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Age of Empires 3 demo fails to impress

September 8th, 2005 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

Is that all there is?

The Age of Empires III demo was released yesterday, and I gave it a thorough play through. Three or four skirmish missions, the campaign scenarios, the “deck-building”. And through it all, I was only mildly amused.

Ensemble’s goal to make the best looking RTS ever seems to have been relaxed to “a RTS a little prettier than Empire Earth II. The water effects are nice, and even on my marginal video card, the game looked a lot more photorealistic than Age of Empires II. But there is more to art design than photo-realism. I liked the ships in the Cossacks series better.

The demo didn’t give me any sense that I was settling a new world, and the deck-building mini-game was not very interesting; I assume that it is better suited to multi-player. The combat and resource gathering is nothing that I haven’t seen before, and I got a general feeling that Ensemble is resting on its gameplay laurels while making things prettier. Even the much ballyhooed Home City concept turned out to be little more than a time-release supply depot.

Part of the disappointment is rooted in my expectations of Ensemble. They are still the kings of RTS, and have made three amazing games in a row. All of the previous Age games played differently and had major innovations from one to the next. The demo shows me little evidence of this.

Compare this to the demo of Rise of Nations a few years ago. That demo infused me with a zeal and excitement that made the first title from Big Huge Games rocket up my gift list. Though I will still pick up Age of Empires III, it’s no longer the urgent matter it once was.


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