Classic Callback: AGE OF MYTHOLOGY
There’s a special place in my heart for real time strategy games, even just imagining that rush you get whenever you successfully maneuver multiple units and defeat your opponent. However, I don’t often play RTSs anymore, partially due to the fact that I can’t keep up with competitive scene surrounding the genre. Today, most of my experience with strategy games comes from watching others play. But I can always set aside some time to dive into a pool of early 2000s nostalgia with my old trove of the tried-and-true hits of yesteryear. There’s comfort to be found in raising an empire: gaining resources to build further improvements, building more settlements to gather more resources, establishing trade routes, and finally, raising a massive army to protect and expand your borders. Back in my middle school days, there were numerous times I skipped out on doing homework in order to play video games, and boy oh boy, did AGE OF MYTHOLOGY dominate my attention.
Developed by the now-defunct Ensemble Studios and released in 2002, AGE OF MYTHOLOGY is a fantastic RTS game. Many will be familiar with Ensemble’s flagship franchise, Age of Empires, where you battle it out as a number of great civilizations throughout history. AGE OF MYTHOLOGY is more of a spinoff of this franchise, as it still maintains most of Empires’ gameplay mechanics and presentation. However, the main difference is right there in the title. Instead of taking on the role of the leader of an empire, you take the role of a leader of an ancient civilization, guided by one of the classic gods of ancient religions.
Doesn’t the sheer amount of chaos in this image attract your attention, even just a little?
Just like in other RTS titles, you are the commander of a group of tiny little units on a large map. Where AGE OF MYTHOLOGY differs is its combination of historical scenarios and classic mythological stories derived from ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Norse culture. The possibility exists for you to wage classic battles outside the walls of Troy or enact sword clashes in the desert, but the added mythological element opens up a whole new realm of experiences. You can order mortal archers to attack a rival settlement . . . or you can send in a herd of centaurs. Your catapult can tear down a wall, but why not have a fire giant take on that task instead?
Similar to most RTS games, you will start off with nothing and need resources to build improvements and spawn units. Depending on what you are aiming to construct, you will need different types of resources ranging from gold to wood and food. Where AGE OF MYTHOLOGY differs from other real time strategy games is the added resource of “favor” generated for your specific god.
Favor is by far the most interesting and unique resource in the game. With more favor you gain access to “myth” units and god-like powers. The twist is that the method in which you gain favor changes depending on your selected culture. Greeks build temples and assign worshippers to them to gain favor from their gods, while attacking enemy units is the main way to please the Norse pantheon.
A magical world where shrines and peasant fields can happily coexist as neighbors
Making the most of your mythological units and god powers are the heart of the game. An army of scarabs, cyclops, or medusas outperforms a similar crew of mortal soldiers, and it definitely feels cooler, too. Myth units are not only stronger than your regular unit, they bring an added flare to the game. Ancient myths, unlike most other fantasy stories, revolve around our own reality, but it still feels like a different world where real people actually worshiped and believed in these gods. That AGE OF MYTHOLOGY mashes together ancient cultures who would have no real business with each other is an added bonus, not unlike the zaniness found in FOR HONOR.
AGE OF MYTHOLOGY offers a wealth of content from the get go. I would personally recommend diving into the campaign mode first. All the major gods and every unit will be usable at some point of the game, and the story is fun to go through; however, the moment you have a total grasp over the game, you should head over and discover Versus mode. The addicting nature will not let you escape from you computer screen. Furthermore, AGE OF MYTHOLOGY has a fantastic multiplayer and map editor. Hours of variations are available, ensuring that no single match is ever the same as another. Even when playing against the AI, you will be surprised by how tough matches end up becoming. The only tip I can give is to gear up for the long haul before starting a match. You will most likely be there for the next hour or two, glued to your screen, making sure that every unit has a specific role, that your army size matches the enemies at their gates while still having enough to protect your home, or hoping to get enough favor points to spawn just one more monster to tip the battle in your favor.
The flip side to AGE OF MYTHOLOGY’s addicting nature is how entrancing it soundtrack is. The music becomes mesmerizing and has catchy tunes beautifully themed around the environments, many of which become inescapable earworms. It even got to the point where I took some of my time to learn one of the songs on guitar. Sound effects, on the other hand, can become repetitive to listen to, especially when every click you make has a corresponding sound. Don’t get me wrong, I can now speak a little bit of ancient Greek after hearing “Prostagma?” each time I select a unit, but even that got old around the 60th time. (Fortunately, you can silence these sound bites in the options menu.)
Just another average Tuesday
It’s been more than 10 years since its original launch, and I still find myself picking up this game. An EXTENDED EDITION also released fairly recently, expanding the available gods, cultures, and myth units of the already packed game, as well as overhauling the graphics. When it comes to real time strategy, AGE OF MYTHOLOGY is an obvious property to recommend. The game is not only simple to understand, but fully immerses you in the excitement and challenge of running your own empire. The mythological aspect is attractive and helps this game stand out in the abundance of real time strategy games, giving the genre a nice twist in the process. Hours of your life will be lost to this game seeing the grand variety of matches, and no two skirmishes will ever be alike. AGE OF MYTHOLOGY is an amazing experience, and if you haven’t played it yet, you should definitely pick up a copy and lose yourself in the world of ancient mythology for a spell.
AGE OF MYTHOLOGY is available on PC.