Age of Mythology Review

Age of Mythology is the heir to the Age of Empires series of games.  The game features a new 3D engine and a host of new unit types and gameplay tweaks, but at its heart it is very much like its predecessors.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, though, as it continues the series' tradition of great and challenging gameplay.

If you played the other Age of Empires games, then you'll have no trouble jumping right in to Age of Mythology.  The interface is essentially the same, with a control bar along the bottom of the screen that allows you to view the status of individual units or groups and issue them orders.  The idle villager button, the minimap, the town center bell, they're all there.  This is not a complaint about the game, though, as the interface is well laid-out and very easy to use.  There are also some nice enhancements to further smooth play, such as command queuing.  With command queuing you can order a villager to construct a couple of structures and then move to resource gathering all at once by holding the shift key while giving the orders, freeing you to concentrate on other things as the villager completes the tasks one after the other.

ScreenshotsThe first change you'll notice in the game is with its graphics.  The game now features a 3D graphics engine and looks incredible.  The benefits of the new engine extend beyond the dynamic lighting and the ability to rotate the camera.  Water realistically laps the shoreline and you can see the sea floor drop away as the water becomes deeper.  You can view plant life on the bottom near the shallows, and fish swim through the water at different depths.  The land also benefits from the new graphics engine as wispy, translucent clouds float above landscapes that feature realistic topographies, with hills, gentle slopes, and ravines.  Your units are not constrained to a few artificial, predefined elevation levels; they can be dispersed across a long slope or take up a defensive position behind a ridgeline. 

The new engine also makes in-engine cutscenes possible.  During the campaign game, you'll watch the story elements seamlessly transition to gameplay as you take control - and the units look just as good up close as they do from afar.  However, the true measure of the power of the game's engine is that it can run smoothly on a four year old computer and the only adjustment you may need to make is to the screen resolution.

Age of Mythology takes a slightly different approach than its predecessors in that it brings the mythology of each of its civilizations to life.  In addition to gold, wood, and food, you'll need to accumulate a new type of resource, favor.  Favor is used to invoke powerful miracles or create strong mythological beasts to fight for your cause.

The previous Age of Empires games featured a number of playable civilizations.  Each had its own bonuses and weaknesses, but outside of a unique special unit they were more alike than different.  Age of Mythology features three civilizations, Egyptian, Greek, and Norse, but each one is unique and lends itself to a different style of play.  The Norse are aggressive and very mobile.  They incur favor through warfare, and use ox carts as mobile resource collection points.  If you chop down a grove of trees, you can simply move your ox cart to the next and set your villagers to work there.  The Norse also differ from the other civilizations in that their basic infantry unit is responsible for building structures.  You won't have to expose your villagers to danger when building structures far in the field as your infantry will be able to stop work and adequately defend themselves.