Age of Mythology

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Age of Mythology
Age of Mythology cover
Age of Mythology cover
Developer(s)Ensemble Studios
Publisher(s)Microsoft Game Studios
MacSoft
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows,[1]
Mac OS X[2]
Release date(s)
Genre(s)Real-time strategy
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer
DistributionCD-ROM
 
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Age of Mythology
Age of Mythology cover
Age of Mythology cover
Developer(s)Ensemble Studios
Publisher(s)Microsoft Game Studios
MacSoft
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows,[1]
Mac OS X[2]
Release date(s)
Genre(s)Real-time strategy
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer
DistributionCD-ROM

Age of Mythology (commonly abbreviated to AoM), is a mythology-based, real-time strategy computer game developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft Game Studios. It was released on October 30, 2002 in North America and a week later in Europe.[3]

A spin-off from the Age of Empires series, Age of Mythology takes inspiration from the myths and legends of the Greeks, Egyptians, and Norse, rather than from actual history.[4] However, many gameplay elements are similar to the Age of Empires series. Its campaign follows an Atlantean admiral, Arkantos, who is forced to travel through the lands of the game's three cultures, hunting for a cyclops who is in league with Poseidon against Atlantis.[5]

Age of Mythology was commercially successful, going platinum four months after its release after selling over one million units.[6] It also achieved critical acclaim, scoring 89% on both Game Rankings and Metacritic.[7][8]

Gameplay[edit]

Like many other real-time strategy games, Age of Mythology is based on defeating enemy units and towns, building your own units and towns, training villagers and fighters. 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, the Heroic Age, and finally, the Mythic Age. Each upgrade to a higher Age unlocks new units and technologies for the player, which strengthens their settlement. However, upgrading requires a sum of resources to be paid and a certain prerequisite building to be constructed.[9]

In this screenshot, an Egyptian town under attack by the Norse, defending itself using the meteor god power.

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 significant historically than their major counterparts. Some minor gods include Bast and Aphrodite.[10] All gods grant the player unique technologies, myth units, and a unique "god power"—A one-time special ability that can either damage an opponent, or benefit the player that uses it.[11]

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 dwarfs, the Egyptian laborers, and fishing boats—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/hunting animals or by possessing heroes.[12] Resources can be exchanged at a player's market, with the exception of favor.

Units[edit]

Every unit in the game takes up between 1 and 5 "population slots".[13] Building additional houses or Town Centers—the main building in a player's town—increases the population capacity, up to a maximum of 300.

Units can be classified into seven categories; infantry, archers, cavalry,—the three of which are broadly classified as human unitssiege weaponry, naval units, heroes, and myth units.[14] 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, while being vulnerable to cavalry attacks. Heroes are extremely effective against myth units, which in turn do large amounts of damage against human units.[15] Heroes are also able to collect relics, which grant the player additional economic or military bonuses when deposited in a player's temple.[16] Most units can be upgraded, making them better at certain tasks.[17]

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, which is similar to the building of the same name in the Age of Empires series games. Most civilian units are trained at the town center, as are some technologies. Most importantly, players advance Age via the building. The town center provides fifteen population slots, and building additional houses will earn the player ten additional slots per house. In the Classical Age, players may claim settlements (unclaimed town centres) for additional population slots. In some cases owning all town centres will trigger a countdown to victory.[13] Other economic buildings include the farm and market.

Buildings are able to research technologies and upgrades, as well as provide resources for the player.[13] All units except civilians and myth units are trained at military buildings. These buildings differ in name and purpose between civilizations, 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.[13]

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.[13] 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.[13]

Multiplayer[edit]

Multiplayer is a 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 included unlimited free multiplayer accounts on ESO. As of December 2011 it is no longer possible to create new accounts but access to already created ones is still possible. Similar in function to Blizzard Entertainment's Battle.net, ESO allows players to play matches, as well as chat with other players.[18]

In multiplayer games, there are seven different game types available, all of which are provided as standard with the game:[19] Supremacy—the standard game mode—includes randomly generated map and all gameplay aspects; Conquest is similar to Supremacy, but victory is only possible by defeating all other players; in Deathmatch players begin the game with high resources, but the game is otherwise the same as Supremacy; in Lightning, the gameplay is identical to Supremacy, but the game plays at twice the normal speed; in Nomad mode, players start with one civilian unit, and no Town Center, and must build up on a settlement; the goal of King of the Hill is to control a monument in the center of the map for a set period of time; and in Sudden Death, a player loses if their Town Center is destroyed, and they fail to rebuild it within a set period of time.

Multiplayer tournaments and LAN parties are popular throughout the world, with many players visiting computer gaming lounges to participate.[20]

Scenario editor[edit]

The Age of Mythology scenario editor: visible is a large statue surrounded by deep water and the "rotate camera angle" controls, which allow for construction of more complex custom scenarios.

The Age of Mythology editor is far more advanced than that of its predecessor, the Age of Empires II scenario editor.[2] As well as standard unit placement facilities, the editor allows units to be overlapped, and it facilitates for large mountains, and steep terrain.[21] Triggers, a popular aspect of scenario design in Age of Empires II, are also present in Age of Mythology's editor, as well as cinematics and other special effects.[22]

Campaign[edit]

Unlike the campaign modes in Age of Empires and Age of Empires II, Age of Mythology only has one central campaign. The campaign is significantly longer than campaigns in previous games, however, with a total of 32 scenarios.[23]

The campaign opens in Atlantis where their lead admiral Arkantos is set on the goal to regain the favor from Poseidon: God of the Atlantean people. At first, he repels a series of raids by Black Sail pirates led by the minotaur Kamos before being given the task to assist Agamemnon in the Trojan War. After a series of skirmishes against Troy, fighting alongside Ajax and Odysseus, they devise the plan involving the famous Trojan Horse and swiftly win the war. Afterwards, Ajax recommends Arkantos to sail to Ioklos (home of the centaur Chiron) to repair his ships. When they arrive however, the port has been raided. Chiron takes them north to locate the prisoners, who are being forced to dig up an entrance to the underworld under Gargarensis, a cyclops warlord and commander of Kamos. The heroes enter the underworld where Gargarensis is trying to break through a large door way. Cautious of his motives, they destroy the battering ram but are trapped during a cave in. With the help of the dead, they reach three temples dedicated to the Greek gods. Arkantos prays to Atlantis' patron Poseidon to help them, but is refused. Instead, Zeus helps them escape.

They reach the surface in Egypt where they are drawn into aiding Nubian mercenary Amanra against bandits under the assassin Kemsyt. She reveals that the Egyptian god Osiris has been killed by Set, who aids Gargarensis. Amanra, however, plans to reunite Osiris's body parts scattered throughout the desert, bringing him back. During this time. Arkantos falls asleep and is met by Athena, who reveals Gargarensis's motives. Favored by Poseidon, he plans to break the gates to Tartarus to free the Titan Kronos (who was imprisoned there by Zeus), to be granted immortality. One such gate was at Ioklos, another is here in Egypt, and a third is in the Norse lands. Amanra and Chiron retrieve some of the pieces of Osiris while Ajax and Arkantos retrieve the final part from Kamos, who is impaled on Arkantos' spear and then falls off a cliff. With all pieces together, Osiris is resurrected and dispatches Gargarensis's army. The cyclops flees to the Norse lands. Chasing Gargarensis north, Ajax and Arkantos find Odysseus's wrecked ship, who has been cursed by Circe and so fight back and free his crew, who have been turned into pigs.

When they reach the north, they are given directions to the underworld by dwarf brothers Brokk and Eitri in return for repelling giants from their forge. Later, an elderly man named Skult gives them a banner which is to reunite the Norse clans. However when the flag is shown, the clans become hostile towards them due to the flag being that of the enemy giant Folstag (a trick by Skult who is actually Loki) who also allied with Gargarensis. With the help of the Valkyrie Reginleif they locate Gargarensis and the Tartarus gate. Inside they are pursued by fire giants until Chiron sacrifices himself to save them. While Gargarensis is at the gate, Brokk and Eitri have been rebuilding Thor's hammer (shattered by Loki), that upon completion seals the gate. Back on the surface, they confront Gargarensis with the help of Odysseus, where the cyclops is captured and executed.

Arkantos sails back to Atlantis. When he brings out Gargarensis's head on the ship, he finds he has been tricked by Loki. The head is actually Kemsyt's. Gargarensis is still alive and is in fact at Atlantis trying to open a final gate to Tartarus. Gargarensis has captured and fortified Atlantis, and Poseidon himself has possessed a statue in the city center to protect him. Arkantos builds a wonder to Zeus and gains his blessing, giving him awesome power and enabling him to confront Gargarensis and the Living Statue at the temple of Poseidon. Arkantos defeats the Avatar of Poseidon, and Gargarensis is impaled by its trident as it collapses. All of Atlantis then collapses into the ocean, along with Arkantos. While the remaining heroes sail away with the surviving Atlanteans, Athena revives Arkantos and rewards him by making him a god.

The Golden Gift[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 initial 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 retrieved and successfully offered to Freyr.

Development[edit]

Ensemble Studios began work on their first fully 3D engine at the same time as their development of Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings. Named the BANG! Engine, this was announced in January 2001, for use in a new game, codenamed RTSIII. RTSIII was eventually revealed as Age of Mythology.[24] 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.[25]

Following the announcement of the game for September 2002,[26] a trial version was released.[27] It contained five scenarios of the game's campaign, and two random maps. In the trial version, the player can only select Zeus, but there are nine gods available in the full version of the game.[27] There was debate during Age of Mythology's construction concerning the unbalanced nature of god powers and how to make them "fair" while 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.[28] Age of Mythology underwent a large amount of beta-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 became so popular was 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".[29]

Expansion and spin-off[edit]

Age of Mythology: The Titans is an expansion to Age of Mythology, released on October 21, 2003.[30] The expansion added a new civilization, the Atlanteans, as well as several new units, including the titans. Critics and fans received the expansion with enthusiasm, although its ratings were slightly lower on average than those of the original version.[31]

Age of Empires: Mythologies is a spin-off of Age of Empires: The Age of Kings, but with the unique mythology-based gameplay elements of Age of Mythology. It was developed by Griptonite Games for the Nintendo DS.[32]

Audio[edit]

The soundtrack to Age of Mythology was released on October 22, 2002, under the record label "Sumthing Else".[33] The score was written by Music Director Stephen Rippy, and artist Kevin McMullan. Rippy cites musicians such as Peter Gabriel, Tuatara, Bill Laswell, Talvin Singh and Tchad Blake as inspirations for the soundtrack. The musical work done on Age of Mythology was unlike anything Rippy had done before; an example of this was "writing for a seventy-piece orchestra and then flying out to Washington to record it."[34]

Music 4 Games' reviewer, Jay Semerad, heaped Age of Mythology's soundtrack with praise. He summarized his review by declaring: "In all, the Age of Mythology soundtrack is an experience that should not be missed. It's easily one of my favorite soundtracks from this past year." Semerad was also astonished, and appreciative, of the use of instruments such as the ney flute, tabla and toy piano, all of which he said produced "some innovative analog and synthesized electronic effects". His only critique was that at times some of the background melodies were "bound to a simple harmonization", and lacking any "real bold or innovative purpose".[35]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
AggregatorScore
GameRankings89%[7]
Metacritic89/100[8]
Review scores
PublicationScore
Game Informer9.5 out of 10[39]
Game RevolutionB+[40]
GameSpot9.2 out of 10[14]
IGN9.3 out of 10[38]
PC Gamer US86%[37]

Age of Mythology received critical acclaim, reaching an estimated one million units sold within five months of its release.[6] The game was nominated for the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' Interactive Achievement Awards for Computer Game of the Year and strategy computer game of the year.[41]

Age of Mythology's graphics were praised by the majority of reviewers. IGN reviewer Steve Butts stated that "some fantastic effects and believable animations make this one a joy to watch. The differences between the armies and environments are awesome." As such, he gave the graphics a rating of 9 out of 10.[42] Meanwhile, GameSpot reviewer Greg Kasavin also rated the graphics 9 out of 10, stating that "Age of Mythology is a great-looking game, filled with bright colors and carefully detailed animations."[43] Game Revolution also appreciated Age of Mythology's graphics, stating in their review that the "new 3D landscape looks good", and including graphics as one of the positives in the review summary.[40] PC Gamer reviewer William Harms admired the graphics, "The environments, units, and buildings are packed with detail," and excitedly commented on the effects: "What really impressed me, though, were the game's animations. When a Minotaur smacks a dude with his club, the schmoe goes flying, skids on the ground, and then bounces back into the air."[37]

The game's sound was also praised by reviewers, although several commented that it was repetitive and predictable at times. IGN described it as "great, if repetitive, music",[42] whilst Game Revolution declared that the sound "really showcases Ensemble's continued attention to detail", before going on to praise the audio snippets in various languages.[40]

IGN was pleased with Age of Mythology's campaign, and not bothered by its length. Instead, they stated that "the meaningful and engaging single player campaign provides a nearly flawless experience."[42] However, GameSpot was slightly critical of it, claiming that "while some of the campaign missions do feature some unusual circumstances or objectives that change, the game's story isn't incredibly engaging." This was compromised by stating that Age of Empires fans wouldn't expect an amazing campaign; they would "make a beeline for the game's random map mode, anyway."[43] PC Gamer elaborated more on the campaign however, saying: "many of the missions are extremely well-crafted," and that "sprinkled throughout these encounters are moments of genuine comedy — a truly delightful surprise." However, they still found reasons to criticize: "Regrettably, most of AoM's missions suffer from one recurring, frustrating problem: a severe case of 'build base-itis.'" The reviewer elaborated: "I know base-building is inherent to the genre, but even the most ardent fan will be put off by just how much there is. What's most disappointing is that AoM's setting really lends itself to imaginative mission design — and I don't think the designers took full advantage of the backdrop, which is a shame."[37]

Use in scientific studies[edit]

Age of Mythology's AI was used by four Austrian researchers—Christoph Hermann, Helmuth Melcher, Stefan Rank and Robert Trappl—in a study into the value of emotions in real-time strategy games. According to the abstract, "We were interested whether incorporating a simple emotional model to an existing bot-script improves playing strength."[44] The results of the study determined that of the four bots they tested, the neurotic bot was most capable of defeating Age of Mythology's default AI, followed by the aggressive one. Neither bot was defeated by the standard AI, but the neurotic bot won, on average, twenty five percent more rapidly.[45] Plans were made to extend the research in the future by pitting the neurotic bot against a human player.[46]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]