Strategy & War
Age of Empires III was one of the most anticipated RTS titles of 2005 on the PC front. Now, thanks to MacSoft, the next iteration in Ensemble's European superpower series is slated for release on the Mac. Introducing a host of new features while keeping what worked in the previous titles, AoE3 looks to continue the resource-gathering, troop-creating, and battle-fighting mechanics that players expect from their RTSes.
Fans of the previous titles should be pleased to hear that AoE3 picks up right where AoE2 left off. Continuing to base its background on historical events, AoE3 allows players to choose one of several European powers as they explore the New World. The same eight playable civilizations are still available, including the Ottoman, Spanish, Russian, British, Portuguese, Dutch, German, and French. The focus largely remains the same as well, with the usual mechanics of gathering resources, creating a civilization, and removing any obstacles in your path, including other civilizations.
As for new features, by far the one with the most impact is the Home City. The sponsor for a beginning civilization back in Europe, the Home City will support its budding empire with a variety of resources shipped by sea, including troops, technologies, and civilians, all of which can be player-selected. In addition, each Home City will gain experience points as players perform actions such as warring with other civilizations and building structures. As the Home City gains levels, players gain access to more resources and visual tweaks to both structures and units.
To make things more interesting, the rewards gathered from leveling a Home City are presented as a series of cards, with the eventual limit of 20 cards being available for use at one time. By building different decks, players will be able to change and adapt their strategies depending on their opponent's actions. In addition, the cards are split up into 3 tiers separated by level, which is a mechanic designed to keep play fair versus players of disparate levels. For example, a high-level player possessing Tier 3 cards would only get to use Tier 1 cards against a lower level player who only has access to Tier 1s.
Also new to the mix are the Native Americans. Though not a playable civilization, players can still attempt to parley with them, setting up trade agreements and alliances. Friendly Native Americans will even join players in battles, but don't count against a player's population. Those looking to raid Native American villages should look elsewhere, however, as they are exempt from being attacked unless they are allied with an opponent, and even then only the military units are fair game.
Ensemble has also seen fit to tweak the Skirmish mode. As with previous titles, Skirmish mode allows players to compete against AIs on randomly generated maps. Looking to up the ante a little, however, each civilization comes with a distinctive AI, complete with its own personality and tactics. The AIs are represented by famous figures, including Napoleon and Queen Isabella, and will have at their command over 4000 fully-voiced taunts, which they will use freely to torment human players as they attempt to dominate the New World.
Last but not least, AoE3 finally makes the jump to 3D graphics. The PC version has already been lauded for its presentation, which includes advanced lightning effects, realistic shadows, and detailed water environments. AoE3 also makes use of a physics engine, which allows for impressive detail as structures take damage, and ragdoll effects as individual units tumble to the ground.
AoE3 is currently on its way to the Mac via MacSoft, with a targeted shipping date of September. Look to IMG for upcoming information on this title, including status updates and a preview.