Review: Age of Empires: Mythologies

aoe.ds.bx.cmyk.jpg One of the first classic PC game franchises brought to the DS in 2006, Age of Empires: Age of Kings took a chance by changing the gameplay mechanic from real-time to turn-based – and it was a chance that paid off nicely. It allowed them to focus on a series of story-arcs that provided increasing challenges as you progress and resulted in a very satisfying experience, and what remains one of my favorite DS games nearly three years after release.

Age of Empires: Mythologies starts with the solid foundation of the Age of Kings engine and turn-based combat system, but provides an entirely new set of campaigns in new settings and with so many new ways of doing things that it hardly feels like the same game except for one thing: it is excellent. There are three civilizations you get to experience: the Egyptians are your starting point, providing tutorial levels as well as a great set of challenges. From there you play as the Greeks and the Norse. As history has taught, these civilizations have each taken very different approaches to how they handled war and peace and advancing their culture and technology. These differences translate nicely into unique gameplay challenges – do not underestimate the difficulty of accomplishing this task at a time where it feels like every new strategy game promises different playable factions but delivers little more than similar gameplay with different colored shirts.

In terms of presentation, Age of Empires: Mythologies is gorgeous: the 2D graphics of the maps look wonderful and are highly varied within a campaign and from setting to setting. The characters are nicely detailed and the massive mythological creatures maintain an awesome presence suitable to their historical description. The music and sound effects are also very well done, and there is plenty of voice acting to further pull you into the story. Each setting has a different musical theme, and this is not just another set of drab background tracks but an original and memorable effort.

If I had to pick out a single criticism, it would be the fact that the game is nearly impossible to control solely with the stylus or the face buttons. This means that you will typically be using some combination of both the face buttons and stylus controls while also holding the DS – and if that sounds cumbersome that’s because it is cumbersome. Another minor criticism is that unlike other strategy games with varied objectives, every mission in Age of Empires: Mythologies requires you to destroy all enemy troops and constructs to succeed. While generally not a major issue, sometimes it would be nice to have some alternate success criteria to allow you to use more varied tactics.

One disappointment with Age of Empires: Age of Kings was the limited multiplayer. This is another area where Age of Empires: Mythologies is a glowing success. You can test your skill against friends either online or locally, using multi-card or single-card play. Unlike single player mode, in multiplayer you have various objectives other than just destroying everything, giving you and your friends plenty of options for victory and more incentive to keep playing.

It is generally the case in PC strategy games that the single player gets you involved and the multiplayer keeps you playing for a while. That is rarely true for handheld games, but Age of Empires: Mythologies might just change things! With a strong set of stories, solid multidimensional rock-paper-scissors system for combat, and a nicely implemented multiplayer system, this is a game that strategy fans shouldn’t miss.

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Pros:
+ Wonderful stories
+ Excellent strategic elements
+ Excellent multiplayer
+ Looks and sounds great

Cons:
– Difficult juggling stylus and button controls

Game Info:
Platform: DS
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Griptonite Games
Release Date: 11/24/08
Genre: Turn-based Strategy
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1-3
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

About the Author

I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!