Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Review: Age of Empires (DS)

Age of Empires - Age of Kings for the DS is handheld strategy at its best: time-consuming, detailed, well balanced and turn-based. The dual screens allows immediate map overview and statistic information is easy to access without having to leave the battlefield. The stylus, however, feels clumsy and inaccurate; you'll soon discover that using the d-pad is a much more effective way of handling units. As in most other strategy games, real-time or not, resource management is key. Age of Empires is no exception. In short, that means the tried and tested gold, gold, gold, upgrade, attack formula is applicable in this case as well.

Still, Age of Empires is indeed a very joyful experience. However, some minor issues might suggest otherwise. Graphics and animations are crude, and although the isometric view is clean and easy to navigate, units have the tendency to clutter the screen. The game also suffers from poor AI at times, and tends only to challenge when playing pre-set scenarios with fixed resources and armies. Even on a higher difficulty setting enemies either slumber, attacking only when spotting player units, or (most noticeably in multiplayer) wage two-front wars without the means or resources to back it up. Also, the one-turn research output diminishes the scope of the scenarios, but since some battles take several hours to finish, that might not necessarily be a bad thing.

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