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Publisher: MacSoft    Genre: Strategy & War
Min OS X: Not Supported    CPU: 604 @ 120 MHz    RAM: 32 MB    Hard Disk: 70 MB    2x CD-ROM

Age of Empires
November 3, 1999 | Christopher Morin

Age of Empires is created in the same vein as the likes of Civilization. Right off the bat, the opening animation thrusts you into the action. You are flying over a forested landscape and come upon an old ruin. Then scenes cut back in time as two Roman-garbed legions engage in a fierce battle There are chariots, horsemen, archers, catapults, and legionnaires. The music is great...the battle well done. You can watch as the attacking force moves through the forest and the fog. The camera takes you to ground level so you can see, hear, and feel (with the bass cranked up) the heavy catapults rumble through the woods. You see the legionnaires rush down the hill and the defending line of archers draw their bows awaiting the command to unleash their rain of arrows upon the enemy. Legionnaires fall under the sudden onslaught of arrows. The defenders rush out of their fortification under the covering fire to engage the enemy. Swords clash. Battle axe cuts are parried by desperate defenders. Catapults lob their heavy projectiles at the opposing force. The battle rages. 

Now, cut back to the ruin. As you survey the field of battle you come across a toppled ruin that reads, "Age of Empires." I must say, it is a well done introduction to the game.

First instruction: Read some of the manual; unless you are very comfortable with RTS games. I recommend you do not install and play. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the manual.

Gameplay is pretty smooth. Your first task is to build shelters for your tribe and begin collecting raw materials in the form of wood, stone, gold, and food. You will need your villagers to gather all these supplies. Did I mention you should read the manual? Anyway, begin gathering and building. Once you build a barracks, you can begin training military units. In order to progress through the ages (i.e. Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, etc.), you have to achieve predetermined levels of raw materials and build the prerequisite buildings for each age. When you advance to the next age it is rewarding to see your buildings change in appearance. Why? I don't know, maybe I need to get out more. One piece of advice: when you can build a temple, build it. Training a priest is the only way to heal wounded units. That last only applies to living units. Don't use the priest to heal buildings. It will not work. Use villagers for that purpose. Another advantage to having priests is they can convert enemy priests or any other enemy units.

You have to also keep an eye on your neighbors / enemies. Build enough military units to keep them at bay while you continue your progress through the various ages of the game. You can experiment with paying tribute to other players. Some reasons for paying tribute include, paying form protection, maintaining peace, etc. You can pay your tribute in any of the raw materials you gather in the game. Did I mention you should read the manual? For those of you new to RTS games, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with the manual. My first impression of the game, having just completed the review of Civ II, was not favorable; but the more I played the game, however, the more it grew on me.

Moving characters around can be challenging. For instance, if you send one of your villagers into the forest to cut down trees and change your mind, selecting him while in the trees can be lots of fun. Also, I had to destroy the happy dwelling place of one of my faithful subjects because I had blocked with buildings any new villagers created in the town square. More than once, I had to level a house or two to allow created military units access to the rest of the map before it dawned on me to plan my building projects a little better. These may be minor annoyances, but that only means the creators of the game expect you to think and plan.

Age of Empires' gameplay is enhanced by the option to group your military units or villagers and move them as one. If you send a group of villagers into a berry patch to forage for food, they will automatically switch to a nearby bush when the one they are working on is bare. Military units will likewise attack other nearby enemies when the one they are fighting is now pushing up the daises (shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the choir invisible, passed on, bereft of life, etc. - my hearty thanks to John Cleese for these erudite additions to my vocabulary). On the flip side, if there are no longer any nearby enemies or bushes, they will stand there like posts until you get back to them and issue new commands; so be circumspect. Keep them working.

Incidentally, a place to play AoE online is at Game Ranger. You will need to download the 1.2 patch from Macsoft  You will also need to install Game Ranger.


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