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Due September 2002 for PC.

Microsoft Ushers in a New Age of Mythology

Greek-and-Norse-battle.jpg (7435 bytes)Age of Empires surprised the gaming world and rose above the ranks of other RTSs because of its acumen for blending historical accuracy with exciting warfare in a solid gaming environment. At this year’s E3 the now legendary Bruce Shelley introduced the long awaited sequel, Age of Mythology, which steps away from its more historically based predecessors into a land shrouded in myth and legend. This isn’t your English class’s mythology—this is full-press Jason and the Argonauts hack and slash mayhem, and the results are sure to please both fans of the genre and interested newcomers with a bent toward fantasy.

God-Power---Meteor.jpg (7873 bytes)Available for play are nine civilizations operating within Egyptian, Greek, or Norse mythology. The Greeks will be most recognizable to experienced Age of Empires players. The Egyptians are monument builders who slowly construct mighty stone edifices, while the Norse build weak structures quickly and spread across the land like cancer, gathering gold hand over fist. Players can take their civilizations through four distinct eras in a 36 scenario story in the single-player campaign or go online to challenge the world.

Meteors-hit-a-Greek-town.jpg (8092 bytes)The new 3-D technology brings a dynamic floating camera viewpoint to this version, allowing players to pull in tight or zoom back for a broader view of the action, as well as pan around the map. But don’t worry—the graphical rendering of units doesn’t suffer from close scrutiny, and the 3-D engine still accommodates large battles with multiple units. The animated cut scenes in the single-player campaign tell a story that promises to be rich and heroic enough for Odysseus himself. The cinematic models themselves are a little jerky in the current build, lacking the smooth large-muscle transitions that bring a crouch into standing in more naturalistic movement. But this is barely something to bemoan—the graphics are otherwise richly detailed, and the enthusiastic voice acting is among the industry’s finest. In game, military units update on the screen as developments are made in weapons, shields, and armor.

Shoreline---Greek---Big-Nav.jpg (8608 bytes)What’s sure to please, however, are new features of game play. Players still manage resources and build infrastructure as they raise an army, but now they must curry the favor of the gods. Different gods afford different bonuses, and these gods make available one of the game’s most exciting new features: God powers. Up to four god powers are gained at various points throughout the game, though each may be used only once. The awesome power of the gods can literally smite a single enemy unit, no matter how powerful, or call down a meteor shower, or—in one of the game’s quirkier twists—morph the enemy army into pigs, which can then be slaughtered and added to your food stores. But be careful about which god’s favor you curry— each affords different bonuses and access to different god powers.

AOM02-01.jpg (8627 bytes)New units are another feature to look forward to. For example, the Egyptians have the unique unit Pharaoh, which can bless a building to increase its production efficiency and overall strength. But a god power turns the Pharaoh into the Son of Osiris, a towering hulk of a man-god who shoots lightning from his staff and can absorb loads of punishment. Other unique units include Greek Minotaurs and Medusas or a mythological Norse dragon that can drench the enemy in fire and then strike off to terrorize the villagers.

Look for the mayhem and mythology in stores around September of this year.

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Town-Scene---Egyptian.jpg (9854 bytes) Norse-battle-Greeks.jpg (9901 bytes)

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Town-Scene---Norse.jpg (10646 bytes)

Paul Cockeram (05/27/2002)