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Posted on Dec 9, 2005 in Electronic Games

Age of Empires III – Game Review (PC)

By James Lombardi


While the game’s innovation in the gameplay area was limited, it takes leaps and bounds in the graphical area. There is no RTS game, or many outside the top FPS games, that matches AoE III in terms of graphics. To be fair, I would argue that the units in Dawn of War look better than the units in AoE III, but everything else in the environment looks stunning. Especially the water. Any game that does water well automatically scores points in my book, and AoE III does an amazing job with it. The reflections in the water of ships look fantastic. Along with that, the lighting and shadows are a notch above most (at least for this type of game).

Look closely at the shadows and reflections on the water around the ship Just start the game up and you’ll see the water at the main menu.

Thanks to the Havok engine, just about everything in the map reacts realistically. Trees fall in combat, buildings and ships take damage where they are hit (and collapse based on what they were hit with and where). While the advanced physics add little to nothing in terms of gameplay (after all, you’re just clicking something to attack, not where and how to attack it – you only have so much control), the physics add wonders to the look of the game. During battles you can watch the cannonballs bounce through the enemy lines, and the buildings crumple under assault in stunning detail. And while the unit animations during combat are fairly unexciting (unlike the previously mentioned Dawn of War), it’s to be expected based on the subject material. There are only so many ways to load a musket after all. The bottom line: This game is nothing short of fantastic in regards to the visuals.

You always end up rushing around to save colonists who have got themselves in a bit of trouble.. Your heroes love to complain if you let them fall in battle. Just give them some time they’ll get back up as long as there are no enemy around them.

And the graphics aren’t the only top notch thing in this game, let’s not forget the sound. Each civilization speaks their appropriate language, in fact, the more historically astute player might notice that the British villagers don’t speak English. It would seem someone on the design team paid attention to the history books and realized that not every settler in the British colonies is actually from Great Britain (and having grown up near Pennsylvania Dutch country, at least I appreciate the attention to detail). For those who don’t play RTS games to listen to voices and receive linguistic lessons, I have some good news. The sounds of battle are great. Cannons roar, swords clash, and there’s nothing quite like listening to volley fire. On top of that, this is one of those rare games where I didn’t shut the music off in the first five minutes of gameplay. The score is fitting and worth a listen.

Interface, Documentation, and Other Odds and Ends:

There’s not a whole lot to complain about here. As with the gameplay, the interface and the control scheme are pretty standard. The only real complaint I had was that to pick out a specific unit from a selected group you have to hold down ctrl while clicking on the unit’s portrait. Often times you will need to pick out your explorer to do something specific. For the longest time I tried simply clicking on the unit’s portrait out of habit from other games. Eventually I decided to check out the documentation and quick reference fold out to discover the key to hold while I clicked.

Luckily the game comes with a well made manual that reaches 134 nicely laid out pages. Don’t worry, there aren’t 134 pages worth of text, most pages feature large graphics or the text only takes up around half the page. The manual, despite its length, is concise and clear. The Quick Reference guide folds out to show information about each civilization, hotkeys, and the tech tree.

Finally, in a nice change of pace from the normal PC release these days, I never ran into a serious bug of any type (and if I ran into any bugs, they were minor enough I didn’t notice them). Installation was smooth, and there hasn’t been a crash yet.


If it hasn’t become painfully clear yet, this game is for fans of the genre. It has all the trappings of an RTS game, and does little to bring in non-fans. There are no advanced military formations (there is a setting to enable advanced formations, but they’re nothing special), you can’t control the rate of fire of the units to fire in volleys only (volley fire only works by accident), and you have no supply lines to protect. For the player looking for a wargame representing the Colonial Era, keep looking. For someone who doesn’t mind the normal clickfest RTS gameplay, and wants to play a game that’s genuinely fun and extremely good looking, look no further. This game doesn’t represent a revolution in gameplay, but it takes all usual conventions and makes them fun. And sometimes, just sometimes, that’s okay.

Armchair General Score: 86%

32/40 — Gameplay
15/15 — Graphics
10/10 — Sound
13/15 — Interface
05/05 — Installation/Technical
05/05 — Documentation
06/10 — General’s Rating

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  1. I always enjoy reading your reviews so keep em coming please

    • Your wish is our command, Gustavo!

  2. Would you please do a review on the killzone franchise.