E3 06: Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs Impressions

Producer Wally Wachi gives us interesting new details as to how the new Native American civilizations will work in the Age of Empires III expansion.


LOS ANGELES--We got our first good look at The WarChiefs, the upcoming expansion pack to Age of Empires III, Microsoft's hit real-time strategy game. We knew going into the show that The WarChiefs would introduce three new Native American civilizations to play, as well as a new campaign, and new content for the existing European civilizations in the core game. Wally Wachi, producer of the expansion, gave us close look at what's new.

Developer Ensemble has only revealed two of the three Native American tribes in the expansion: The Sioux and the Iroquois. The third, according to Wachi, is still a secret. Still, we managed to learn many cool new details about how the Native American civilization will work in the game. For instance, the Native American tribes don't have a home city like the European civilizations do. Instead, they have a tribal council, which can send many of the same kind of resources and reinforcements that the home city does for the Europeans.

One of the unique aspects of the Native American civilizations is that they can build a fire pit, which is a versatile structure that can be used to boost many aspects of the economy. The fire pit is just that, a huge bonfire, but the more villagers that you add to dance around it (the maximum is 25), the faster it can generate special powers, depending on the dance that you choose. For instance, a gift dance will boost how fast you gain experience, which will allow the tribal council to send you shipments faster. Another dance may boost the hit points on units, as well as the WarChief, the powerful new explorer unit in the game.

According to Wachi, the problem with the explorer unit for the European civilizations is that the explorer's powers didn't scale as the game went on, so it quickly became obsolete. That won't be the case with the WarChief, which is a huge unit on the battlefield. The WarChief has special powers, such as the ability to convert guardians on treasure spots, so he can turn a bear to his side and use it to help defeat the other bear at the site, and then reap the rewards afterward. The WarChief also has a huge number of hit points, and a truly gigantic amount if you use a special war dance. The WarChief can also boost the hit points of units around him, so he'll be important to keep close to a fight.

We also learned some new details on the Sioux, the horse specialists of the game. The Sioux can hit hard and hit fast, thanks to their focus on mounted units, and since they're nomadic by nature, the Sioux get a 200 population cap at the beginning of a game. That's a lot, but Wachi said that they're still working to balance the game, so keep in mind that all of these details may change between now and launch.

Throw in the new 15-scenario campaign, along with a return to the Black family saga that began in the original Age of Empires III, and The WarChiefs promises a lot of content for one of the top-selling PC games of recent years. The expansion is scheduled to ship sometime this fall.

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