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Age of Empires III

Whereas “Age of Empires II” was set during the times between the Dark Ages and the Renaissance, “Age of Empires III” focuses on the times during the European colonization of America.  Oh, don’t worry, there are still archers and siege weaponry ready to do your bidding, but you’ll also encounter units like musketeers and rockets that are completely new to the series.  As such, the third game in the series does keep with the standard RTS formula, but it introduces some new concepts that give the game a lot more depth.

Age of Empires III

Age of Empires III (Windows, Mac)

The main menu allows the player to create a new home city, load an existing one, play online with others, and adjust game options.  The home city mechanic can be thought of as a profile of sorts, though you’ll be stuck with whatever nation you choose when creating one.  Luckily, you can create multiple home cities (profiles) so that you can try out and play each of the different nations featured in the game.  In terms of game modes, there are a ton of different options to choose from when setting up a skirmish map.  Each of the maps have their own personality and wildlife associated with it.  Some maps of varying weather effects and feature lakes/rivers, opening the door for a bit of naval warfare.  A campaign in available, though I found skirmish to be much more appealing.

The home city screen is where you’ll be spending your time in between games.  Each home city levels up as you play skirmishes and as mentioned before, your home city is represented by the nation you chose when creating it.  As such, you’ll see a different home city screen as you switch between them, assuming that you picked a different nation each time you created a home city.  The main attraction in a home city is the giant tech tree that comes along with a faction.  You can spend skill points (which are earned as your home city levels up) to unlock new techs and units.  These techs come in the form of cards, which you can bring with you into a match and call upon them as needed.  You’re limited by how many cards you can take with you, but they can turn the tide very quickly.

Age of Empires III

You can shape your faction how you’d like via card selection.

When you’re playing a skirmish, you’ll be able to construct buildings and train units, much like in any other RTS out on the market.  However, you’ll be able to build trade posts along the map’s road (if it has one) in order to gain a steady stream of the resource of your choice.  You can also build posts at tribal villages, allowing you to build whatever unit(s) they specialize in.  As you construct buildings and engage in battle, you’ll earn experience, which can be used to call for reinforcements from your home city using the cards you picked for the match.  Since cards are both economical and militaristic in nature, you can customize your deck to suit your play style.

Since the game’s release in 2005, two expansions have been published that add six new nations to the game (three each).  In the WarChiefs expansion, you’ll be able to create a home city for and play as the Aztecs, Iroquois, and Sioux.  They play a bit differently than the core nations, featuring a fire pit that allows units to dance around it for passive bonuses of your choice.  In the Asian Dynasties expansion, players will be able to create a home city for and play as China, Japan, and India.  Again, each of these three nations are unique and play differently from one another.  They also add new European buildings to the mix.  The saloon, for example, can train ninjas and other specialized units.  Both expansions are solid additions to the series.

Age of Empires III

The buildings are incredibly lifelike.

Despite its age, “Age of Empires III” is a pretty good game, even by today’s standards.  The graphics and sound effects hold up well.  There are quite a number of nations to try out and level up to unlock cards, which has kept me playing all of these years.  It may not be the “Age of Empires” we all know and love, but it does enough new things to keep me busy and engaged.  It’s not the best RTS I’ve ever played, but it’s up there.

Final Verdict: 8/10

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