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Age of Mythology

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Age of Mythology

Age of Mythology (commonly abbreviated as AoM), is a mythology-based, real-time strategy computer game developed by Ensemble Studios, and published by Microsoft Game Studios. It was released on November 1, 2002 in North America, and a week later in Europe.[1]

Age of Mythology focuses less on historical accuracy than the previous games of the Age of Empires series, and instead centers upon the mythology and legends of the Greeks, Egyptians, and Norse. Its campaign follows an Atlantean admiral, Arkantos, who is forced to travel through the lands of the three civilizations in the game, hunting for a cyclops who seeks to release Kronos.[2]

Only four months after its release, Age of Mythology went platinum, selling over 1,000,000 units.[3] General manager for PC games at Microsoft, Stuart Moulder, said that "The worldwide popularity of the entire franchise continues to grow, while the fans' excitement inspires the development team at Ensemble Studios to create more innovative games each year."[3]

Age of Mythology: The Titans, an expansion to Age of Mythology, was released on September 30, 2003.[4] The expansion contained a new civilization; the Atlanteans, and several new units, including the titans. Critics and fans received the expansion with enthusiasm, although its ratings were not as high as that of the original version.[5]

Gameplay Edit

Like many other real-time strategy games, Age of Mythology is based on building towns, gathering resources, creating armies, and ultimately destroying enemy units and buildings. In this way, players are able to defeat and conquer rival towns and civilizations. Players advance their tribe through four "Ages": starting in the Archaic Age, the player may upgrade to the Classical Age, Heroic Age, and, finally, the Mythic Age. Each upgrade to a higher Age unlocks new units and technologies for the player, which strengthens their town. Conversely, upgrading requires a large amount of resources to be paid, and certain buildings to be built.[6]

There are three playable civilizations in Age of Mythology: the Greeks, Egyptians, and Norse. Each civilization has three "major gods"—deities such as Zeus or Odin. The player chooses their major god before the game begins. Every time a player advances to the next age, a "minor god" is selected. Minor gods are slightly less historically significant than their major counterparts. Some minor gods include Bast and Hel.[7] All gods have unique technologies, myth units, and a unique god power, which is a special ability that can either damage an opponent, or benefit the player that uses it.[8]

There are four major resources in Age of Mythology: food, wood, gold, and favor; unlike previous games by Ensemble Studios, this game does not include the stone resource. Resources can be used to train units, construct buildings, and research technologies, among other things. Civilian units—namely, the Greek villagers, Norse gatherers and dwarves, and the Egyptian laborers, and fishing ships—are used to gather resources. Hunting animals, gathering berries, harvesting livestock, farming, and fishing are all methods by which food can be gathered. Wood is gathered only by chopping down trees, and gold is gathered from either gold mines or from trade. Each civilization can purchase upgrades that increase the rate of gathering these resources. Favor is acquired in different ways by different civilizations; Greek players gain it by having villagers pray at temples, Egyptian players earn it by building monuments, and Norse players receive it by fighting, or by possessing heroes.[9] Resources can be exchanged at a player's market.

Units Edit

For more detail see: Units (Age of Mythology)

The bulk of each civilization’s army is made of human soldiers. Each civilization has a maximum number of "population slots," although the player does not start with all of these available. Building additional houses or Town Centers increases the population capacity. Each unit takes up a different number of population slots; civilians take one, whilst some myth units can take up to five.[10] Most units can be upgraded, making them better at certain tasks.[11]

Units can be classified into seven categories; infantry, archers, cavalry (the three of which are broadly classified as human units), siege weaponry, naval units, heroes, and myth units.[12] The rock-paper-scissors model governs most units in battle. For example, infantry do additional damage to cavalry, cavalry do additional damage to archers, and archers do additional damage to infantry. The same rock-paper-scissors formation exists in the three different types of naval units—arrow ships, siege ships, and hammer ships. Siege units are generally exempt from the rock-paper-scissors model, but are instead able to destroy buildings easily. Heroes are extremely effective against myth units, which in turn do large amounts of damage against human units.[13] Heroes are also able to collect relics, which grant the player additional economic or military bonuses when deposited in the player’s temple.[14]

Buildings Edit

Buildings in Age of Mythology can generally be split into three categories; economic buildings, military buildings, and defensive structures. The most important economic building is the Town Center (similar to the building of the same name in other Age of Empires series games). All civilian units are trained at the Town Center, as are some vital technologies. Most importantly, players advance through the ages via the building. The Town Center provides 15 population slots, and building additional houses will earn the player ten additional slots per house.[10] Other economic buildings include the farm and market.

Buildings are able to research technologies and upgrades, as well as provide resources for the player. However, they are unable to fight or train units.[10] All units except civilians are trained at military buildings. These buildings differ in name and usage between civilization, but all are able to train similar units. Military buildings are also used to research military specific technologies, such as armor upgrades and attack improvements.[10]

Walls and towers are defensive structures, which are not able to train units, and are used only for the purposes of defense. They are able to research some upgrades, although these are generally only useful to the building performing the research.[10] Another type of building available to players, is a Wonder; a grand building that represents an architectural achievement of the civilization. In certain game modes, once a player builds a wonder, a ten minute countdown begins. If the wonder is still standing after the countdown ends, the player who built the wonder wins.[10]

Multiplayer Edit

Multiplayer is highly popular aspect of Age of Mythology. Most multiplayer games are played through Ensemble Studios Online (ESO), or via a direct LAN or IP connection.

Age of Mythology includes one free multiplayer account on ESO. Similar in function to Blizzard Entertainment's, ESO allows players to play matches and chat with other players.[15]

In multiplayer games, there are seven different game types available;[16]

  • Supremacy – standard game, includes randomly generated map and all gameplay aspects.
  • Conquest – similar to Supremacy, but victory is only possible by defeating all other players.
  • Deathmatch – players begin the game with high resources, but the game is otherwise the same as Supremacy.
  • Lightning – similar to Supremacy, but the game plays at double speed.
  • Nomad – players start with one civilian unit and no Town Center, and must build up on a settlement before continuing.
  • King of the Hill – players must fight for control of a monument in the center of the map for a set period of time.
  • Sudden Death – If a player's Town Center is destroyed, they have a set period of time to rebuild it before they lose the game.

Multiplayer tournaments and LAN parties are also popular throughout the world, with players flocking to computer gaming lounges to participate.

Scenario editor Edit

The Age of Mythology editor is far more advanced then that of its predecessor; Age of Empires II.[17] As well as standard unit placement facilities, the editor allows units to be overlapped, and it facilitates for large mountains, and steep terrain.[18] Triggers, a popular aspect of scenario design in Age of Empires II, are also present in Age of Mythology’s editor, as are cinematics and other special effects.[19]

Civilizations Edit

Campaign Edit

Unlike the campaign modes in Age of Empires and Age of Empires II, Age of Mythology only has one central campaign.

Age of Mythology’s campaign is entitled Fall of the Trident, and tells the story of Arkantos, an Atlantean admiral who is sent on a quest with the goal of regaining favor from Poseidon, God of the Atlantean people.[2]

Arkantos’ quest takes him to the Trojan War, where he meets Ajax, Agamemnon, and Odysseus. After assisting them in winning the war, he continues in his travels, and meets Chiron. Chiron advises him to follow the cyclops, Gargarensis, a follower of Poseidon.[20] Arkantos, Ajax, and Chiron travel through the Underworld in their search for Gargarensis, and end up in Egypt.

In Egypt, Arkantos meets Amanra, a mercenary queen, who asks for his assistance in domestic issues. He obliges, and assists her in defeating an ally of Gargarensis, Kemsyt. While in Egypt, Arkantos learns the true story about Gargarensis: he hopes to gain immortality by freeing the Titan Kronos from Tartarus.[12] He continues north, still in search of Gargarensis.

In the Norse lands, Arkantos meets Reginleif a valkyrie, and together they attempt to prevent Ragnarok from taking place. They encounter Gargarensis again, and he traps them in a small valley with no escape. In this valley, they must survive onslaughts from Gargarensis’ forces, and wait for aid from Odysseus.[21]

Whilst the heroes are fighting Gargarensis’ forces, he establishes himself in Atlantis, locking up its former leaders. To conclude the campaign, Arkantos and his allies march on Atlantis, and Zeus bestows his blessing upon Arkantos, giving him the power to defeat Poseidon and Gargarensis. Arkantos uses this power to kill Poseidon’s living statue and Gargarensis. Poseidon is enraged at the plan's failure and destroys Atalantis. Arkantos is unable to escape but is immortalized by Athena and becomes a god.

The Golden Gift DLC Edit

An official campaign, The Golden Gift, was released as a download on Microsoft's website. The campaign follows adventures of Brokk and Eitri, the dwarves who appeared in the Age of Mythology campaign. The plot unfolds with both dwarves planning to create a giant Golden Boar as an offering to the Norse God Freyr. While working separately, Brokk is approached by Skult (also from Fall of the Trident) who warns him that Eitri is making preparations to create the Boar without his brother, of which Eitri is also told the same about Brokk. As both brothers race to complete the Boar in the great forge, Skult steals the finished piece and hold it in Loki's fortress. The brothers eventually assault the base and the Boar is eventually retrieved and successfully offered to Freyr.

Development Edit

Ensemble Studios began work on their first fully 3D engine in parallel to their development of Age of Empires II. Christened the BANG! Engine, this was announced in January 2001 for use in a new game, codenamed RTSIII. RTSIII would eventually become Age of Mythology.[22]

In developing Age of Mythology, Ensemble Studios decided to move away from the center of the Age of Empires Series; history, to avoid becoming stale and repetitive. This allowed them to work with new ideas and concepts.[23]

Following the announcement of the game for September 2002,[24] a trial version was released to the public.[25] This contained a shortened version of the game’s campaign (5 scenarios) and two random maps. In the trial version, the player could select any of the nine Gods available in the full version of the game.[25]

Age of Mythology underwent a large amount of play-testing during its developmental phase, as Ensemble Studios attempted to create a more balanced and competitive game than its predecessors. Greg T. Street commented that one of the reasons Age of Mythology is so popular is because the development team spent many hours working on the game through active testing, rather than just taking advice from a "faceless drone in another building."[26]

There was much debate during Age of Mythology’s construction concerning the unbalanced nature of God powers, and how to make them “fair”, whilst still maintaining an element of fun in them. It was concluded that the best way to make it fair for everyone was to limit the use of god powers to one a game.[27]

On September 30, 2003, Ensemble Studios released an expansion to Age of Mythology, entitled Age of Mythology: The Titans.[4] It contained a new civilization, the Atlanteans, as well as new units and a new mythological race, the titans. The expansion was received well by critics and fans alike, though its rating was not as high as that of the original.[5]

Soundtrack Edit

A soundtrack to Age of Mythology was released on October 22, 2002, under the record label "Sumthing Else".[28] Music director Steven Rippy said the game's score, and soundtrack, were based on musicians including Peter Gabriel, Tuatara, and Bill Laswell, as well as the video game Grim Fandango.[29] He also said that the musical work done on Age of Mythology was unlike anything he had done before. An example of this was "writing for a seventy-piece orchestra and then flying out to Washington to record it."[30] Sound artist Kevin McMullan agreed, stating that "working with a live orchestra and creating a dynamic music system have been the most unique aspects of this project."[29]

In their review of the soundtrack, Avalanche Online stated that "Age of Mythology has an acustic [sic] sound that brings you back to the Earth's roots."[31] The only criticism in the review was for the 16th track; "Gary's Reserve," with the reviewer writing "Whatever possessed them to place a jazzy dance track on the end of the wondrous non electric musical heaven and make it feel so out of place is beyond me."[31] Regardless of this, the soundtrack was still rated 10 out of 10, and its review concluded with the statement "I really cannot enthuse over this soundtrack enough."[31]

Track listing Edit

The tracks appearing on the soundtrack are as follows:[32]

  1. Cat Named Mittens, A (Main Title)
  2. Eat Your Potatoes
  3. Chocolate Outline
  4. Never Mind The Slacks And Bashers
  5. Suture Self
  6. Flavor Cats (In The Comfort Zone)
  7. Slaysenflite, (Fine Layers Of)
  8. Hoping For Real Betterness
  9. Adult Swim
  10. Ballad Of Ace LeBaron, The
  11. In A Pile Of Its Own Good
  12. Behold The Great Science Fi
  13. Have You Met Her Thunder (Trailer Soundtrack)
  14. If You Can Use A Doorknob (Victory Theme)
  15. Ma'am...Some Other Sunset (Defeat Theme)
  16. Gary's Reserve (End Credits)
  17. Eat Your Potatoes – (quiet mix)

Reception Edit

Review scores
Publication Score Comments
9.3 out of 10[21]
9.2 out of 10[12]
9.3 out of 10[33]
Simply divine
Based on 31 reviews
Game Rankings
Based on 47 media outlets

Age of Mythology was well-received by the public, reaching an estimated 1 million units sold within five months of its release.[36]

The game was nominated for the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' Interactive Achievement Awards for computer game of the year,[37] and strategy computer game of the year.[38]

Age of Mythology received a score of 9.3 points out of 10 on IGN.[21] Reviewer Steve Butts stated that "Age of Mythology is much more polished and gripping than any of their previous efforts" (referring to the Age of Empires Series).[21] He rated the game's presentation as 9.5 points out of 10, commenting the campaign provided an almost perfect gaming experience, whilst the code was solid and stable.[39] The game's graphics scored 9 points out of 10, with Butts declaring that "Some fantastic effects and believable animations make this one a joy to watch."[39] Although he stated that the music was occasionally repetitive, the reviewer still rated it 9 points out of 10, mainly because of its "first rate voice-acting."[39] The gameplay was highly applauded (9.5 points out of 10), which Butts simply saying "I haven't played an RTS this fun in a long, long time."[39]

Gamespot's Greg Kasavin gave the game a 9.2 out of 10; gameplay was ranked 9 out of 10, with Kasavin stating that "you'll get the impression from Age of Mythology that the designers spent their time further adjusting the gameplay conventions that they themselves have already helped pioneer.".[40] The graphics also scored 9 points out of 10, with the comment that "Age of Mythology is a great-looking game, filled with bright colors and carefully detailed animations."[41] The reviewer was very fond of Age of Mythology's sound, stating that "it has a stirring musical score that's distinctly different for each of the civilizations, and unit voices are done in the three cultures' native languages," and ranking it 9 points out of 10.[41] Age of Mythology was rated 10 points out of 10 in the value criteria, with Kasavin stating that "Age of Mythology offers tremendous lasting value in either its single-player or multiplayer mode."[41] Finally, the game scored 9 points out of 10 in the tilt criteria, for an average of 9.2 points.[12]

Review website Netjak gave Age of Mythology a score of 9.3 points out of 10, praising it as being "simply divine".[33] The gameplay was ranked 10 points out of 10, with the reviewer appreciatively stating that "the single player campaign is the "meat" of the game."[33] The graphics were also rated highly; 9 points out of 10, and the game's 3D animation (as opposed to the 2D animation in the Age of Empires series) was applauded highly. The review complimented the sound for not being overly interfering, but instead providing "a pleasant backdrop to the action, while managing to not overpower the ambiance."[33] The game received a replay value score of 9 points out of 10, for an average of 9.3 points.[33]

Age of Mythology received a metascore of 89 points out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 31 reviews. This score included five reviews which gave the game a 100% ranking.[34] 30 website users gave the game an average score of 8.2 points.[42] Age of Mythology was ranked similarly highly on Game Rankings, with a score of 89% based on 47 media outlets.[35] All of the reviews presented gave the game a score of at least 70%.[43]

Expansion Edit

The official expansion to Age of Mythology is known as Age of Mythology: The Titans Expansion, or just The Titans for short. It introduces a new faction, the Atlanteans and a 12 mission campaign featuring Arkantos's son Kastor as he and the surviving Atlanteans struggle to regain their lost glory by following the ancient Titans.

References Edit

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  32. Microsoft Corporation Age of Mythology - Soundtrack. Published 2002. Retrieved July 28, 2007
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