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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 an 10 hours additional playtime.

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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 the Egyptian missions. The reason for that might be because I’m really fond of the 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 recoding 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 short 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 challenge 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 Ox cart, that is a sort of movable drop off point for resources. The Greek 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 explains 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 an 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 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 are 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 are 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 spend 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 chillest 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 an 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 a simple wide screen 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. Now-a-days, 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

 

 

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First Impression: Age Of Empires II HD (PC) ~ Age Of Kings

1362731523Steam page

There are many games that call on my nostalgia. But this game is something special. It actually really defined my childhood. I can even give proof of that, since I made it’s way in my personal top 10 most influential games list. When I saw on Steam that this game was getting a remake, I was honestly hyped. I couldn’t wait to play it and play through the game again. I prepared myself for a flood of memories and nostalgia when I finally was able to click the download button. How was it? Let’s take a look! Feel free to leave a comment with your opinion on this game and or the content of this article. 

 HD remake?

ss_f196e3b1c70038e09140f12aebcfdf0ef57915b0.600x338I honestly don’t get why they put HD in the title. Since nearly exactly everything looks like how I remember the game. To me, the game looks more like a remastered version of the game. Maybe better said, an updated version of the game so that it can run on modern systems more easily.

While I don’t use all the new features, like Twitch.TV streaming, I’m extremely happy that this game got to Steam. While I don’t play RTS games for the story or the campaigns, I find this a very enjoyable game.

If I ever review this game, it might be possible that I don’t comment on the story. Since I love the actual core gameplay of building a city and destroying my enemy. If somebody wonders what my skill level in this game is, I nearly always beat the standard AI but the moderate AI is just a bit too hard for me. I’m not one of the best Age Of Empires players, but I know what I’m doing.

What this game does good, in terms of story, is a tutorial campaign. It helps you understand the bare basics of the game. Step by step you get explained how the game works. But it’s more then just a tutorial, it’s a true campaign! And if you aren’t careful, you might face more challenge then you first expected. But I agree with the real veteran RTS players, the tutorial doesn’t fully prepare you for the actual game.

Make more villagers

CrazyfarmsAOE2

I have admitted it on Tumblr, I played this game more then I should have the last month with my great buddy MiseryLC. It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t write so many articles at the start of this month. This is a good sign for a first impression, no?

The core gameplay is about putting your villagers to work, building up an army and attack the enemy. Don’t get me wrong, these are three very different tasks. Now, when I play a multiplayer match, one trend keeps popping up.

I’m more of a defensive player. I nearly always gather the most resources. My buddy MiseryLC is more of the army guy. He makes a great army to easily invade the enemy. My army cleans up so that I can use that land to expand our economy.

This is how I enjoy playing this game. I always have trouble remembering which units are strong against which units, so I have to focus less on military. I truly think that playing with a friend brings a nice balance to the game. You can really play in the style you prefer.

One of my favorite civilizations are the Huns. Simply because of the fact that I don’t need to use one or two villagers to spam houses down. This saves time and mostly wood. This wood can be used to build a navy. Now, here is where one complaint raises, if there is a any water, the AI will use it. And they will start building a navy. In some cases, this led to big frustration because I wasn’t able to build any dock since it got destroyed just a few minutes after  I build it. Trying to have one fishing ship out in the sea… It’s kind of a suicide mission.

Polish

FarmingIn a later article I will talk more in depth about the music and graphics of this game. In this first impression of the game, I’ll mostly talk about the gameplay. (As I have been doing)

This game isn’t my favorite RTS game of all time. My favorite RTS game of all time is Rise Of Nations. While it’s different, some features could easily be ported over to Age of Empires. The biggest feature I would love to see make an appearance in Age Of Empires II HD is an auto-explore button for units. This would be really handy. Since the early stages of your game are crucial for the rest of the game.

But my biggest complaint is the reactions of the AI. When MiseryLC and I were playing, the AI would raise the alarm bell if one scout or one fishing ship was close to his dock. This is rather annoying. Also, when you ask him (or her) for resources, he always can never help. But if he does help, you get a laughable small amount. One match, I asked the AI to give me some food. I got some food and seconds later, he asks for food.

The most irritating of all is the placement of the buildings. I had moments when the AI started to build mine camps at locations where I had already mined out all the resources. In the end, the whole map could be filled with mining or woodcutter camps of your ally. This issue should really get looked into. Since it’s extremely annoying. One time it nearly made me loose the game since my units couldn’t arrive in time to save some important and strategic placed walls.

Anyways, I think I will leave it here with my complaining. I can’t deny that this game needs some additional bug fixing. This game might not be in early access, but that doesn’t mean that this game is 100% ready. The connection issues can surely prove that.

In any case, I think I’ll leave it here. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I prepared writing it. If you don’t get how the gameplay works while you were interested in the game, feel free to ask me about the game in the comments. Since I already recommend this game to every RTS or Strategy player. Yeah. Anywhoooo, I hope to see you in a next article! Take care~