First Look: Age of Empires 3

First Look: Age of Empires 3

It’s been a while since the Mac has seen a new Age of Empires game, but the wait is over. MacSoft has finally completed its conversion, bringing the latest installment of the series to us - the strategy-starved Mac users. Age of Empires III takes you back to the conflict between the European powers fighting for their fair (or unfair) piece of the New World pie (North and South America for the historically disadvantaged reader). In this setting, you’ll have access to the magic of gunpowder from the get go - in stark contrast to its advanced technological status in the earlier games. Despite this shift in backdrop, the game plays very similarly to previous titles in the AoE series.

 

There are a few changes to the core game, though. For one, the developers have streamlined the resource system. Their removal of stone from the list of resources you’ll have to gather to fuel your war machine is a welcome change to those who had trouble keeping track of all their resources in previous games. Furthermore, you no longer have to create a resource drop-off point for your villagers. Instead, as they’re collected, resources just get added to your stockpile on the fly. Don’t assume that these changes have simplified the game; AoE III is still a resource-management-heavy game.

 

The biggest change you’ll notice to the game play is the persistent home city system. Your home city is the game’s way of representing the mother country that’s looking over your progress in the New World. During the course of a game you gain experience from killing enemy units and establishing trade routes. Once you accumulate enough experience, you'll gain the ability to spend a home city card, which will provide you with extra troops, resources or free unit upgrades. As you play more matches, your home city will gain levels giving you access to more and stronger cards to spend in matches. Outside of matches, you can customize your deck of home city cards, with the ability to create a deck of up to 20 cards of your choice.

 

That idea seems pretty novel for a real-time strategy game, but you probably won’t pay much attention to the development of your home city. The customizations for your home city seem largely cosmetic. During a heated battle you’re not likely to notice the juggler you added to the market front. You can view changes to your home city off the battlefield, but why would you when you could be playing another match?

 

These changes aside, any veteran of the series will find their first game of Age of Empires III akin to reuniting with an old friend. The early game consists of building houses, villagers, exploring, gathering resources, and building up your forces (artillery, cavalry and infantry) before culminating in large scale battles across the map.

 

Speaking of the battles, the game’s powerful new graphics engine makes them look spectacular. Buildings crumble under artillery fire, explosions send soldiers flying, and ships shatter under withering cannon fire. You will need a powerful Mac to view these fancy visuals, though. Specifically, the game requires a G4 or G5 or Intel processor running at 1.4 Ghz or faster along with a video card that has at least 64 MB of onboard memory and supports hardware transform & lighting.

 

All in all, Age of Empires III is a solid addition to the franchise. It combines lovely graphics and great (though non-revolutionary) game play with inspired sound production. Even though the game will feel like old hat to Age of Empire veterans, so far the game feels fresh enough to warrant continued playtime. Stay tuned for our upcoming full review for a more detailed look at this promising strategy title.

 

Believe us when we say that this collapsing building looks even nicer in motion.

 

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Jeronimo

Sorry guys, but what went wrong here? Age of Empires III FIRST LOOK?

The game came out over 4 months ago, a demo (which you forgot to mention) has been released in early April, even the "Warchiefs" expansion pack - also not mentioned - has been brought to the Mac in June.

Maybe take a second look...?

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