I know right? Surprise! A PC game. How random is that?
I run most of my PC games on a company laptop that limps along much like an injured gazelle on the African plains. It’s no wonder that I thus have to take my time and enjoy one in its entirety before having to uninstall and try out another. One day, I swear to Zeus, that gaming desktop will be mine!
This weekend was pretty relaxed so I set aside some time to indulge in one of my favourite PC games to date, Age of Empires 3. I remember receiving a copy of the first game not long after its launch from a friend who knew that I was into games, regardless of genre, and thought I’d get a kick out of it. As a history lover, I enjoyed Rise of Rome’s blend of historical fact and fictional storyline, tied into ancient Roman and Greek missions, and appreciated the strategic thinking necessary to make sure you could actually maintain a heavy fleet of triremes. For its time, the graphics weren’t that bad and good enough job was done on the score and other musical accompaniments. Granted there were no female villagers and even my young mind wondered just how other villagers were created, but I assume I wasn’t the only one going “Huh?” since AoE II had female villagers.
Before I moved to The Netherlands, I did actually have an awesome desktop that allowed me to put Age of Empires 3 through its paces, so I’m well aware of just how detailed the that game was. Funnily enough, unlike with my previous Replay Values title, Assassin’s Creed, I didn’t find myself lamenting the fact that my characters sometimes had no faces or that a unit got stuck in a really inconvenient spot. I actually appreciate AoE (and AoE II) more than I do AoE III. Interestingly enough, the reason for this ties into an issue that many critics have stated exists with Assassin’s Creed 3. Can you tell that I’m still digesting that game, because I don’t really believe in rushing a play-through just to throw a review up. I thoroughly enjoy my games, like a great steak paired with an awesome wine. Much like the main storyline in AC3 is overshadowed by the sheer magnitude of what was happening in the fledgling USA at that time, AoE III suffers from the fact that the main story doesn’t quite attract me as much as the potential for engaging in other nation-building activities. The home-city aspect was nice, but there was no real motivation to obtain new cards because there was no interaction with whatever you purchased. The lack of additional campaign stories, beyond the structured one involving the Black Family, made it kind of linear. There were other civilizations available, but to what end?
AoE II had a few paths you could take regarding a campaign (William Wallace, anyone?), and it would have been pretty awesome to see AoE III go the same way. The Black Family campaign was at times repetitive and boring, so exploring another civilization’s development would have been a welcome addition. Maybe the majority of the budget went to the pretty naval vessels? It goes to show you that sometimes, a new game doesn’t always mean a better game, in terms of its engagement potential for old and new players. This is something to keep in mind for both developers and gamers alike, because lately there’s been a lot of hemming and hawing about new installments, new consoles, etc. Sometimes you can’t rush or gloss up the creative process too much…you might end up with a product that is less than your previous iterations.