|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Griptonite||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 24, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Age of Empires (AoE) is a classic RTS franchise almost all gamers have at least a passing knowledge of. It was one of my favorite PC experiences in the early 90s and, even today, I'll spew out occasionally catch phrases such as "Rogan," "Habadakus," or "Zo'gahn-tal!" The question is: can a new developer and publisher improve upon the classic formula?
Age of Empires has always been known for simple city-building and management systems, interesting unit designs, and engaging civ progression. All of these features are alive and well in the latest AoE outing for DS, Age of Empires: Mythologies. What's more, the varied gameplay options, polished visuals, excellent organization, and slick multiplayer functionality make this a standout strategy title for Nintendo's portable.
Mythologies, like the AoE spinoff Age of Mythology, sets players in the myth-filled Ancient World. Three cultures, the Greeks, Egyptians, and Norse are available, and each civilization is marked by unique characteristics and campaigns. AoE: Mythologies sports turn-based gameplay that's heavy on strategic combat and light on comprehensive city and nation-building. This makes for very fun and fast-paced strategic gameplay, especially for multiplayer confrontations. However, the single-player component is somewhat less engaging due to the lack of complexity of the non-combat elements. Still, the three distinct campaigns and civs do a great job of keeping the solo player moving onward.
Gameplay in Mythologies is mostly about battle. The majority of games out there simply use varied units to add depth to combat. AoE: Mythologies starts there and emphasizes gameplay with a dual-layer, ever-evolving approach; each unit belongs to both a type and class and is upgraded over time.
Players will have the ability to train and deploy three different types of units: Human, Hero, and Myth. These are divided into five distinct classes: Light and Heavy Infantry, Archers, Cavalry, and Siege. More or less, each unit type and class employs a rock-paper-scissors strategy: Humans deal extra damage to Heroes, Heroes best Myth units, and Myth units beat up Humans. Likewise, Light Infantry trump Cavalry, Archers can lay waste to Infantry, Cavalry are for taking out Archers and Siege units, etc. Coming up with a nice mix of these unit types and classes to fight your enemies is a lot of strategic combat fun and is quickly mastered.
To vary combat even more, each civilization has access to a pantheon of culture-specific gods. Each of the gods has its own divine boons and/or smiting abilities that can be employed by players to turn the tide of war in their favor. These extremely powerful abilities may provide you with greater production, stronger units, direct healing, damage to your foes, hampering enemy movement, etc. The three pantheons of gods are a great touch that truly helps to distinguish the different civilizations.
In addition to pure combat, Mythologies, like traditional AoE titles for PC, allows players to gather simplified strategic resources (gold, food, and favor) to apply toward technological research, unit development, and building construction. Gold and food are used for most units, buildings, and research, while favor is used for constructing Myth units and researching Divine Technologies. All three resources, along with specific tech requirements, combine to allow you to Age Up.
When you Age Up, new units as well as God Powers and new techs become available to you, which can all have a powerful effect upon the battlefield. In other words, you'll always want to stay a step ahead of your foes and press the advantage, as every age provides new bonuses and essentially levels up your armies. Researching new techs, securing resources, and aging up is an incredibly addictive and rewarding mechanic that has been a part of every AoE game and is just as compelling in Mythologies.