could use some polish to fix those last bugs and improve some models, especially the human units. Yet, the charm of this game is something else. The over-the-top voice acting and endless replay value make this game a must-play for every strategy and RTS fan.

The original reception of this game was poor, but thanks to the patches, this game has improved quite a lot already. If only Skybox Labs kept updating the game, then I would give this game a higher score.

Now, that’s everything for this review. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, take care and have a great rest of your day.

Score: 70/100