I got to take a good look at Age of Empires III at E3 is my favorite strategy game from FullGamePC.com , and a little while ago I got the opportunity to play a pre-release of the game as well. Well the game is finally out and I finally was able to get my grubby little hands on the game. So what did I think after all this waiting? Read on and find out.
At its core Age of Empires III is basically like any other Real Time Strategy (RTS). Like most RTS games your main task will be to collect resources, explore the map and conquer your foes. The resources in this game are: population, wood, food, and coin. When you assign citizens to collect resources they will spend eternity doing nothing but constantly harvesting that resource (at least until you tell them to do something else), they will not have to carry bags of wood, food or coin back to a drop off point. As they work the fields you will slowly gain resources for each citizen you having working on that particular resource, the more working on it the faster the resources will flow in. The nice thing about this is that you don`t have to worry about protecting your peasants as they make resource runs from a harvesting location to a drop off point, all you need to do is protect the local area around the gathering citizens.
This run around of Age of Empires you will be set in the time period roughly encapsulating the discover and colonization of the new world. Like most RTS games you can play the game through in a storyline mode, following a linear path of missions (in the preview there was only one act available), or play a skirmish game where you can play against AI opponents in random battles, or pit yourself against other people in multiplayer mode.
During the actual gameplay you will be able to earn experience for many of the things you do in the game: completing missions, controlling trading posts, killing enemies, even building troops. You can use these experience points at the end of missions to upgrade your home city (I`ll get to this in a second). During missions you can all use your experience points to call on things you have unlocked at your home city between missions. This allows you to bring in much-needed citizens, supplies, troops, what-have-you, to help turn the title of battle.
So what is this `Home City` thing that I speak of? Well, much like in the age that this game takes its history from, your nation will be sponsored by a nation across the Atlantic Ocean. As you send supplies and tribute back to your home city (or in the case of this game, as you earn exp) you will have the ability to improve your home city between missions. What this allows you to do is gain bonuses to each mission and customize the resources at your disposal during gameplay, customizing the game to your style of gaming. Now here is something really cool about the home city` you will get to use the same home city throughout any game you play with the same single player profile (you can create multiple) and one for multiplayer gaming. This way, the more you play the more toys you can access. So if you are playing a friend, and you have put in your time you will have access to nice things from your home city. However, this advantage will far from guarantee you victory, as you must earn experience in the current game you are playing in order to request these prizes. Think of it as a reward for your hard earned game time. I must say I am very excited about this; the home city has to be one of the coolest features I have seen in a RTS in quite some time.
Now, you might be thinking that being `stuck` with one city for each profile really limits your choices. However, when you unlock items at the dock of your home city you will not be stuck with a specific set of bonuses, you will be able to customize different docks to allow you to play with different bonuses for each mission. This allows you to organize your home city`s ports into specific strategies of gameplay: exploration, naval combat and so on. So even with only one city for each profile you will still be able to do a great deal of changing and experimentation, all without having to sacrifice your hard earned experience.
So what nations can you choose to be your patron you might ask? You will have to several nations to choose from including: Spanish, British, French, Portuguese, Dutch, German, Russian, and Ottoman. Make sure you pick a nation that is suited to your style of gameplay. Once you pick a nation you will not be able to change nations without starting a profile and a new home city. My recommendation is play one or two missions with a couple of nations you are interested in, then pick one or maybe two of them and go for it with a vengeance` see what kind of cool things you can unlock. When playing as a European civilization you can learn new technologies and gain troops by forging alliances with the Native Americans. A British player who allies with the Iroquois is essentially playing as two civilizations: the British and the Iroquois.
Now lets break the game down and see how it stacks up.