Age of Mythology

The gods are angry and must be placated. At the same time, the land is surrounded by enemies, and the sleepy villages must be roused into action as the aspiring armchair general raises and fields his armies. Age of Mythology is the follow-up to Age of Empires II. The game offers a series of enhancements over what has come before – particularly the lush translucent landscapes, trees and ambient sound effects. Seawater washes against the shore, for example, and under the translucent waters players can see schools of fish. It’s a visually pleasing game, though characters appear a little blocky in some of the cut-sequences. The game – which offers multiplayer support, a level editor and a single-player campaign mode – has sacrificed nothing in order to exercise its new gaming paradigm. Unlike previous titles in the series, which focused on tactical war-gaming, this version adds new spice: the divine. Players take on the role as the hero leader of one of nine ancient civilizations. As they build temples, players can spawn and marshal specific mythological creatures, such as Minotaurs, Cyclopses and Hippogriffs. These units are limited and offer specific strengths, and some are devastating in the field. Myth management
Players can also assign peasants to pray at their temples, which can be dedicated to specific gods. These deities reward fervent worshippers with new powers and units, but demand an exchange of gathered ‘faith points’, which the praying peasants rack up at the temple. Pray to play, anyone? The Age of Empires series pleases gamers because it offers an engaging, stimulating simulation of the challenges that face would-be empire-builders. While other titles tweak the basic set-up – with Warrior Kings, for example, focusing on the use of formations of individual units for strategy-oriented play – Age of Empires offers a more immersive experience overall. The inclusion of divine powers introduces a whole new element to the genre. It means players may be struck down by an unexpected god-attack just when they have completed the economic micro-management required to repel any attacks while building their forces up enough to launch their own invasion. Just when you’re ready to attack, your main body of forces or your most important production facilities may be struck down by a meteor blast or plague. Players must then see off the heaviest attack they’ve faced so far. The inclusion of myth powers creates a totally new level of uncertainty within the genre. Make my deity
Players select a deity to follow each time they advance into a new age. This means that they can choose to follow gods that match their preferred strategy for that level. Available Greek deities include: Zeus, Poseidon and Hades with a selection of minor supporting deities for each major god. Players can opt to follow any of nine major gods and 27 minor deities during the course of the game, and each choice affects gameplay, so it can be fresh each time, just by taking different choices. The single-player campaign features Arkantos, an Atlantean. Players follow the hero’s progress as he helps lift the siege of Troy, travels through the underworld in a quest for powerful relics, and more. But be warned – even though here, characters are far more powerful than most troops in the field, they remain vulnerable to attack by large groups of enemy units. Nothing is safe. As players progress they will also unlock the other two civilizations (Norse and Egyptian) that exist within the game. There’s a selection of cheat codes built-in to the game. To activate these, players must hit Return to bring up a dialog box. To whet your appetite, here are three (all are case sensitive): ISIS HEAR MY PLEAE gives all the heroes from the campaign; RED TIDE makes the water red; and BAWK BAWK BOOM you get a god power that rains exploding chickens. As you develop your civilization, you’ll need to expand its population – but to do this, you need to conquer or find existing settlements and build a town hall on these to take over (and increase population size). These settlements are spread out in a way that deliberately discourages defensive gameplay. Once they have the experience they need, players can also try the game in random map mode. This lets players choose from a selection of settings, and play against up to 11 computer-controlled opponents in an incredibly frenetic game of conquest. Online, the game has a feature that lets players locate others who are looking for a similar type of match. However, as we looked at a beta version of the game, I couldn’t test this feature.


Age of Empire fans will enjoy Age of Mythology. It’s a great-looking game that has been well-researched to pit players in a battle that could have come straight out of Jason and the Argonauts, and innovates in the genre with its introduction of god powers. As a pure strategy game, the title maintains the existing strengths of the series, while delivering new features that may attract new converts to the genre.

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