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Age of Empires 3

Developer: Ensemble Studios | Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Players: 1+ Player Game | Genre: RTS

Release Date: 10/18/05

When you think of RTS (Real-Time Strategy) games, the “Age of Empires�? will invariably be near the top of the list. Following in the footsteps of the mediocre Age of Mythology, Age of Empires 3 looks to regain the series' former glory by returning to its roots of gaming goodness. Will AoE3 be a monster hit or share mythological problems with its predecessor? Let's take a look at the demo and search for clues.

Set in colonial times, AoE3 takes the Age of Empires mechanics and drops gunpowder into the mix leading to some explosive encounters. Yeah, it's a bad analogy, but read on- you'll understand. I think the only thing that's really missing in this version of AoE is the ease with which priests were able to heal. Sure, they can still heal, but you have to manually make them heal everyone within a certain radius and then wait out a re-use timer. And yeah, it's a small beef compared to all the new goodies that abound.

The basic game mechanics still exist with certain types of troops being more effective at countering other units. Think of "rock-scissors-paper" and you'll get the general idea - though enough paper will break the scissors in this game. There are still resources to be gathered, buildings to be built, and units to be created. Harvesters no longer have to trek back and forth to a drop off spot, which is definitely good. Certain buildings also generate infinite supplies of resources which can be harvested by workers. Units now have special abilities, like in skirmish mode your explorer hero has a sharpshooter ability which allows him to take out most units in one shot (timer on re-use of course). The galleon has been upgraded so that it can produce military units, but it has to be near the shore.

The biggest new feature revolves around the addition of "home cities," which are persistent through campaigns. As you perform various actions, your home city gains experience and levels. These additional levels allow players access to more options. When you gain sufficient experience, players can request shipments from their home city that will be shipped to their frontier location. These shipments range from resources, units (both workers and troops), and technology upgrades, and what shipments can be delivered are controlled by the cards that you have earned by playing.

Though it is too early to truly judge what the game will be like, this early demo bespeaks a great RTS experience that is just over the horizon. Look for a detailed review once the game is released later this year.

By Greg Meadors - 09/21/05
ESRB Details: Blood, Violence
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Screenshots for Age of Empires 3

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