Age of Mythology, by MacSoft
Posted: 27-Feb-2005

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: MacSoft Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: GAMES

Overview
For those of you who loved Age of Empires II and are looking for something in that genre, but with a twist, enter Age of Mythology (AoM). Published on Windows by Microsoft, and brought to the Mac by MacSoft, AoM is similar in style to Age of Empires in that it is a real-time strategy action game where you control a civilization, and set out to build your civilization up while also maintaining alliances or setting out to conquer other civilizations. The twist is that AoM takes place in the Mythological world where Zeus, Apollo, Medusa, Cylops, and all the rest, take part in your adventure. There are several other interesting twists in AoM as well.  

Features

  • Transport back to a time of monsters, gods, and mortals in this real-time strategy game
  • Guide 1 of 9 ancient civilizations to greatness by commanding all aspects of your empire
  • Gather resources, wage war, establish profitable trade routes, build new settlements, and more
  • Use mythological creatures or call upon the gods as you advance through 4 distinct ages
  • Revolutionary 3D engine provides a realistic, beautiful, and captivating world


Requirements

  • Mac OSX v 10.2.5 or higher
  • 450 MHz G4 or faster processor
  • 256 MB RAM
  • 32 MB Video Card

Age of Mythology retails for $49.99.

Setup
Installing AoM was as simple as inserting the CD and double-clicking the Age of Mythology Installer. It does require you to authenticate the installation (and oddly, the authentication prompt says "Stuffit Deluxe Installer" instead of Age of Mythology). The installation was pretty easy, although it did take some time (about 7 minutes on my G4 1.47 Ghz installing 2904 files for a total of 853 MB). Even with all the files stored on my hard drive, I still had to have the CD in the CD-ROM when playing a game. No serial number is required to play the game.

In Use
For those of you who thought the graphics in Age of Empires (AoE) was great, be warned - it will be hard to go back to the AoE graphics after experiencing the far more rich 3D graphics of AoM. Landscaping, buildings, and characters are all detailed, and the animation of the graphics is much smoother. The horseback units almost seem to float when they ride - very fluid graphics. In addition to a richer graphical environment, AoM also introduces some amazing physics to go with that. For instance, many of the strong mythical units actually pick up enemies and toss them a distance. Not only does it make for exciting battle scenes, but it also adds some interesting strategies, as sometimes they are tossed over walls and survive the fall. Other fantastic additions to the genre including flying winged horses, and leaping Egyptian mythical creatures.

Civilizations are setup a little differently in AoM as they were in AoE. Instead of several civilization types with just minor differences in economies and unit types, there are just three civilization types in AoM, but with drastically different economies, units, buildings, and methods for resource collection and constructing buildings. Within each civilization type (Egyptians, Greeks, and Norsemen), you have three major gods. As you evolve from one civilization level to another, you get to choose between two minor gods for your next level, and depending on what you choose affects what units and special powers your civilization will have. You start off in the Archais period, then Classical, Heroic, and finally the Mythic age. For an example, playing as the Greeks under the major god of Hades, when going from the Classical age to the Heroic age, you have a choice of two minor gods. I always select Apollo, which then gives me one of my favorite powers, the Temple of Healing (units next to your temple will be healed). It also provides the Oracle power, and the Manticore mythical unit. Note that healing is not a given in AoM. In AoE, once you had a temple, you could create clerics that always healed you, but not so in AoM. Only the Egyptians have healers, so if you are Greek or Norsemen, you need to find other ways to heal or stay out of harms way.

The effects are outstanding in AoM, bypassing AoE in every way. Not only are the graphics and sounds superb, but the effects are unmatched. You have jumping and lunging units, dead units that come back as ghosts, heros with special powers, favor of the gods that allow you to strike someone down with lightning, or take out an entire town with an earthquake. These new effects (too numerous to name them all) raise the cool factor of this game several bars.

In AoE, there were several campaigns that the player got to choose from, in addition to custom single player games and multiplayer internet games. In AoM, there is only one long 32-level campaign called "Fall of the Trident". It starts you off in Greece, then migrates you to Egypt, and finally to the Norse lands. It was a great way to be introduced to each of the civilization types, but when it was over, I felt a little dissatisfied that there were no other campaigns to be played (the campaigns were my favorite part of AoE). The campaign was very satisfying in terms of story and challenge.

Comparing the Mac with the Windows version, gameplay is nearly identical. However, there was a short 4-level campaign from the AoM web site called "The Golden Gift" that Windows users get to download and play for free, but this extra campaign is not available for the Mac.

After the Fall of the Trident campaign is completed, you can still continue playing against the computer in single player custom games. There are a lot of features to choose from to customize your games, as you can select what civilization and major god you will play as, and likewise for your allies and enemies. There is also a wide range of map types to choose from. Unfortunately, I got bored with the custom single player game quite fast. It has the same weakness that AoE had; namely, the game AI gets its strength from speed, not strategy. It utilizes the computer's unmatched ability to gather resources and spawn units simultaneously. I rarely played a well-matched game in the custom game option. My enemies were always incredibly stupid in terms of strategy, so the only time they posed a challenge was when they had the numbers. In other words, they build up their resources, then build up their military, then they just start attacking. If you have your resources built up enough to build a good defense, you can fend off these attacks, and eventually build up your own army and conquer. Like in AoE, your enemies tend to get more stupid as time goes on and natural resources run out.

The reason I don't like this method of AI is because you have to move fast to ensure you maximize the number of villagers that are collecting resources, always keeping track to make sure they are doing something, and build up your armies at the same time. It really becomes more of a time and resource management headache than a strategic challenge. If the game provided better matched play as it did during the campaigns, that would vastly improve the longevity of AoM.

The other aspect of AoM that I did not care for was the way the Norse civilization worked. At first it was an interesting novelty that villagers only collected resources while your foot soldiers actually built your buildings. However, there is a very useful button in AoM that helps you locate inactive villagers so that you can make sure they are always working. For example, if you send a villager to build an armory, when he is done, the inactive villager button shows up, and clicking it brings you immediately to that villager. When you play as the Norsemen, your soldiers must build everything, and you never know when they are completed unless you continually monitor all areas of your civilization to visually spot inactive soldiers. This puts you at a major disadvantage when time is of the essence, and you are fighting off attacks while trying to figure out where all your soldiers are.

A small interface annoyance: in AoM, when you select a group of units, it shows all like units with one icon and a number representing how many are grouped. In AoE, each unit was listed individually, which allowed you to view the health of each, as well as the ability to select one to send them off somewhere else. That was a nice feature of AoE that got dropped from AoM.

AoM also supports internet multiplayer game play, but I did not have the opportunity to explore this aspect of the game.


Summary
Age of Mythology is an exciting and fascinating real-time strategy game. Like it's predecessor Age of Empires II, it provides some serious fun in terms of building up a society and waging battles with other civilizations on the map. The game engine features awesome graphics and sounds, and AoM features some amazing new creatures as well as new economy and battle strategies. Creatures with special powers, such as a hero holding the head of Medusa to turn your enemies to stone, as well as god powers such as earthquakes and lightning storms, truly intensify the fun of playing this game. The one included campaign is awesome, with a fantastic and involving story. In fact, the campaign was so much fun, that it will leave you longing for more. The game AI works well in the campaign, but suffers a bit in the custom single player games. The Norsemen economy adds a nice new feel to the game, but the game interface did not accommodate all of the changes to support the Norse civilization. Playing as the Greeks or the Egyptians, however, this game is a blast, well worth the price of admission.

Pros

  • Awesome graphics and effects
  • Fascinating mythical units and heros with magical powers
  • Excellent 32-level campaign
  • Fun "God" powers
  • Internet multiplayer challenges

Cons

  • Norsemen economy not support by interface very well
  • Needs more built-in campaigns
  • Grouped units not shown individually
  • Weak AI in custom single player games


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice