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Name:

 Age of Mythology HD

Platforms:

 PC

Developer:

 Ensemble Studio

Genre:

Real Time Strategy

Publisher:

 Microsoft Game Studios, Macsoft

Modes:

Single-player, Multiplayer

Release Date:

 8th May, 2014 (Original game released 30th October, 2002)

Engine:

 

Reviewer:

 Charede

Product Rating:

 PEGI: 12

Review Score:

75/100 (75%)

Disclosure:

 Copy Reviewed: PC, personally bought.

Timing: Post release

 

Today it is time to take a look at a remake and specifically the Age of Mythology HD remake. Age of Mythology is a real-time strategy game (RTS) which was originally published back in 2002 and was the spinoff title made from the Age of Empires series which was grounded in real historical campaigns. Age of Mythology takes the battle and campaigns format from Age of Empires but approaches it from the culture's religion and gods. These are then used to base the central mechanics around and are particularly important to the story mode as well for lore. The HD remake published in 2014 takes what is considered by many an old classic within the rts genre and gives it a facelift to bring it up to date. The question for many is, does this remake live up to expectation? Read on to find out what our team thought of this remake.

 

I have very fond childhood memories of the original Age of Mythology, and it was one of my early gaming experiences which contributed to keeping my interest in the rts genre. I remember vividly the excitement of getting my hands on that limited collector's edition. Opening it carefully and waiting on the edge of my seat as the progress bar slowly crept upwards as it installed from the two disks provided. I sat daydreaming of the carnage on the battlefield as I would smite my foes with almighty abilities summoned by the gods and I was not disappointed! When it did finally install, and I got my first glimpses of the opening cinematic I sat in awe as the full potential of the game unveiled itself to me. I fought furiously fought through the campaign hooked throughout. Since then I have played many other RTS games; some of which I have enjoyed and some I have seriously loathed. Regardless I have deeply missed one from the perspective of mythology rather pure historical. Truly there is nothing wrong with historical campaigns and being a history nerd myself they are very much to my taste. Deep down I have always had a passion and soft spot in my heart for mythology and to see that incorporated into a game back in my earlier gaming days was refreshing, enjoyable and deeply enthralling.

 

Consequently, when a rerelease of the original Age of Mythology was announced, I was thrilled but also filled with dread at the damage that could be done to a classic. At the core of Age of Mythology has always been the story mode which is an extensive story-driven campaign in which the player takes control of Arkantos and the Atlantean faction. It is established in the first mission that the Trident of Atlantis has been stolen from the harbour by a Minotaur who is working for Poseidon. Arkantos takes on the duty of hunting down the Minotaur responsible and charged with retrieving the stolen trident and returning it to his homeland. Along the Arkantos meets a range of other heroes who help his cause and also play a crucial role in the story rather than just being token mentions with negligible involvement.

 

Throughout gameplay, players are tested with a variety of objectives and situations which help to keep the player feel engaged and proactively strategizing. Although there are times where you are simply required to overrun and destroy the enemy more often than not the game attempts to focus your efforts on a specific location, set of enemies, retrieve an object, help potential allies or survive till help arrives. It helps to mix things up and not feel like you are on constant fetch quests. The objectives are laid out in such a way that there are multiple routes to achieve the objective. Factors such as the terrain and the way you fill your army are crucial parts of the plan as well as how you manage your resource buildings, technology advancement and protect your people and resource generating buildings from enemies. For those not familiar with rts games or resource management games you may find it a bit of a learning curve, however, the game does provide a tutorial, and I would recommend it to anyone not familiar with the RTS genre in general. Getting familiar with what buildings do what and which units counter what is knowledge you will want to arm yourself with. A lot of it is fairly common sense, but some knowledge of mythology is an advantage especially when it comes to the mythological army units.

 

Throughout the campaigns as well as in multiplayer you face the Greek, Egyptian and Norse factions. Each faction has their own technologies and units as well as general advantages and disadvantages. On advancing, ages players gain access to new gods to follow which grant benefits and which faction you are playing will change the available gods. This leads to interesting and varying enemies to fight and the player options with their age advancement which has the potential to counter certain enemies and situations. Of course, you can select your usual style of play but certain you may find a situation where certain advancements may be of greater value to you.

 

The game also sports a good range of terrain variety which is based on locations in mythology and real world locations. In addition to being interesting and fun locations to fight on you can very much use the land to advantage. Although your units are not buffed or debuffed by which land they are standing on there is definitely a significant advantage to blocking off certain canyons and roads, placing units strategically to watch for scouts and using the ground for archers. This may sound simplistic compared to modern titles such as the Total War series but I can assure you back in the day this was the art of sophisticated within rts and in the grand scheme of things does still stand up well even though the game is showing its age a bit versus contemporary titles. Overall the mechanics of the game combined with its faction and unit designs as well as the strong story and integration of the gods into the mechanics it keeps the game fresh and steadily paced. For those used to playing modern RTS games though you may find the pace a bit slower than usual.

 

Segregated from the main campaign revolving around the theft of the Trident is a separate campaign focused on Norse mythology which also has a good run length and a story grounded in genuine mythology. I have to give the studio credit for the extent of their research and ensuring it feels very genuine and in-depth. Outside of the two campaigns, there is an entirely separate expansion which focused on the Titans. The Titans added a whole new layer of mechanics beyond that of the standard game as well as bringing its own campaign and story to explore. When the original game was released the Titans expansion was sold separately, and consequently, I never got the opportunity to buy it. The main game always left me wanting more and not going through with purchasing this extra portion of Age of Mythology was a major regret. However, with the HD remake, the expansion is included in the price which is a huge bonus to those like myself who are old veterans of the game who never got to explore the expansion as well as providing new players to the game better value an even more expansive experience. Also important to note is the studio who have taken this project on recently announced a new expansion is coming to the game called Tale of the Dragon which will be a Chinese mythology themed expansion. Details of what the expansion will include are as of yet to be confirmed, but it is great to know another slice of Age of Mythology is being worked on.

 

Now we have covered what the game is, and its core mechanics now would be a good time to discuss what is new in the remake. First and foremost as the new title suggests the game in now in HD, it has been moved from its old 4:3 ratio and can natively do 16:9. The resolution has also been raised which makes it much easier on the eyes as well as preventing pcs going into meltdown over dealing with odd resolutions and settings which just don't work well with more up to date PC hardware. Steps have been taken to enhance further the visuals beyond just the resolution including the introduction of shadows, significant advancements in the lighting system, antialiasing and ambient occlusion which were not in the original game.

 

There is also a noticeable difference in the aesthetics of water. The water in no longer a thick solid blue mass and now resemble waves and proper water motion as well as colouration which reflects the waters depth and overall richer colouration. A new day/night cycle is introduced, and terrain has been improved with the introduction of bump/specular maps. The combination of these changes create an even more enthralling experience and also prevents PC meltdowns over the compatibility issues the original game is now suffering due to its age.

 

Outside of the visual updates, you would expect from a HD remake features has been added to the game to bring the game up to speed with modern integrations and features. Steam Workshop integration has been included so you can mod the game to your delight without all the messing around, as usual just download your favourite mods and play. The game also offers numerous Steam achievements so if you are into achievement hunting you will be kept busy grinding. The usual foray of trading cards and badges are also on offer as well as access to the cloud saving system. Much to my surprise and delight included is a full Twitch.tv integration. This is a feature I will not be using myself as I have access to professional equipment and software but to the novice live streamer, I can see the value in this integration as it provides convenience to players who just want an easy way to share their gaming experience on the Twitch.tv platform.

 

On multiplayer several significant features have been added including treaty and enhanced observer modes. Outside of playing the multiplayer yourself, you now have the option to watch others play. The new enhancements within multiplayer enable players to test strategies properly with allies as well as find some real opponents to test strategic prowess. To my delight, I can enjoy other players strategies outside of being in a match and enjoy the entertainment of plays as they unfold by watching others from the sidelines in the observer mode. The enhanced observer mode features real-time analysis of resource advantage, army size and composition. For new players to the game and veterans looking to learn more this is a great way to do so.

 

In conclusion, It goes without saying that even back in 2002 I thoroughly enjoyed this game back in the day and again I am enjoying the reworked version. The game has been deserving of a HD remake for a long time, and now that it finally has it has exceeded my expectation for the inclusion of extra features outside of the welcomed enhancements to the visuals. Sufficient has been done to reinvigorate the game while remaining true to the mechanics and most important the core of the game which has always been the mythology and story. The difficulty is well balanced and will appeal to both new and seasoned rts players. At present, the remake costs £20.00 and has yet to be discounted even a year after its release which is somewhat disappointing. Many argue it is not worth the price tag however for me personally being a fan of the game and having missed out on the Titan expansion I do consider it worth the price tag in my case. If you are a fan of Age of Empires or the rtsgenre, in general, I would say it is an absolute must buy. It is also a great game for those new to rts and those interested in mythology or just looking to get away from purely historical rts. Had the game been released for £10-15 I would have been far more empathetic but I have to give them kudos for going above and beyond the standard re-release practice of just raising the resolution and improving the texture quality as has been done with many recent remakes. Regardless of the £20.00 price tag it still costs significantly less than a triple A rts title today. So for those working with a moderate budget, it could still be considered a solid alternative if you are wanting to reduce your expense by avoiding full price modern AAA titles. Regardless it's a classic worth experiencing.

 

 

 

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