Age of Empires II Mobile Hands-On

Age of Empires II is gearing up for mobile, and we have the scoop from 3GSM.

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3GSM, CANNES, FRANCE--French mobile publisher In-Fusio has been keeping mum on Age of Empires II for mobile, which may be the most important licensed property it garnered from the 2004 deal with Microsoft. As we saw at the In-Fusio 3GSM demonstration, however, this reticence is in no way representative of the company's confidence in how the game is shaping up. Judging from our quick play with the game, Age of Empires II is likely to be a very strong entry into the real-time, resource-management/strategy pantheon for mobile phones.

We gave an alpha version of AOEII a test-drive on a Motorola V525, and we were impressed by how much content In-Fusio is working into the final product. The game is generally very reminiscent of the earlier PC versions of Age of Empires, sharing the same isometric interface as well as many of the most important gameplay elements. You'll be tasked with collecting three different types of resources--wood, gold, and stone--and building up your territory with facilities like farms and outposts. You'll also be able to micromanage particular units at your leisure, unlike similar real-time simulations on mobile where you can't. For example, you can order one of your peasants to explore the map and find new resources, or you can put together a war party and go raiding. The game will feature two standard historical eras, the Dark Ages and the feudal period, as well as other platform-specific civilizations (the other eras that will be added are unknown at this time). In-Fusio also revealed for the first time that it will release an over-the-air multiplayer module for the game about six months after its release. You'll be able to construct your empire offline, assign your armies their strategy, and then go online to watch them butt heads in the same sort of asynchronous contest utilized by Pocket Kingdom.

In-Fusio has a long way to go before it proclaims a new mobile gaming empire--the alpha version of the game crashed continuously as we were playing it--but it is off to a very promising start, as it already looks and plays like the PC game. Age of Empires II will be ready for its North American release in the late summer. Keep checking the gamespace for more details as they become available.

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