Strategy & War
If you've already read Part 1 of our preview (posted Monday), you can jump straight to Part 2 of our extensive preview of Age of Mythology.
Real-time strategy fans, rejoice! Just about a year after its release on the PC, Microsoft and Ensemble Studios' hugely popular Age of Mythology is about to drop into the laps and laptops of Mac gamers, courtesy of MacSoft and Westlake Interactive.
As it's one of the most eagerly anticipated and high-calibre Mac conversions in recent months, Inside Mac Games is commemorating the arrival of the game by holding a special Age of Mythology week. We're kicking off with a two-part preview: this initial article will give an overview of what the game is all about, and tomorrow's will look at its gameplay aspects in more detail. On Wednesday (launch day, complete with fireworks!) we'll have an interview with Ensemble Studios and follow it on Thursday with another chat with MacSoft. The week culminates with Friday's full review of the final release version of the game... and watch out for that, as there may even be a chance to get your hands on a free copy!
A place in historyEnsemble Studios' Age of... games have a long and distinguished history in the RTS genre, and have developed a mature and balanced approach to both the game mechanics and the user interface. Age of Mythology, as the latest in a series of games spanning quite a few years, therefore has a high-quality pedigree. However, it also marks a significant departure from its predecessors in terms of both its game content and graphics.
Anyone who is familiar with Age of Empires will feel right at home with Age of Mythology, and indeed in terms of its interface it should quickly seem very familiar to players of other RTS games such as WarCraft, too. Age of Mythology has certain minor interface refinements over its predecessors in the series, but the clue to its most interesting difference is in its title: the word Mythology. Age of Empires and the other earlier games all featured a reasonable level of historical accuracy, and whilst that was commendable, maybe some players found that aspect of the games a bit dry. Many gamers enjoy an element of fantasy in their playing experience, and this is the major new ingredient that Age of Mythology adds to its already proven recipe.
That isn't to say that the game eschews its predecessors' attention to historic detail; there isn't a total abandonment of historical elements in favour of fictitious ones. On the contrary: the mythological aspect is put into a valid historical context by the inclusion of genuine Greek, Norse and Egyptian gods. The game integrates the mythical into the factual in an impressively coherent way, and any loss in historic realism is more than compensated by the added interest of legendary creatures brought to life. What's more, the extremely comprehensive hypertext-based in-game help system provides background information about all the elements of the game as well as advice that relates to playing.
The other big change in Age of Mythology is its graphics engine. Although the graphics look superficially pretty similar to those of the earlier games in the series, that impression is quickly shattered when you realise that you're looking not at a 2D sprite-based system but a fully 3D one, complete with superb animations and stunning special effects. The graphics engine can achieve an astonishing amount, not least being able to zoom right in to produce the game's many detailed and dynamic cut-scenes. And, of course, you can spin the map around on the screen to view it from different angles, and move in and out.