Holy crap! Highly addictive! I dropped out of college because of this game. And it hurt sooo good. READ THIS REVIEW

User Rating: 10 | Age of Mythology: Gold Edition PC
Grab some popcorn, because this isn't a short review.

I'm a big fan of playing the opening video when I boot up a new game. From the Ensemble Studios video to the main title screen, it shows you that this game has a lot of action. And they weren't kidding. This strategy game isn't dull at all.

If you've played the other Age of Empire games before this, you won't be disappointed here. In fact, you'll be quite impressed with the whole myth unit/god power addition - once you get the hang of it.

When you start up the campaign, it draws you in with the spoken audio that teaches you how to move around and attack. It does the job very well of explaining everything thoroughly. The animations of the fighting and movement are pretty realistic (as realistic as you can get in a game called Age of Mythology). The campaign is around 25-30 missions, and they all touch on each of the tribes/gods of the game equally as well. There is also a short tutorial video that briefly describes the main differences between the different "styles" of how they play. I find myself playing the videos every so often, because they are just so cool to watch sometimes.

The interface is very good. It does its purpose of listing all the options you need, but doesn't take up the whole screen to hinder your game play. There are keyboard shortcuts to all the options listed on-screen, which I prefer over clicking the buttons simply because it's faster.

The music is very entertaining. If you're playing in the middle of a long game, the music that plays in the background just kinda makes you focus and zone right into your strategic little fantasy world. The beat and drama picks up when you start a battle, and the sound effects are well done. The axe clanking, myth unit growling, titan pounding, and siege slamming are all implemented well into the game at the appropriate times. Also, each god gets their own cool intro song when you start your game up. Shibby!

The resources are the same as previous AOE games, but with the inclusion of "favor". Favor is exactly what it sounds like. You gain this unit of blessing from your god to create myth units and other valuable units/upgrades. The way to get favor differs for each god. The Norse infantry can build anywhere on the map (but not attack at the same time, obviously) and they gain favor by fighting. As the video says, "They simply fight to please their gods." I thought that was cool. The Egyptians have a pharaoh that can empower the build speed, unit production, and even favor generation. They gain favor by setting up monuments. And then there's the Greek - they just pray at their temples (meaning that instead of building or collecting resources, you could usea butt load of villagers on gaining favor for myth units.) And for those that have the Titans, the Atlanteans gain favor by building town centers onto settlements. Pretty corny if you ask me.

There are 4 game modes to play: supremacy, conquest, lightning, and my personal favorite, DEATHMATCH. The campaign is designed to help you develop your supremacy skills, so that you understand how to build, how to collect resources, how to create units, which upgrades are worth the resources, and how to work efficiently with a smaller army early on in the game. With Deathmatch, you start off with 15,000 of each resource (and max favor). This may sound kind of noobish, but the Deathmatch world is pretty competitive, er used to be before AoE3 came out. You'd be surprised by how soon you need to collect resources to keep a good DM game going for longer than, say, 12 minutes. Nowadays, AOM mainly consists of players creating their own maps/scenarios in the game editor (which, I might add, is very elaborate.) I've created one myself and it isn't too difficult to layout the land and units - but it's more complicated if you want to set up triggers. The other game modes that are common are supremacy, and TW (which stands for Total War). It's just like it sounds, it's nothing but war. No need to collect resources, because you have an unlimited amount, literally. Honestly, it's a great way to practice with countering units and just basically test everything out in the game in combat.

ESO, Ensemble Studios Online, has been pretty consistent with keeping their server up. There hasn't been an upgraded version in a long time, however. There was a fad a few months ago where pretty much everyone was hacking in the game, and that wasn't too fun for people that were actually good players and were trying to get their ratings up. That's all stopped now, but Deathmatch competition is limited. Most people play supremacy, anyhow, so if you want to jump into the online game of AOM, it's still happenin', you just may be waiting a little bit for a game.

Playing versus a computer is still good practice before you enter the demonic world of online play. It's got pretty good AI. It knows to build a market all the way in the corner to get the most out of its gold trade, which is more than I can say about some morons. But after you figure out how to beat the computer on hard... maybe even on Titan difficulty, playing other humans certainly brings on a whole new challenge. I was actually amazed by how different each god's style was for 1. Resource gathering 2. Favor gaining 3. Combat style 4. Different buildings 5. Units; and yet Ensemble was able to balance out the game sooo well. The biggest differences between Age of Empires 2 and AOM are the god powers, myth units, and advancing-to-next-age options.

The cool thing I liked about the myth units is that there is a really nice circle of countering for the game. Heroes can counter myth units, myth units counter military units, and military units counter heroes. Simple as that. It lets Ensemble go crazy with wild units that can't normally be just thrown in to a believable and realistic RTS. Mummies that can convert units to minions, Cyclops that can throw enemy elephants into the enemy's crowd, Heka Gigantes that can slam the ground and throw back a whole army, or Fire Giants that can throw flaming balls (no pun intended).

The god powers are fricken' sweet! You can have a meteor, earthquake, locust swarm, lightning storm, shifting sands, and all kinds of zany yet useful god powers. You can only get the god powers by advancing to the next age though, and in Deathmatch (since you get to level up so quickly) they have a timer countdown that will tell you when that god power will be available for use.

And finally, what I thought was biggest difference between AOE2 and AOM was the option to choose which minor god you would like to use for the next age. You get a choice of one out of two for each age. It's nice because if your enemy chooses one god (for example, which can produce Colossi), then YOU can choose the god that can give you Medusas or Mummies. It's all up to you though, and what strategy works for you. That's what I love about this game. There are so many ways to win a game by using 100's of different strategies, and being flexible and spontaneous is what makes this a true "real-time" strategy game. When you put two humans together to try to clash your different strategies against each other, "There could be a lot of s#@$ flying around." There are so many variables in this game that makes it have such a high replay value. Never the same game will occur twice. God powers could be used at different times when unexpected, myth units running around the map raiding poor lil villies, and the option to pick which minor god you feel would work best that particular game, is a great formula for a long lasting RTS.

So far, I've listed all the great things about the game. There are only a couple of things that I found threw the balance off just a little:

First off, there are some overpowering units in the game that can really put the favor of a win in someone that overuses these particular units.

1. (Hades) Gastraphetes. "Archers that are also good vs. buildings." That's exactly what it says in the unit description. Let me say that again: "Archers that are also good vs. buildings!" Ok, let's go into a little more detail about these units. Gastraphetes have a range of 24. Town centers and towers have a range of 20. The units that can counter them (slingers, peltasts, turmas) have a range of about 16; not even close to their range. So right off the bat, a decent group of archers can take out a town center or tower without them ever being hit. Then, as if that wasn't enough, they make their range longer than the units that are supposed to counter them. WTF!? By the time you have enough slingers ready to counter them, the gastras have already taken them out due to their 2 mile radius of range. So basically, gastraphetes are good at killing just about anything in the game - seriously. If you had nothing but gastras as your entire army, you could take out just about any other army they plan to send your way. Other than Petsuchos Ras.

2. (Ra and Isis) Petsuchos Ras. "Crocodiles that have an attack of 55 and a range of 26." I don't think I have to say much. Now, these bad ass myth units are a great inclusion to any group of soldiers. They can stay way clear of the opposing army and zap the crap out of them, as you have spearmen or whatever right in front of them to protect them. They are very powerful and the range can help with taking out those pesky gastraphetes. In huge groups, these things kick ass (and sadly can be overpowering)

3. (Egyptian) Mercenaries. "Backup units that can be instantly created from a town center, and does not take up population." Basically, once you already have your 160 max pop of army and villies on the map, and you have extra gold, pop these black dudes out (with very high hack armor and pierce armor) and it's like adding an extra 30% instant army to your crew to help push them back even harder, so they have an insanely difficult time trying to fight off all those units at once. They last a limited amount of time, but if you're Ra or Isis, they can last up to 2 minutes (enough time for them to run up to help out your army over by your enemy's base.) One thing that really helps is that if someone does an unexpected siege slam on one of your town centers to try and take it out - "poof" instant defense against them. Yeah... overpowering as well. Ya gotta love the Egyptians.

Secondly, if you have the Titans expansion, you may notice that atlanteans are very good at the start of supremacy matches and that they lack in a long term game in deathmatches. And oh ya... the whole concept of that massive titan to crush your opponent may seem cool on paper, but I really think they gave him too many health points and it is really lame that you get to make a titan for free in deathmatch. You'll see what I mean when you play it.

Other than that, this game will give you 100's of hours of game play if you give it the chance to grow on you. Honestly, after I played AOM, I went back to AOE2 to play, because it didn't seem to do anything for me since I was still addicted to AOE2. I guess because most of the crowd had shifted over to AOM, that I joined the bandwagon. I'm glad I gave it another shot, because I've played it almost non-stop for the past 3 years. Let me put it this way... each time that I thought I was sick of the game, and was going to stop to play another game (or walk outside to see the sun), I'd always come crawling back a couple days later, petting the CD saying, "I'm sorry I ever left you. Did you miss me?" Yes, I'm a dork.

I gave this game a perfect 10.0 because there is really no possible way to balance anything in the game any more. There is no overpowering god, overall. It's as good as it's going to get. It's tweaked very well, and it shows. And when you can't get it any better, I think that deserves a perfect score.

Ok, I'm done with this review now. It's true I dropped out of college, but hopefully this review was put together well enough that you can't tell I'm non-edumicated. :D