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Joseph Rositano
27 Mar, 2009

Age of Empires: Mythologies Review

DS Review | An age to remember.
When you first hear Age of Empires you’ll likely associate it with PC gaming. It comes as no surprise really, there have been just under ten titles released (including expansions) since the original Age of Empires’ debut in 1997. In 2006 however, the series made the jump to the Nintendo DS in the form of Age of Empires: The Age of Kings. Having received a generally positive reception from critics, it was only a matter of time before the DS was treated to a second instalment, and we’re glad to say Age of Empires: Mythologies is worth a look by any turn-based strategy fan.

While Age of Kings focused on medieval times, Mythologies is set in a period where Gods and other mythical beings were revered and prayed to daily. There are three main factions based on these times – the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and the Norse – each one having their own unique traits. For example, if you were to play as the Egyptians they are suited to a defensive play-style due to the way their economy system grows over time. You have to protect your territory, and slowly lure in and counter your enemies one by one, only to seize the opportunity and advance when their numbers are dwindling. In contrast, the Norse are better utilised with offensive strategies in mind. Their units are relatively cheap, and boost stronger attack power than other factions. It’s all a little mind boggling at first, but with some patience and a little help from in-game tutorials, you’ll soon understand how to gain the upper hand in any situation.

The gameplay is very similar to other strategy games available on the DS, with Advance Wars being a prime example. You’ll begin the level with a small army consisting of different units. There are infantry units for direct attacks, cavalry that can speed across the battlefield, and of course archers who attack enemies in-directly. In addition, there are Hero and Myth units. Heroes are essentially beefed up units who won’t necessarily change the tide of battle, but can be used to strategically give your army an edge. For example, the Egyptian hero Hatshepsut is an archer who has a longer range than normal units. She’s great for making the first strike against enemies, weakening them so other units can defeat them more easily. Heroes also have a special Hero power, which can influence the battle in different ways such as granting increased movement for all friendly troops, or protecting buildings from damage. Myth units offer various strategic advantages on the battlefield. Priests for instance can heal injured troops, while the Sphinx’s stronger attack power is perfect for destroying buildings. All the basics that make a great game are there, and when coupled with the unique traits of each faction you truly become immersed with all the strategic elements.

  
Ah, the smell of battle in the country side... We wish we had stayed in the city.

Ah, the smell of battle in the country side... We wish we had stayed in the city.
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Of course, the Age of Empires franchise is arguably most famous for its economy system. Mythologies keeps this tradition alive, and in doing so brings a layer of management to the battlefield. The idea is that you have to harvest food and gold supplies that are located at various points, as well as gain favour by battling opponents, or in the case of the Egyptians, building obelisk towers. These resources can be used to build special training buildings, which allow you to train/purchase new units. It’s such a basic concept, but it’s implemented extremely well. Players who don’t take the time to learn the rules and go all out purchasing expensive Myth units will likely become overwhelmed by the sheer number of enemy forces. Those who plan their moves in advance and ensure they balance their resources will be the ultimate victor. Again, it’s basic and has been done in countless titles, but to this day it’s still engaging and expands on the strategic elements already at work.

While you don’t actually get to include them as part of your army, Gods play an important role. They directly influence which type of Myth units are available for purchase, so if you prayed to the Cat Goddess Bast you would gain access to the Sphinx Myth units. Gods also possess powers, unlike Hero Powers though they can only be used only once per battle but have a longer lasting effect. Anubis, for example, has the power to send a swarm of locusts to eat the crops of your opponent for two turns, meaning they won’t gain any food resources. It’s similar to the CO Powers of commanders in Advanced Wars – you can completely devastate your opponent if you use them at the right time, or they can be wasted depending on your situation.

One final key component is the Age meter, which unlocks new Gods and units for you to utilise. The idea behind it is that it controls how technologically advanced your army is, so at the start of a battle you might only have access to light infantry units. After proceeding to Age 2, you’ll be able to train heavy infantry units which have greater attack and defence abilities. To upgrade the meter, you need to research different abilities and attributes. Some of these are linked to buildings and will upgrade specific units, but most are attributed to the Gods your army prays to. A few attributes include Black Smith which enhances the attack power of friendly units, and Eyes of the Hawk which lets units gain +1 sight in Fog of War battles. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it adds yet another layer of strategy. Indeed, Mythologies’ greatest strength is all these elements combine so perfectly that you’ve got both a challenging and fun game to play.

  
Damn, we forgot our sunscreen.

Damn, we forgot our sunscreen.
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If you get grow tired of the single-player campaigns and scenarios, then you have the option to play wirelessly with friends locally or online via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection Service. On that note, we have to commend the developers for implementing so many multiplayer options. There’s a Hot Seat multiplayer where up to four people can share a single Nintendo DS, a Download Play option for up to two players, and of course Multi-Card play for up to four players. It’s just nice to see a developer being a little more considerate towards gamers’ wallets, and not get you to try and persuade your friends to purchase the game just to play the multiplayer modes.

Visually, Mythologies is presented nicely and features quite a few decent backdrops including snowy mountains, deserts and forests. Character sprites also move smoothly and clearly represent the figures they’re supposed to. Unfortunately, during some of the larger scale battles when you have over ten units in the one area of the map, things do begin to look a little cluttered. It’s nothing major, but there were a few times where we had to pause and scan for a specific unit we wanted, only to find they were hiding behind a cavalry. As for the music, it’s there and it suits the environments but it feels a little generic at times. On the plus side, each unit has a handful of different grunts and battle cries, which adds a little extra appeal.

Overall, Age of Empires: Mythologies is a great turn-based strategy title that should keep you occupied for quite a while. While many of the gameplay mechanics have been used in other games, as a whole they work well together and provide both an engaging and challenging experience. Coupled with a variety of multiplayer options, it’s definitely something you should keep an eye out for.
The Score
With so many strategic elements at play including an economy system and a variety of unit types, Age of Empires: Mythologies is worth a look at by any turn-based strategy fan. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 Comment
5 years ago
Nice - Age of Kings was good and I'll definitely give this a play.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  4/12/2008 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  THQ
Genre:
  Strategy
Year Made:
  2008

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