Age of Empires: Age of Kings Review


Longbowmen ready for action.
If youíre a PC gamer, especially a PC strategy gamer, then the name Age of Empires is certainly familiar to you. The Age of Empires games are one of the premiere series of real-time strategy games on the PC. Now Age of Empires has gone mobile, shrunk down to fit the Nintendo DS. The process has transformed the game from a real-time strategy game that rewards quick reaction times to a turn-based game that gives you plenty of time to plot out each move. While hard-core RTS gamers may feel that this is tantamount to sacrilege, the game has been translated into a turn-based strategy game quite nicely and is well worth a look from anyone who enjoys a healthy dose of strategy in their gaming.

Age of Empires uses the DSí touch screen to display the game map. The game map is shown from an angled perspective to give it a 3D feel, but it is effectively a 2D grid like a chessboard. Each square on the map is given a particular terrain type and all of the standard ecologies are represented: plains, forests, mountains, rivers, etc. The terrain has an important effect on gameplay, both for movement and combat. Units can travel farther on a turn across plains or along roads than over mountains and rivers are completely impassable. Cavalry units perform well on plains, but suffer a penalty in forests, while archers benefit from taking the high ground. In addition to the terrain type, certain squares also contain resource sites which come in two varieties: wheat and gold. If you move a villager unit onto a resource square, you can build either a mill or a mine to automatically generate food or gold for your empire.

Unit production in the game begins with the town center. The town center produces villagers who are used to build both resource and unit-producing structures. Each structure you build will have a particular specialty, such as a stable which produces cavalry units or a barracks which produces foot soldiers. Other structures such as the blacksmith are prerequisites for certain unit types or new technologies. All structures must be built around an existing town center, so youíll build little cities rather than spreading barracks across the map. The town center acts as the heart of the city, and if you destroy an enemy town center you can capture all surviving structures surrounding it by building your own town center in its place.

The game is played in turns, with each player (or the player and the computer-controlled AI) completing all of his or her actions for the turn before handing over control to the other side. Each unit can move and attack once per turn, although some units are restricted to one or the other action per turn. In addition, villagers can create structures if there are enough resources available, new units can be purchased, and new technologies can be researched. All of these actions can only be performed once per turn by a unit or structure, and the action is always complete by the beginning of your next turn.