Age of Empires III: Complete Collection Review
Age of Empires is my favorite video game series of all time. While this review talks about Age of Empires III, I've been playing these titles since the first AOE came out in 1997. Even AOE III has been around since 2005.
That's a long time in video game years, but it is still a fun game enjoyed by people around the world. Truthfully, I don't have much time for video games anymore, but I still have AOE III and the expansion packs loaded on my computer for when I need a little down time.
Age of Empires is a real-time strategy game where your goal is to advance your civilization (there are several to choose from) by guiding your settlers and soldiers to accomplish certain tasks. There are dozens of buildings that can be built to serve different functions, and dozens of individual units that can be trained or otherwise acquired.
Of course there are other civilizations out there, either controlled by the computer or by other people in online play. You have to compete with them for resources, but worse still they're going to try to rub you out of existence. You'll need to raise an army to defend your people and assets, and do some damage of your own.
AOE III is set during the colonial expansion period between the discovery of the New World and the late 1800s. You control civilizations like the Brits, French, Dutch, Germans, Spanish and Russians who, at the time, were bent on acquiring territory and bumping each other out of the picture. Each has different strengths and weaknesses, and different units specific to that civ.
The Complete Collection includes the Age of Empires III game along with the War Chiefs and Asian Dynasties expansion discs. With these expansion packs, you can control different Native American and Asian civilizations, and more game play maps and features are made available.
There are several modes of play: In Campaign you follow a set script where you need to accomplish certain tasks to advance the story. You can play online in head-to-head competition with other people. Or, you can play against the computer. You win when you get to the end of the story (in Campaign mode) or obliterate your opponents.
Succeeding at Age of Empires requires a great deal of strategy. You must manage the economy of your civilization while simultaneously building your army to defeat your opponent. Once your army is ready, you need to have a game plan for victory.
AOE I and II! As much as I love AOE III, AOE II was my favorite of the series. This was set back in the age of knights and kings, and most of the fighting was done by sword and lance. That game was so much fun.
My AOE III Strategy
I usually set it to the hardest level and play three against one. I use the Dutch or the Brits most often. Sometimes I'll use a Native American tribe if I'm up for a challenge and have a lot of time. European civilizations are more evenly matched, where the Native Americans require a whole lot of strategy to get around the firepower and technology of the Europeans.
I play 40-minute treaty games. I choose my civ and let the computer pick three of its own and the map. A treaty game is where no fighting is allowed (except for defensive buildings) during a certain time period. After that, all bets are off.
I immediately send my settlers (villagers) to gather resources. Economy is most important in the beginning. I clear all wood from the vicinity of my town center, and hunt out all local wildlife. Once I have some good open space, I build my walls and add more buildings to my town.
Walling up, or turtling, is a great way to protect your assets when the fighting starts. Double-thick walls prevent enemies from marching into your town and causing devastation, and give you time to react. Fortunately (though I don't understand why) the computer never builds defensive walls in AOE III. But remember it's three against one, so while I'm building up my town there are three other civs expanding their armies.
By the time there is ten minutes left in the treaty I want to have my army ready to go. I want several barracks, like eight or ten in all. I concentrate on infantry, and get as many upgrades as I can to improve their speed and effectiveness. With some civs it may be necessary to train cavalry to counter the opponents artillery, but Dutch infantry seem to move fast enough to get the job done.
Just before the fighting starts I'll begin to call any settlers who are outside the walls of the city back in and have them build farms or plantations. I will also send a small contingent of 4-6 settlers to the far corner of the map. Their goal, once the fighting begins, will be to build a small outpost with barracks and an artillery foundry.
When the fighting begins the strategy is to beat back the initial surge and then counterattack. With three-on-one I'll be facing possibly a couple of hundred units coming at me at once, so keeping my barracks pumping out new troops is super important.
If I can defeat the initial onslaught I will have devastated the armies the other civilizations have been building over the treaty period. Of course they will retrain more troops quickly, but if I can turn the tide in that brief period of time their towns will fall like dominoes.
It's not always so easy, and different maps require slightly different strategies. Sometimes my town is destroyed and I'm reduced to a handful of troops running around the countryside conducting guerrilla raids and trying to reestablish a foothold. Sometimes I even lose!
Games can last for hours, and I only get in one or two a month these days if I'm lucky. But Age of Empires III is still a great way to relax and use my brain power to solve problems in another world besides the real one. Even after all these years, its still a blast.
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Last updated on April 9, 2014
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