Gen Con 2002Age of Mythology impressions

We take a good look at the next real-time strategy game from the creator of Age of Empires II.

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We hit Microsoft's booth at Gen Con 2002 and watched Ensemble's next project, the colorful real-time strategy game Age of Mythology, in motion. The game was very graciously shown to us by Ensemble designer (and id Software alumnus) Paul Jacquays, and it really seems to be coming together. Both the single-player campaign and multiplayer component have been implemented into the game, and Ensemble's recently announced closed alpha test should be starting soon--applicants who were accepted into the test phase should be receiving their test CDs in the next few days.

Age of Mythology's multiplayer component currently consists of about 23 different maps of normal to large size that feature a good mix of different terrain types, including desert, grassy plains, and water. In multiplayer play, players will begin their game by choosing any of the three major gods of any of the game's three different playable cultures, the Norse, the Greeks, and the Egyptians. They can also choose which minor gods they'll recruit when they "age up"--that is, build and research enough new structures and technology to advance to the next historical age. The game's multiplayer component will also feature a "balanced" culture option that will randomly select a player's major and minor gods. Players will be able to play games with up to 16 different simultaneous opponents, who can all be different players or computer-controlled cultures that can be set at different behavior patterns, such as random, balanced, aggressive rusher, and so forth. Age of Mythology will have several different multiplayer modes, including, among others, supremacy (the standard "beat everyone else" mode), king of the hill, and golden fleece--a gameplay mode in which players must scour the map and collect the most goats to win. According to Jacquays, both the multiplayer and the single-player portions of Age of Mythology are more or less feature-complete, so they're both currently being tweaked and polished.

Age of Mythology's single-player campaign will follow the career of a Greek hero unit named Arkanthos. The beginning of Arkanthos' career--the first few scenarios of the game--will largely serve as a comprehensive tutorial on how to play the game and make use of its various units and structures. Though Age of Mythology's heroes won't gain experience levels like the heroes in Blizzard's popular strategy game Warcraft III, they will be considerably tougher than normal infantry units, may be able to receive further enhancements from the use of various god powers, and may also be especially effective in battle against the mythological units--fantastic creatures like centaurs, hydras, and death hounds. Though players will follow the career of Arkanthos throughout the campaign, they'll have opportunities to join with and command armies that are affiliated with the Egpytian and Norse cultures as well.

Age of Mythology already looks quite good in motion. Its 3D graphics are crisp, though they retain the distinctive look of detailed isometric-view buildings and animated units that Ensemble made famous with its Age of Empires series. The game will let you rotate your camera view and zoom in extremely close, though it won't let you zoom out much farther than the default view, as keeping an eye on your important hero and myth units in battle is crucial to success.

Age of Mythology will be a colorful real-time strategy game that will break from the historical theme of its predecessors, the Age of Empires series, by featuring sorcery, the intervention of gods, and mythical creatures. The game is currently scheduled for release this October. For more information on Age of Mythology, be sure to check out our extensive preview coverage .

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jakeboudville

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pretty impressive