27 October, 2011

Age Of Empires

  • Release Date: 1997
  • Platform: PC
  • Developer: Ensemble Studios
  • Genre: Strategy

While advances in video games are typically characterized by leaps in technology or game play innovation, lateral crossover is also important. Like some novel technology concocted in one of its temples, Age of Empires crossed two existing game play templates and boiled down the result to produce a new branch in strategy gaming.

The first parent was Civilization, Sid Meier's brilliant 1991 title. Devotees loved it, but its complexity and turn-based mechanics put off many more. By the mid-90s, real-time strategy offered a more accessible way for armchair generals to marshal their forces. The best-selling strategy games -- Command & Conquer and Warcraft -- and their copycats were science-fiction or fantasy affairs. What Ensemble Studios (including designer Bruce Shelley, who worked on Civilization with Meier) did was meld Civilization's historical trappings and empire building idea with the genre's game play and pretty graphics.

The result, Age of Empires, was an approachable take on dictatorship with enough historical finery to satisfy all but the most bookish rulers. Assuming leadership of one of a dozen peoples, from the Greeks and the Babylonians to the Japanese Yamato civilization, you guide your race from being hunter gatherers through several transitions to create a dominant Iron Age culture. The twelve civilizations are divided into four main group, each one with its own distinctive architectural style. The emphasis is on military progressions, though victory conditions include building a Wonder, such as an Egyptian pyramid. On the fighting front, dubious artificial intelligence, later patched, and Age of Empires launched a globe-conquering franchise that eventually sold twenty million units.

Camels, Elephants, and everything in between. Age Of Empires features a large  variety of units.

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