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age-of-mythology-extended-edition

Age of Mythology: Extended Edition

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By JcDent07-05-2014
StuntmanLT (editor)
Age of Mythology: Extended Edition

The Defence

Developer:
SkyBox Labs / Ensemble Studios
Publisher:
Microsoft
Genre:
Strategy
Release Date:
08-05-2014

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core 2 Duo 2.6 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce 9800
AMD Radeon HD 4850
RAM:
4 GB
HDD:
5 GB
DirectX:
10, 11

The Case

Age of Empires is a mythical game. We all played it when we were young; some of us even managed to do well. Too bad that even with some welcome novelties to the HD edition, it still felt pretty old and tired. However, it has a cousin that translated to 3D very well. Probably because it featured leaping jackal men. Ladies and gentlemen, it‘s the re-released Age of Mythology: Extended Edition.

The Trial

The main game, Age of Mythology, had an extensive, world hopping campaign. Starting with Arkantos, leader of the Atlantis, you went on a Europe (and god-realm) hopping adventure to stop all sorts of nasty creatures from coming about. In the Titans expansion, you played with the Atlanteans who, now bereft of gods and homeland, sought the attentions and protection of the Titans. Of course, that didn‘t end well... Those were good campaigns, with the Titan one being a lot easier than the original. However, both of them are really, really sweet and should be played without hesitation, unlike The Golden Gift, the free downloadable campaign for the main game, which feels... lazy.

That low-poly pig shows it all.

That low-poly pig shows it all.

At its core, Age of Mythology is classical, old school strategy game. There‘s a town centre where you build workers to harvest resources and build other buildings. You train soldiers one at a time, they usually don‘t have any sort of special abilities and are good at countering one type of unit. You advance through „ages“/building tiers by spending loads of resources and then upgrading unit types to match the new ages. Seems simple, boring, classic Age of Empires stuff, right?

However, Age of Mythology starts twisting it all in various fun ways. The mythology part has a lot to do with it. First, you don‘t just advance ages, you choose one out of two lesser gods that will accompany this transition, which grants you one-shot god power, mythical units and mythical upgrades. The other two require favor and all four civilisations go about collecting it in different ways. Additionally, each of the civilizations have three major gods which determine overall sub-faction focus and a minor age god. It‘s a somewhat lazy way to make twelve factions out of four.

The Greeks are the first nation you‘ll encounter in the campaign and they‘re pretty straightforward. Peasants are used to gather resources (including praying at the temple), units are relatively easy to identify and mythic units are quite simple to use, going all the way up to the giant Collossi that eat trees to regain health. Then we move to Egyptians and curveballs start flying: Egyptians don‘t use wood for buildings, which means you get free houses (although the game limits you, for all the factions, to ten houses). They carry favour from the gods by building monuments: sure, there‘s a limited number of those, but if you follow Isis, they protect from enemy god powers! Egyptians also have the Pharoah, a hero you start with, that heals and boosts build rates. Egyptians have my favorite unit, the leaping Anubites as well Sphynxes, mummies and laser crocodiles. Can‘t really say if that’s stronger or weaker than laser sharks though.

No, not really.

No, not really.

The Norse are a tricky lot: they have two types of peasants, with human gatherers adept at collecting food and wood and dwarves who are good at mining gold. They also don‘t need drop off buildings since you have oxcarts that can follow your gatherers around. However, the Norse have the hardest time generating favour since they need to fight and build Norse heroes. On the other hand, they have some pretty cool mythical units, especially the Krakens that can, once in a while, one shot enemy ships to the eternal envy of Red Alert 2‘s squids. The Atlanteans were introduced in Titans and they, predictably, worship Titans. All the weird stuff that didn‘t fit into the Greek faction goes there. They gain favour through town centers, which they can build earlier than others – and seeing how town center spots are limited on the map, that‘s quite an advantage. Their peasants are more expensive and take longer to build, but with good reason: they don‘t even need to drop off resources. Atlanteans don‘t have real heroes, but they can elevate regular units to such status - extremely cool two swords wielding Zealots. Atlantean god powers tend to have multiple uses (as well as hilarious ones, like sprouting forests or walls of carnivorous plants) and their mythical units include automatons, which are basically robots that can repair each other after battle.

All of it makes for an interesting motley of troops. While units are usually made to counter one type or another (leading to at least on faction to have a building dubbed „Counter Barracks“), I tend to find that with limited population sizes and the squad-less unit building, it usually boils down to having a lot of dudes engaged in a grand melee. Siege and mythical units stand out, since the former are very good at taking down fortifications while later are kind of omnivorous in their choices of victims. On the other hand, they tend to be on the expensive side...

And that‘s before Titans are brought into the fray. While RTS games these day would tend to have that one centerpiece unique unit in their army (heck, even Company of Heroes had King Tiger and Jagdtiger tanks), Age of Mythology needed the expansion pack to introduce those. Once heroic age comes and you research the required technology, you can spawn a Titan gate. And then you have to put all your effort into guarding it until the peasants dig it out, because once destroyed, the gate will be gone forever. However, if you unearth the gate, you get a Titan and basically a victory (unless the enemy has his own). This has raised criticism for making the game into a Titan rush, but you have to agree that they‘re damn impressive.

Come here, bro.

Come here, bro.

That‘s even with the visual side being a really mixed bag of things. For example, the ground has been updated with new textures, but it‘s not as evident for units and buildings. The former still suffer, somewhat, from primitive 3D models. On the other hand, if you zoom in, you can see them actually change with tier and forge upgrades, which is a nice little thing that I didn‘t notice when I played it way back when. As for soundwork, it‘s generally good and I really have nothing bad to say about it. Something that wouldn‘t hold true for, say, the new Disciples 3 add-on, which has a literally nauseating narrator.

The Verdict

Age of Mythology: Extended Edition is a very good cash-in on an old game. RTS market isn‘t really oversaturated and AoMEE is still a solid game. Two good (and one less so) campaigns that are bundled together with really fun skirmish, and all of that is topped by an excellent map editor, and now, Steam Workshop integration. What else could one ask? Surely not a sequel, because it would suck.

Case Review

  • Old Favorites: You can meet all your favorite pseudo Greek characters again!
  • Mummy on a Leash: Mythical units shake up the battlefield like nobody else.
  • Ancient Variety Pack: It‘s really fun to try out different god combos.
  • Old School: it really depends on the taste, but this is really old school RTS gaming.
  • Works of Man: Buildings and, to some extent, units stand out on the modernized ground textures. But not in a good way.
4.5
Score: 4.5/5
Still a legendary game.

Appeal

Whether or not Age of Mythology: Extended Edition is worth it for you, depends a lot on where you’re coming from. You might have played AoM back in the day and loved it. You might feel it was the perfect RTS. And if you don’t want anything more out of a re-release than compatibility with modern operating systems, slightly sharpened visuals, widescreen-support and some expansion packs bundled together with the game, then I’d say go for it.

But if you’re expecting a full HD-remake, with reworked graphics that rival other RTS-games out on the market today and a modernized control scheme, then you’re going to be disappointed. You might be fooled by the rather high asking price, but make no mistake. This is no remake. This is a simple re-release that’s compatible with modern operating systems, and that’s all. I loved Age of Mythology when I played it back in 2002, and I’m happy to see the game re-released. The campaigns of the many playable factions, the very different ways they all play, and the sheer breadth of content still impresses me to this day. But in other ways, it hasn’t aged so well. The control of the camera and your units feels clunky and restrictive, and the hover-over tooltips give next to nothing in terms of concrete information. “This upgrade raises the damage of your units” - Okay, but by how much?

I can’t help but feel that, for €23, more should’ve been done with the game. I expect more from a re-release of a game when the price is set that high. As it stands now, AoM: Extended Edition is only really recommended for the die-hard fans who only demand the same old game working on modern gaming rigs, no matter the cost. For other RTS-players who never tried out AoM back when it was fresh, I can only recommend it once it goes on sale. But once it does, do take a look at it.

3
Score: 3/5

Appeal

Age of Empires was originally released back in 2002 and was a mythology-based RTS game. It was a spin-off from the Age of Empires series and featured all the myths and legend from the Greeks, Egyptians and Norse rather than historical facts. Now, 12 years on, Microsoft decided to re-release it as an extended edition. The gameplay is the same as it was back in the original with nothing really changed; except now the visuals are better and you got new features like time of day, better lighting and the inclusion of Anti-Aliasing.

You take control of an army which you command so that you can defeat enemy soldiers and take over towns. There are four ages in the game that you advance through; these are Archaic, Classical, Heroic and Mythic. As you unlock each era you also get new technologies that enable you get better armies and weapons to do more damage. You get the chance to take control of the Greeks, Egyptians or the Norse factions and their respective cultures. However the one thing that all three factions have in common is the temple. It is here that divine interventions from the respective gods are called.

This extended edition includes the content that was available separately. Besides the main game you also get the Golden Gift campaign and Age of Mythology: The Titans. Also you get features like Steam Workshop integration and streaming via twitch. Overall this is just Microsoft’s way of making money of an old title. Yes, the game does look better, and you get all the extra features with it. But it still plays fundamentally the same as it was back 12 years ago. Fans of the Age of series will really enjoy this, but casual gamers of the genre may find it a bit dated.

4
Score: 4/5
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