Build an Empire to Surpass Microsoft’s Review

Age of Empires Info

genre

  • Strategy

players

  • 1 - 8

Publisher

  • MacSoft
  • Microsoft

Developer

  • Digital Eclipse
  • Ensemble

Release Date

  • 01/01/1970
  • Out Now

Platform

  • DS
  • Mac
  • PC

rating

Build an Empire to Surpass Microsoft’s

Microsoft has decided to make a game about something that they are experts

on, the rise of an empire. At first glance, Age of Empires looks sort

of like a cross between Civilization 2 and Warcraft

II
, and that is a fairly accurate comparison. Age of Empires is a

real-time strategy game set in the eras from the formation of the first civilizations

to the end of the iron age. Although the time period of Age of Empires limits

the technology available to the player, this is compensated for by making a

very detailed game world full of historical depth.

You typically start each

game with a town center, a few peasants, and stone age technology. Your first

priorities are building shelter and, like the good hunter/gatherer that you

are, hunting and gathering food. With food and shelter, you are free to create

more peasants who in turn can be sent out to chop wood, quarry stone, or mine

gold. Eventually, you build more complex structures and are able to increase

your technological level. Oddly, to raise your technology level, you do not

assign peasants to be scientists or scribes, but instead you spend food. I have

never known of a situation where food buys technological progress, perhaps the

scientists won’t work unless you throw a banquet.

Increased technology allows you to construct more advanced units,

of which there are many. There are a total of 40 units, which is

actually a great amount of detail for a historical period which

ends before the renaissance. There are 7 different types of

archers, 9 types of infantry, and 11 types of boats. All in all,

the many types of units allows Age of Empires to very closely

model the types of armies in use 2000 years ago. Age of Empires

has 12 ancient civilizations available to the player. Each

civilization has certain units not available, however they gain

certain bonuses for whatever aspect that civilization excelled

at. For example, the Greeks can produce advanced infantry more

quickly, while the Persians are excellent hunters. Microsoft

obviously did its research here, and the result is a well

rounded, historically accurate product (at least for a game).

The resource model of

Age of Empires wins both praise and condemnation from me. Scattered across

the board are many different types of resources, including berry bushes, forests,

quarries, mines, wild game, and fish stocks. It is nice to see mankind’s interaction

with nature when gathering resources instead of the simple ‘ore harvester’ or

whatever. You can watch your little people pick berries, cut down trees, mine

gold, and hunt and butcher wild animals. One problem I have with the resources

is the lack of the bounty of nature. A typical game might last 10,000 ‘years’

and in all that time, animals do not reproduce, and berries and forests do not

regrow. This basically means that you are stuck with the amount of resources

that the map comes with, leaving you with no incentive to conserve for the future

generations. If you started with 10 gazelles, you will never get any new ones,

you will only lose them from hunting and predation from lions. (I must admit,

it’s pretty neat to see a lion eat a gazelle in a computer game)

Another problem with the resource model is the handling of food.

No, I’m not talking about dangers from undercooked meat, I’m

talking about the food supply. It takes food to create villagers

and soldiers. I have no problem with that. I fail to see why it

takes 30 villagers-worth of food to upgrade a catapult trireme to

a juggernaut. Also, villagers don’t eat. Your populace can

stand around for thousands of years and never need a bite. This

causes a problem with siege tactics. The tired and true strategy

of destroying farms to kill of the population just doesn’t work.

Also, the units most useful when under siege, such as the

catapult, require no food to create.

Despite its flaws, Age of Empires is great fun to play. The graphics

and sound effects are of high quality, and the computer plays a respectable

game. In fact, there is a very large selection of AIs to choose from in the

scenario editor. Ah… the scenario editor. The scenario editor allows you total

control in the design of scenarios and campaigns, right down to the intro movies.

Even if you don’t like the full selection of scenarios included with the game

you have all the tool at your disposal to create a scenario exactly to your

liking. Its minor annoyances are just that, minor compared to the game as a

whole. For any fan of real-time strategy or historical simulations, I would

recommend Age of Empires.

REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

4
Rating
Well done real-time strategy
Good historical accuracy
Full-featured scenario/campaign editor
Engaging gameplay
Minor realism problems
Shortage of unit movement commands