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Age of Mythology Extended Edition Review: A Relic Of The Past

Platform: Windows PC
Developer: Skybox Labs, Ensemble 
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: 5/8/14

 

Following up on last year’s HD re-release of Age of Empires II, Microsoft Studios are bringing another classic to gamers in the form of Age of Mythology: Extended Edition. To say I’m excited would be a pretty big understatement – I’m positively ecstatic about the game. As far as I can remember, I had only really dipped my feet into the world of adventure games before getting my hands on the original Age of Mythology and to put it bluntly, AoM is probably the reason that video games are as important as they are to me.

For those who haven’t heard of it before, Age of Mythology was a spin-off series from Age of Empires that made things a bit less historical and a bit more fantastical. Age of Mythology threw a slew of new resource gathering mechanics into the mix through having to gather favor for your gods and also made a number of cool empowering additions to the RTS genre through branching tech trees that let you unlock impressive god powers. Gone were battles based on real historical events and in its place was a globe-trotting campaign that saw you lead a determined Atlantean general across Greece, Egypt and The Norselands.

This remastered release bundles together the original game alongside its expansion pack, The Titans. AoM: Extended Edition also comes with a number of visual and technical improvements – notably improved water, lighting and shadow effects – that help to ensure the game ages gracefully. This re-release also throws in some heavy Steamworks and Twitch integration and a totally-revamped multiplayer component.

Age of Mythology: EE Sc1

On one hand, returning to Age of Mythology’s campaign reminded me just how far we’ve come in terms of telling game narratives. It follows Atlantean general Arkantos who is called away to assist the Greek war in Troy and then finds himself hunting down sinister, poetry-spewing cyclops who wants to end the world. The story is told through cut-scenes that act as intermissions for each of the scenarios in the campaign; fans of Starcraft or Command & Conquer’s single player offering will be right at home here. While the campaign’s pantheon-crossing adventures and Saturday morning cartoon-inspired characters are a little bit over the top, it’s never too much and it’s hard to not find a story that pits hydras and cyclops against frost giants and nidhoggs endearing.

The campaign runs for about thirty-two or so levels and The Titans throws in another dozen. Extended Edition also comes with another short campaign called ‘The Golden Gift’

Age of Mythology EE: sc3

I recently dove back into the original Age of Mythology and while the original’s graphics still hold up pretty well, the additions that this re-release brings are definitely welcome. There’s only so much that could have been done here but the water improvements in particular feel like they give the game a much crisper look. Between the improved shadows, lighting and anti-aliasing and ambient occlusion support that Extended Edition adds, it all comes together to give the game a new coat of paint – it now looks just as good as our nostalgia helps up remember it being and that’s pretty exciting.

Just like the story, the gameplay of Age of Mythology: Extended Edition is a relic from a bygone era of RTS design – not to say that’s a bad thing. Age of Mythology basically plays the same as every other RTS from around the time it was released – you gather resources, build a base, raise an army and crush your foes. Although there has been a shift away from this style of RTS towards more fast-paced games, it never really feels like things are taking too long to happen in Age of Mythology. As mentioned before, unit variety is great and the branching tech tree that still a brilliant hook that far too few other RTS games have incorporated.

The multiplayer overhaul that Extended Edition brings with it is the final layer of icing on the cake. While there’s far too much randomness that Age of Mythology brings with it (in terms of the game’s god powers) to call it properly competitive, the streamlining of the game’s multiplayer does look to be building a tournament-scene around the game. League and ranking systems have been added and for more casual players there’s a quick play button that took no more than a few seconds to find me an opponent.

Age of Mythology: EE sc4

The one thing that irks me about this re-release is that in spite of the mod-support that Age of Mythology: Extended Edition offers through the Steam Workshop, Microsoft Studios haven’t included any new additions of their own. It would have been awesome if AoM: Extended Edition brought with it some new god powers or units, or even just a short campaign of its own.

It’s undeniably hard to be critical about a game so close to my own gaming roots but Age of Mythology: Extended Edition is a classic reborn. The gameplay is just as good as its always been and the visual improvements let it look just as good as fans remember it.


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