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Strategy & War
Release Date

Age of Empires III
November 17, 2006 | Michael Phillips

Click to enlarge
Speaking of explosions, AoE3 should provide some of the best Mac RTS fans have ever seen. AoE3 features the PhysX physics engine for various animations, including building destruction, cannon ballistics and unit deaths. When buildings or ships crumble from cannon and gunfire, they will break apart based upon the direction from which fire is being taken, as well as the type of weapon used. Towers will fall off of churches, masts will break from ships. With the PhysX engine all destruction animation is calculated on the fly, thus no two buildings will ever go down the same way.

Shiny Happy People Killing
Now that we've covered AoE3s visual offerings, let's discuss the actual game. AoE3 features 8 playable civilizations including: The Spanish, French, Dutch, Russian, British, Portuguese, German and Ottoman. Each civilization caters to different play styles. For instance, the French economy starts slowly, but their Villagers are capable of light combat. Does anyone remember the old "peon rush?" The Russians begin each battle with extra resources, but their military units are individually weak. There should be enough variety among civilizations to keep players intrigued.

We're On Our Way Home
New to Age of Empires III, we have the Home City. Present in all modes of play, the Home City is a persistent entity that grows as the player succeeds. For instance, as the player kills enemy soldiers and razes enemy buildings, they gain experience points. As experience points are gained, the player earns shipmentes from the Home City. Shipments can range from simple resource crates to military reinforcements. Some shipments, like resource crates, may be called upon more than once, whereas deadly combat reinforcements must be used sparingly. Managing shipments from one's home city will be a key element to victory in Age of Empires III.

Pirates and Fountains and Cults, Oh My!
In Age of Empires III's single-player campaign, players will follow Morgan Black and his descendants through the ages, starting with Morgan's journey from Malta to the new world. Morgan, a Knight belonging to a once mighty now failing order, is tasked with traveling to the new world after discovering an artifact that points to what could be a fountain of everlasting life. Of course, all artifacts and fountains of everlasting life must be tied to a mysterious cult, the secrets of which players will reveal. Morgan will even encounter treacherous pirates as he sails from Malta to the new world. This campaign will involve 24 scenarios, spanning 3 acts, much of the story being told through in-engine cutscenes. Cutscenes in an RTS can lean toward the dull side, but AoE3's engine is so unusually lovely for the genre, Mac gamers should feel compelled to keep playing just to see what happens next.

In Bloom
I'll be honest, I haven't genuinely looked forward to an RTS since Warcraft III, but if Age of Empires III looks this great without being finished, I ardently look forward to the final product. Age of Empires III recently reached Gold Master status and should be shipping from MacSoft in the not-so-distant future. Keep in mind, this preview only scratches the surface of what AoE3 has to offer. Look for my full review after I get my hands on AoE3's finished DVD.

Age of Empires III
Publisher: MacSoft
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