Mythology Makes All the Difference in the World

User Rating: 8.5 | Age of Empires: Mythologies DS
I tried the first AoE for DS, and though I thought it was a solid strategy game, it was a bit dry for my taste. I never quite took to it with the zeal needed to see me through to the end. But...I'm a huge mythology buff (as I'm sure many of you are), and I couldn't help being curious about the follow-up.

Mythologies is a turn-based strategy game, and in terms of movement, it's very similar to Advance Wars. However, the overall gameplay structure is more akin to the Warcraft series, in that you're building structures to produce units, such as builders, infantry, mythological creatures, heroes, etc.

There's also a basic rock, paper, scissors formula in place; human units are weak against myth units, myth units are weak against hero units, and heroes are weak against human. However, there's also the consideration of each individual unit type, as light infantry are generally weak against calvary, and so on and so forth. And therein lies most of the strategy for this game. Wisdom in your choice of unit movement will be key to your success during missions.

The game's broken up into three different campaigns (with eight missions in each) -- Egyptian, Greek and Norse -- and surprisingly, they all play quite a bit differently from one another. You start out with the Egyptian mythology, and it plays a lot like the first AoE DS. It's fairly straight-forward and does a bit of hand-holding to get you prepared each step of the way (there are separate tutorial missions as well). But when you move into the Greek campaign, the missions start to get varied up a nice bit, and you're left to figure certain things out on your own, though nothing that should stump anyone familiar with this type of gameplay. There are even bosses at the end of certain missions, and they are good fun to take on, offering a real challenge.

Probably the strongest element of Mythologies is its ability to keep you interested. Strategy games in general can be a bit tedious and time consuming, with little action to keep your attention. But almost every mission in Mythologies starts you out with the chips stacked heavily against you, though as long you play smartly, you'll almost always succeed. There's so much reward in seeing your armies slowly gain the upper hand, and it's a formula that fills you with a desire to keep on playing to see what the game will throw at you next.

The stories are also very interesting, and if you're into mythology, the presentation here should definitely satisfy. There aren't any long and drawn out segments of dialogue, but what's offered is entertaining and adds so much to what could otherwise be a fairly dry experience.

It also doesn't hurt that the game looks fantastic. You couldn't tell by looking at screenshots, perhaps, but Mythologies offers some of the most detailed and attractive 3D graphics on DS. The on-map models and skirmish animations are really cool to look at, but when you actually see the models up close on the top screen, it's damned impressive. Sound effects and music are also well crafted and do a great job of supporting the gameplay.

Mythologies is a great package with lots to do. Some missions can take over an hour to complete, and I'd guesstimate there's likely over 20 hours of gameplay in total just for the single-player offering alone. But the multiplayer is also quite extensive, with both single-card play and online. If you had trouble getting into the first game, this AoE might have the formula you were looking for. Using mythology as its thrust was a great idea for the series on DS, and the presentation and entertaining missions just help bolster what was already a great game.