NINTENDO DS REVIEW: AGE OF EMPIRES: THE AGE OF KINGS

With the inclusion of Age of Empires: The Age of Kings, Nintendo's DS is not just for juvenile gaming delinquents, it's also for nerds. by StewXX

February 17, 2006 - Age of Empires is a strategy series that is hugely popular among the PC crowd. The games are deep, fun and highly addictive. All of the moves take place in your brain before you touch a controller. A great deal of thinking is involved but you don't have to be a genius to play the game. A lot of the fun comes from learning and experimenting as you play against the computer with the different difficulty settings or other humans of various skill levels. With a few basic lessons you can be up and running in a few minutes. There is an in-game tutorial that will give you the lowdown on just about everything. The interface will also assist you by prompting you with decisions during actual play. The gameplay can be as light as checkers or as deep as chess. It's really up to you to take it as far as you can go.

This DS version has been overhauled specifically to work within the parameters of the CPU. To this end the game is turn-based and not in real-time as the PC games are. This may be a bit of a disappointment to the PC fans but there are good reasons for the turn-based style. The main obstacle is processing. The DS can't compete with the average home computer. The DS's screens are too small to display larger sections of the map in addition to the interface. It takes some time to scroll through the map to see all of your units. Ultimately the processor is too slow to facilitate real-team control. Keep in mind this is a pretty serious game.

Taking place in Medieval times you can play as five different factions including the Mongols, Japanese, Franks, Saracens and Britons. There are five huge campaigns, one for each faction. You can choose any campaign at any time. Each campaign includes about a half-dozen battles. With popular historic characters such as Joan of Arc, Richard the Lionhearted and Genghis Khan, players are bound to get a history lesson whether they like it or not. I find it fascinating that a game like this brings history to life so painlessly. We get to examine these great leaders and learn how they employed their troops and planned their strategy on the battlefield. Many of these battles changed the course of history - but the outcome can be different every time because you're in control of the situation. It's a great way to be introduced to these people, places and events and I'm sure it will inspire many gamers to mine more information from history books. This is how nerds are created.

The object of the game is to rule the world - or as much of it as you believe exists. Keep in mind that the New World is yet to be discovered. So Asia and Europe will have to suffice. Each civilization has unique weapons and units that they employ. Units that are similar to other civilizations' units are evenly matched for the most part but they all have a unique gimmick that determines the outcome of a particular section of battle in a rock/paper/scissors format. For instance, pikemen can penetrate the armor of knights who are protected against ranged attacks from archers. Pikemen on the other hand can't defend themselves from the archers ranged arrows. Siege weapons such as trebuchets will, in turn, decimate the archers. You can even hire mercenaries and other siege weapons from other civilizations such as the elephant brigade which can do a lot of damage when up against a weaker unit.

Waging wars costs money. Before you can even think about going into battle you have to take care of some things at home first. There is some micromanagement of resources to undertake but nothing that's too detailed or ultimately boring. You have to make sure your population has enough food to keep them healthy, there has to be enough material to construct buildings, and you need a lot of gold to train, outfit and maintain an army as well as purchase new technologies to advance your civilization.

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System: DS
Dev: Backbone
Pub: Majesco
Released: Feb 2006
Players: 1 - 4
Review by StewXX