Though not the best-ever expansion, Warchiefs has a lot of interesting gameplay features which make it a worthy buy.
The game introduces 3 new civilizations. The Iroquois, which resemble the previous game’s European powers, constitute the first side. We had gotten a glimpse of the Iroquois in the previous game and so this side would be quite familiar to most of you. They play pretty much the same as the Europeans and so getting the hang of the Iroquois civilization is not tough. The next side is that of the Sioux. The Sioux are a lot different from the Iroquois in the sense that they do not need houses to build up their population. Consequently they are cavalry-centric. This makes them very mobile and great for conducting fast raids. The final side is that of the Aztecs. Veterans of the AoE series will remember the Aztecs from AoE2. And like AoE2 the Aztecs are infantry-centric and have units such as Jaguar Warriors.
The reason behind naming the game as ‘The WarChiefs’ is because of a unit of the same name. Each tribe has a War Chief, which is like their hero unit. Very early in the game this unit possesses the ability to collect treasure and so will act as the main explorer. This is not to say that Warchief can’t fight. The Warchief gains powers and strength as the game progresses and soon will transform from your explorer to your main fighter unit. The other big addition for the tribes is the Fire Pit. The Fire Pit is a special structure where you must assign your villagers. These villagers will then dance to gather a variety of small but important resources which grants you further abilities. The more villagers assigned the bigger is the effect.
Now the expansion just doesn’t add new sides with leaving the old ones as they are. The Europeans have also been slightly upgraded and a new building is available to them – the Saloon. From here you can produce missionaries from time to time. These missionaries cannot be created elsewhere and it’s nice to see new unit production building available. Europeans have also gained the use spy units. The campaign mode once again follows the story of the Black family, adding two more chapters to their history. And from the narrative of the Blacks you will take part in the European-Tribal wars as they had actually happened during the period of colonization and try to prevent the inevitable. The skirmish mode is more or less the same.
The new game play features are Revolution and Monopoly. The European colonies have the option of declaring a revolution. When this happens all the peasant units are converted to military units and production of further peasants is effectively halted. Even the home country will only send military shipments from then on. So this feature must be used with care. Though it gives an almost undefeatable military power for a short while, it comes at a hefty cost. When you revolt there is no scope of further resource production and you’ll be at the mercy of your reserved stock.
Monopoly is related to trade routes. This features limits defensive gameplay to a big extent. In the expansion, control of trade posts is critical. If one side controls more than half the trade posts for a set period of time, it is assured victory. When a side gains control of the majority of trade posts, the time limit is displayed within which you must rupture your enemy’s control of the routes or lose the game. This adds a bit of urgency to the game.
The physics model of the game is laudable. Hitting buildings with cannons makes them crumble at the right angles. Cannon balls will roll down hills and your men will be blown away if in the line of fire. The game looks great. Like the base game you can see detailed reflections in water. Gunfire looks quite realistic and overall the character design is also good. The game does require a high-end machine to give optimum performance. On average settings the graphic display is also average and surroundings appear slightly blocky. The maps of the game are quite detailed and as good as those of the base game, if not better.
Sound is however one department where the game slightly lags. The voice-overs haven’t been done to perfection and do not produce the same effect as that of the original game. But battle sounds such as those of gunfire are satisfactory. There’s also the transition from normal peaceful background music to the more urgent battle-music on being attacked by enemies.
The WarChiefs a great expansion for a great game. It has a lot new content to keep you absorbed for a long while. The new gameplay techniques, in particular, add a new flavour to the game. The Age of Empires feel is still there and if you own Age of Empires III, then getting The Warchiefs is a must.