I remember when I first brought Age of Mythology many years ago. I’d spent most of my childhood whittling away hours on Age of Empires II, so I it was no surprise that this twist in the series was an instant hit with me, the disk slowly becoming a scratched but well-loved treasure that rarely left my disk drive. I loved the diversity of the units and powers, and the sprawling and often difficult campaign meant I’d spend hours replaying missions until I finally conquered my enemies in what was for me one of the best games of my childhood. As the years went and my game collection grew, I always had a special place for real time strategies so I was naturally very excited to hear about the release of both Mythology Extended and Empires HD and purchased the latter on release. Despite my initial excitement my feelings soon turned to frustration; it really was just a HD re-release, with little in the way of new or improved content. Sadly I’m a sucker for nostalgia, and decided to give Age of Mythology: Extended Edition a go despite my feelings on its predecessor, with high hopes and some nerves that more had been done to justify repurchasing a game that I’d played to death ten years ago.
Playing host to both the original game and its expansion pack the Titans, Age of Mythology: Extended Edition encompasses all the units, adjustments and the three campaigns this fourteen year old game had collected in its youth, with a sprinkle of new to try and bring it into modern times. For newcomers to the genre and the Age of Empires series, most missions have you collecting resources to build an army to complete various tasks, often involving bringing down enemy camps and fortresses, with the ultimate task of quashing your foes armies. You play as one of four civilizations including the ancient Greeks and the Norse, each one having their own unique units, buildings and Gods. While most units are your run of the mill soldiers, archers and cavalry, each civilization comes complete with mythological beasts to take to war, from Minotaurs to Centaurs. These units are stronger and more formidable than your standard swordsman, so an army with a strong backbone of monsters is often the army that wins the war. The expansion campaign also makes use of the Titans, who are essentially giant myth units capable of doing massive damage to troops and buildings.
Gods play a big part in Age of Mythology and are probably the biggest difference to the rest of the early Age of series. Each civilization has different minor Gods they can favour, with each granting the player different upgrades, units and powers. Picking your Gods carefully is an important step to victory as each one often favours a different style of play, with some opting to give you more aggressive powers and units while some will provide you with defensive or resource building attributes. Powers are often one use but can often change the outcome of a battle. Some, such as lightning storms and meteor strikes can do massive damage to enemy units and buildings, whereas the bronze armour power can gives your troops a defensive boost at crucial moments of battle.
While quite a lot of the campaigns levels sticks to the gather build and destroy formula, many missions break away and have you do anything from defending a target or making your way across the map with just a small force. The main campaign is lengthy and sees you lead the Greeks through the Trojan War all the way to Africa and beyond, and once you’re finished with that you can work your way through the shorter Titan campaign and the bonus Golden Gift missions. While there’s quite a lot to work through don’t expect every step to be quality, as some levels are a little unpolished, and the dialogue and cut scenes are mostly cheesy, skipable nonsense.
If you finish the single player stuff and want another challenge, you can take your armies online, providing you can find someone to actually play against, as quite a few times I’ve connected only to find a very small amount of people actually playing. Hopefully as more people pick this up the online will improve as although it’s fun alone it’s a completely different and ultimately more satisfying experience with others. There is of course the skirmish mode for more single player fun, but once the campaigns are done you’ll definitely want to find someone else to reminisce with.
Sadly, most of Age of Mythologies main draws and quirks now just feel dated when compared to other modern games of this ilk, and this Extended Edition does little to improve or bring it forward to really make it stand out in a genre that has come a long way over the years. Even with the shiny HD trimmings and improved water and lighting, it feels almost identical to the game I played over ten years ago. Thankfully with the integration of the Steam Workshop you can rely on the public to do the hard work, as within hours of release mods started appearing to improve and enhance the experience. Homemade maps and campaigns might keep you playing for longer, but it’s things like texture mods that you’ll be installing almost straight away that help address some of the problems that should have really been dealt with by the developers.
If anything, this re-release serves as a great way to play a fully working version of a classic, especially if you’ve never played this before, but just like Age of Empires II HD, don’t expect too many adjustments. It’s still a lot of fun, but sadly not enough has been tweaked to make this feel anything other than outdated.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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