A few days ago, I wrote about my experience with the online social games “Mafia Wars” and “Frontierville”, today, I wanted to talk about my all time favorite game. It’s “Age of Mythology” the PC game published by Microsoft. The game was published in 2002, and I started playing it about that time. And I still haven’t stopped. When I have the time, it’s something I will play a few times a week. The games mix of planning, surprises, and endless number of possibilities for games are what makes the game have such a high replay value for me.
The game features the possibility to play as one of three Greek, Egyptian, Norse, or with the expansion pack, Titan gods. Each of the 12 gods has their own playing style, with unique abilities. Changing from civilization to civilization, or even from god to god, can change your playing experience dramatically. And who you are playing against also effects the game as well. Plus you have something like 25 different possible battlefields, so no two games are the same. I don’t play the campaigns anymore. I just do battles against the computer. Lately I’ve been doing 5 team battles, every team for themselves. If I come home from work or a game, and my brain is still running on high, emerging myself in the game for an hour or two is a good way for me to relax a bit. Or sometimes if I’m watching a movie or TV, I’ll play the game as well. When I’m parked in front of the computer playing, my wife says I am “Killing Egyptians” She will say this whether I am actually playing against Egyptians or not.
As you build up your town, there are four resources you need. There’s food, which you can hunt, gather, farm or fish for. You need wood, which means chopping down trees. You need gold, which comes from mining it, or setting up trade routes later in the game. Then you need favor from the gods. Each civilization has their own way of doing this, and favor enables some technology upgrades, as well as creating certain units. Once your society has enough food and gold, and has built a specific building, you can advance to the next level as a society, giving you access to more advanced units and buildings. You you can’t just focus on buildings and better technologies. You need to prepare for wars.
Societies can attack each other with a variety of units. Infantry units are good for attacking buildings, and good for attacking Calvary. Archer units are good at attacking infantry, but do very poorly against buildings or Calvary. Calvary are also good against buildings. Then you have siege units, such as catapults, which are the best weapons to attack towns with, but are very vulnerable to attack themselves. You can compose your army any way you want. And you can create an offensive or defensive force. But the other teams don’t always play along. Sometimes they will attack you first, sometimes you can be attacked by multiple armies at once, and sometimes this happens before you are ready for it. Even if your society is more advanced, if you don’t have the right defenses or army, you are going to lose. I only win the game about 75% of the time, which is a pretty good ratio. Winning all the time would get boring, losing too much is frustrating.
I like the aspects of planning an attack, building up my army, selecting a target, and taking out an opponent. The anticipation of planning and executing an attack are a lot of fun. But the most satisfying wins are the ones where you come from behind. You might get attacked before you are ready, or get attacked by multiple enemies at once. Either way, you are in trouble. So you find a way to survive, quickly build up an army, defenses, or you stealthily move your main town to somewhere out of your enemies reach. If I can, I get a small army to engage an invading force, and lead them out of my territory, into a neighbors. Since everyone is for themselves, if the invading force ends up in a rival territory, they will get distracted by each other, giving me precious time to recover. Surviving a few attacks before you can put together a succesful attack of your own makes the win that much sweeter.
There’s a few ways to win, either achieving a military victory over your rivals, or create a wonder of the world. But you can only build a wonder once your society has fully advanced. The Egyptians build a large pyramid for example. And the wonder needs to stand for ten minutes without being destroyed. Enemies are going to send armies after you, so you need strong defenses, or to have weakened your opponents to the point where they can’t get at you. Then there’s the king of the hill game, where you have to capture a fortress, and hold it for ten minutes without losing it. You also have the ultimate offensive unit available with the expansion pack, which is a titan. Titans are huge, can wipe out entire towns quickly, and can devastate an army with a few stomps. But they take time and resources to create, and you’ve only got one shot to create and use one.
There are so many different things your society needs to be doing, it is easy to become engrossed in the game, and an hour or two will pass before you even realize it. I enjoy console as well as PC games, and I would highly recommend this one if you have never given it a shot.