|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|
Single-player game modes include three distinct campaigns that follow the exploits of the different cultures, Skirmish battles, and Scenarios. The Campaign tells a few interesting stories and does a nice job of providing the game with flavor. The Skirmish battles allow you to play on arena-style maps against 2-3 other A.I.-controlled players. Finally, Scenarios are one-off matches that have you trying to attain a specific goal. All these modes provide players with a lot of content to wade through on their own, and they serve as a great training ground for multiplayer contests.
As complete as the single-player experience is, the multiplayer options are even better. Players are able to play online with friends and unknowns through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, play a trial game through Download Play, play a Hot Seat match by passing the DS, or play via local wireless play. I was very impressed at just how much multiplayer content was shoehorned into AoE: Mythologies' cart. Setting up any and all of the games is a snap, connections are flawless, and the human component makes the game far more challenging and enjoyable. The only downside is that there aren't that many people playing Mythologies. That means getting matched to another player (let alone three others) can be difficult. Also, games can be drawn out affairs. Players often disconnect when things are going badly. However, neither of these complaints are a function of the game itself; the multiplayer technicals are perfect.
As a nice little bonus, unlockable content and rewards are given to players for various successes within the game. These are known as Player Legends and are tantamount to Achievements or Trophies. They really do serve to spur players on, especially considering that a ton of additional content, including maps, units, and relics, can be unlocked for multiplayer matches. All these rewards and a few key stats like wins, time played, favorite units, etc. are saved under your player profile. It's these little touches, found throughout the title, that make AoE: Mythologies such an enjoyable and complete portable experience.
As if solid and deep strategic gameplay wasn't enough, the presentation and execution are excellent. Whereas many DS games, including Age of Empires: Age of Kings, rest on their depth and shun slick visuals, AoE: Mythologies shines with a polish few titles see on DS. The sprites' animations and details are very nice. All units are easily distinguished due to their very unique models, and the varied backgrounds and environments are quite pleasing to the eye. Moreover, the background music not only captures the feel of the title, but it is of high enough quality that most players will leave it on during hours upon hours of play. Plus, the culture-specific command recognition phrases exclaimed by your units are great!On the execution side, Mythologies employs an easy-to-use control scheme. Players can use either the D-pad and face buttons or the stylus. I found using both to be the most efficient and fluid. Simple touches of the stylus will have you cruising across the maps, while the face and shoulder buttons are very precise for giving you map overviews and issuing specific units commands. Finally, the menu layout and overall organization is about the best I've seen. It is very easy to get in and out of games as well as obtain crucial information during campaigns.
Without a doubt, this is one of the very best strategy titles for the Nintendo DS. Some may gripe about the lack of non-combat depth; I know I would have liked to see more. After all, this game is much more similar to Advance Wars than it is to 1701 AD, both of which are excellent DS titles for strategy buffs but have very distinct focuses. Nevertheless, this is strictly a subjective comment. Age of Empires: Mythologies is an amazing game that truly demonstrates the power, complexity, and fun that can be wrung out of Nintendo's handheld. Griptonite's setting the bar! We'd love to see a sequel to this game, but we'd also really like to see this model applied by THQ and Griptonite in future games of varying themes.
CCC Editor / News Director