I told everyone that I would report again when a new, worthy RTS game was released.
That time is now.
In 1997, Ensemble Studios developed Age of Empires. At the time, it had just about everything you could ask for in an RTS; fluid gameplay, atmosphere, a passable interface. It appeared that Ensemble would be the new king of this genre of games.
But in April 1998, Blizzard released StarCraft. With sales topping one million copies in only three months, the popularity of StarCraft dwarfed over all of its competitors. Age of Empires II was released in 1999, but it couldn't compare to what most people consider the greatest RTS game of all time.
Four years later, StarCraft's popularity finally began to wane. With the exception of professional gamers and their groupies, RTS gamers everywhere wanted something new. Blizzard released Warcraft III to continue to assert its superiority in the RTS market. This new game did not follow the typical formula that RTS games usually follow, though. It combined the RTS formula with the character development of the Diablo series of games, putting more of an emphasis on battles of small scale.
It was new, different, and economically successful for Blizzard.
It is boring, though.
Looking for a more pure RTS game, I was interested to find out that Ensemble Studios was releasing Age of Mythology on Halloween. The new features sounded great; substantially differentiated cultures in comparison to the Age of Empires games, god powers, rally points into current hotkeys. Reading about it made me excited enough to be first in line to purchase it.
I was not disappointed.
I played about twelve randomly paired ladder games on the new Ensemble Online gaming service, either beating down newbies with my previous experience playing RTS games or getting absolutely crushed by beta testers who were sharp with their build orders. I finally was involved in a decent game, so I will report on that after giving a brief overview of Age of Mythology's gameplay.
Disclaimer: All tactical observations by me should be taken with a grain of salt. I've owned this game for a grand total of two days and my StarCraft prowess is limited to building mass amounts of marines and to succeeding in the UMS Save T-Mac's Wang.
Age of Mythology takes place in a time period well before the medieval empire building of the Age of Empires games. 2-12 players can choose from three different cultures; Greek, Egyptian, and Norse. These cultures are unique in their own way, each having different units and a different selection of buildings. Other differences exist, which I will elaborate on later. Each civilization can worship one of three major gods in the beginning and worship 3 minor gods as the player progresses throughout the ages. The differences between the god selection is not as profound as the differences bewteen the culture selection, however different deities unlock different technologies, upgrades, and god powers.
There are four resources in Age of Mythology.
Food is collected by villagers and is used to create villagers, melee units (not Chimeras or Egyptian mercenaries), caravans, rocs, giants, etc. Also, this resource is used in researching new technologies and for advancing the age of the civilization. This resource can be obtained by fishing, hunting, farming, foraging, or shepherding livestock.
Wood is collected by villagers from trees and is used in the construction of buildings, researching new technologies, and in making ranged units, ships, etc. Egyptian civilizations do not use wood in the construction of their buildings. Their cost of construction is either gold or at no cost.
Gold is collected by villagers from gold mines or by caravans travelling to and from a town center and is used in producing most military and temple units, researching new technologies, constructing certain buildings, etc.
Favor is a measure of how much the player is pleasing his deity. Each culture "gathers" favor in a different way, and it is used in producing fearsome mythological units and in researching mythical technologies. There is a limit of 100 favor at any time for most major deities. (200 for Zeus)
It would be too obtuse for me to succinctly describe all of the differences between the cultures and the deities here. I will touch on the basic gameplay differences here and will link you to Age of Mythology Heaven's culture descriptions.
The Greek civilizations play like a typical Age of Empires civilization. They procure favor by assigning villagers to pray at a constructed temple. Their Hero units (no, they do not level up) are pumped-up versions of normal units whose main functions are to fight mythological units and to carry relics. A particular Hero unit exists for each of the four ages and only one of each can be in existence at a time (if one dies, another one can be made). They begin a typical game with a town center, three villagers, a scout, 250 food, 250 wood, and 100 gold.
The Egyptian civilizations acquire favor by constructing five different monuments. The player lacks control over how much favor he gets in comparison to Greek and Norse civilizations, but that is offset by the fact that the player does not have to worry about obtaining favor after building the monuments. Egyptians have two Hero units, one being the Pharoah. He can heal units, "empower" a building (basically making it more efficient), and rise from the dead 90 seconds after perishing on the battlefield. Their other Hero unit is the Priest. Priests are inferior versions of the Pharoah, but you can have as many of them as you want (you can only have one Pharoah expect in a special instance). In a typical game, Egyptians begin with a Pharoah, a priest, two villagers, 250 food, 100 wood, and 100 gold. Due to the "empower" feature, the Egyptian civilization is negatively balanced out by their villagers - they gather at a slightly slower rate when compared to the other two cultures. As mentioned before, Egyptian buildings do not require wood. The only catch is that several buildings have a gold cost instead and the construction of the buildings occurs at a slightly slower rate (again, when compared to the other two cultures).
The Norse civilizations only gain favor from combat. While this statement includes the hunting of animals for food, the majority of favor is gained through the smiting of the enemy units. Norse Hero units are the Hersir, infantry created from a Temple or a Longhouse. The Norse player can create as many of these as he wants up to the population limit. They are strong versus mythological units and they have the special feature of obtaining more favor during combat than normal units (mythological units never gain favor in combat). A very curious feature of this culture is that villagers are only able to construct farms. Infantry build every other structure. To offset the inflexibility of gathering resources under this system, mobile Ox Carts are created at the town center and any type of resource can be dropped off in them. A Norse player begins a typical game with an Ulfsark (basic infantry unit), an Ox Cart, two villagers, 250 food, 200 wood, and 150 gold.
All cultures start with four watch towers staggered around their bases, helping to give extra vision at the start of the game and a minor defense after the Archaic Age.
In Age of Mythology's Supremacy Mode, the competitors battle until one of three victory conditions have been met.
1) Military Victory - Complete destruction of all enemy units and buildings
2) Wonder - Construct a Wonder and defend it for a set amount of time
3) All Settlements - Build a Town Center on every settlement
"What is a settlement?" you may ask. I will tie it into my description of the population limit. In normal games, town centers provide 15 units of maximum supply and each additional house adds another 10 units of maximum supply. You can only construct 10 houses, though. If you want to have a larger maximum supply, you must construct additional town centers after that. Town centers can only be placed on unoccupied settlements, so the theoretical population maximum is 100 + 15 * (# of settlements on the map). Of course, if you're playing Supremacy mode, you win when you take the last settlement. But I like making these fancy theoretical formulas because I am the most anal-retentive control freak to ever walk the Earth. Anyhow..
I mentioned the different age advancements before. Progressing through the different ages allows the player access to different buildings, technologies, units, and god powers. Gameplay begins at the Archaic Age and progresses through the Classical Age, Heroic Age, and Mythic Age. Advancement through ages requires an extensive amount of food and/or gold and a Temple for the Classical Age, an Armory for the Heroic Age, and a Market for the Mythic Age.
Advancement allows the civilization to worship a new minor god, allowing the use of another god power. God powers can each only be used once a game, but they are quite powerful (as expected). A list of them can be found at Age of Mythology Heaven.
I briefly mentioned Relics earlier. They are found when scouting, providing benefits to the player who uses a hero unit to pick it up and drop it off at a temple. The Relics can offer any kind of bonus - from improving farm harvesting rates to increasing the amount of hit points of cavalry.
Finally, I'm going to touch on the subject of the purpose of particular units. I will not bother to list every unit in every culture, since Age of Mythology Heaven already has an extensive list of all of that stuff up. It's impossible to make a generalized statement like, "unit type X can destroy unit type Y."
And that concludes the overview. I apologize if I was significantly vague in detail, Age of Mythology Heaven has every remaining detail that you will probably need. I will elaborate more in the following report on my actions and hopefully things will clear up a bit.
After choosing my major god as the Norse diety Loki and setting my map preference to Random, I hit the Start Game button in the Quick Start section. Catching a ladder game is that simple, with Ensemble Online matching you up with a competitor of comparable ranking. After a few seconds, the loading screen popped up, notifying me that I (Atlas_Ant) was up against DeadPharoah who chose the Egyptian diety Isis. The battlefield was on Watering Hole, with the gold specks being gold mines, the white specks being Relics, and the temple-shaped symbols being Settlements.
Atlas_Ant's Archaic Age
I ended up in the 9 'o clock position and didn't have many resources in the vicinity of my Town Center. Eight Gazelle were present a small distance to the south, a medium gold mine (3000 units of gold, to be specific) was to the northeast, and a few scattered trees littered the area. I immediately sent my Ox Cart and two Gatherers to the Gazelle and sent my lone Ulfsark (starting infantry) scouting to the south to look for food sources. Finding a few pigs but not much else nearby, the Ulfsark changed directions and headed northward. These pigs changed from neutral units to my units, and were sent back to my Town Center. It wasn't much, but every little bit helps since I could not build farms until I leave the Archaic Age.
The Ulfsark discovered several giraffes, lions, and zebra north of the Town Center. Satisfied that that would hold me over until the Classical Age, I made the Ulfsark put a house (since Norse infantry construct non-farm structures) in that location to make my supply go from 10/15 to 10/25. After the completion of the house, the Ulfsark travelled eastward to scout DeadPharoah.
The whole time, of course, I was pumping Gatherers from my Town Center to go slaughter Gazelle and Pigs. At 13/15 supply I broke the pattern and produced an Ox Cart and two Dwarfs (a different type of Gatherer with a gold cost instead of a food cost who gathers gold at a quicker rate and everything else more slowly) who promptly went gold mining. Gatherer production resumed after that.
My scouting Ulfsark stumbled across DeadPharoah's Town Center at the 3 'o clock position and quickly egressed from the area after taking a few arrows in the back.
Not wanting to shell out more gold for another Ulfsark, I sent my scout back home to begin construction of a Temple. The Gazelle hunters travelled north to hunt giraffe, and the ones obtaining food from the pigs soon followed the giraffe hunters to that forested area and went on to help with the hunt and to collect wood to prepare for farm construction in the Classical Age. The completion of the Temple allowed me to shell out 400 food at my Town Center to advance to the Classical Age. I chose Heimdall to gain access to the mythical unit Einherjar, powerful infantry who boost the morale of surrounding friendly units with a mighty bellow of their horns. Heimdall's god power Undermine (damages buildings/towers/etc.) would probably not be a factor this game, since Monuments to Isis prevent the use of god powers within a certain radius. While waiting for the Age Advancement timer to expire, I used my extra food to construct a Hersir from my Temple. Since I can best gain favor through combat, I'd need at least a few of these units so that I don't find myself having a critical shortage of favor.
I reached the Classical Age at 5:20 with 25/45 supply.
DeadPharoah's Archaic Age
DeadPharoah had the same amount of initial resources nearby; eight Gazelle, a medium gold mine to the northeast, and a few scattered trees. His Pharoah began empowering his town center, giving bonus resources to Laborers who drop off food there and accelerating Laborer production. The Laborers immediately began hunting Gazelle and DeadPharoah sent his Priest northward to scout.
The Priest has a lousy sight radius, but he can quickly construct Obelisks for a cheap cost which maintains a decent sight radius in that fixed area. DeadPharoah opted to save his gold and walk a narrow line around his main. DeadPharoah's Priest passed a relic to the north of his Town Center, and continued his scouting path. Since a Priest cannot pick up a relic despite his status as a Hero unit, he left the relic be for now, since his Pharoah is best suited for empowering at this time.
A free Granery (since Egyptians do not use wood for building construction) was built by Laborers near the Gazelle, the Pharoah chose to continue to empower the Town Center. At 12/18 supply (Isis Town Centers have +3 population) a fresh Laborer went to construct three free Houses. The Gazelle number quickly dwindled, and the Pharoah empowered the Granery there to gather as much as he could from them. Eventually, the Laborers finished with the Gazelle and split up between hunting a hippopotamus and mining gold, with a free Mining Camp and Granery constructed in appropriate places. The Pharoah went to the Mining Camp to obtain bonus gold and he invoked Isis' god power of Prosperity to enable his Laborers to gather gold at a quicker rate for a period of time. The Laborer that worked on the Houses eventually completed his constructions and began constructing a Temple.
A few Laborers went to the forest to the southeast and began collecting lumber after hastily erecting a Lumber Camp. The scouting Priest completed his half-circle around his main and switched direction to make another half-circle. DeadPharoah paid 400 food at his Town Center to advance to the Classical Age and chose to worship Anubis as a minor deity. He would have access to Anubites (infantry Mythological units with a leap attack) and the god power Plague of Serpents (whose functionality you would probably guess).
DeadPharoah reached the Classical Age at 6:23 with (27/68) supply.
After I advanced to the Classical Age, I constructed a Longhouse. This structure is versatile, enabling the production of Ulfsarks, Throwing Axemen, Raiding Cavalry, and (along with the Temple) Hersir. Continuing to produce Gatherers, I began surrounding my Town Center with Farms. Despite being 30 seconds away from the Classical Age, DeadPharoah placed a few farms around his Town Center. He could do that since Egyptian civilizations can farm in any age.
I only had 2 Hersir, a Throwing Axeman, and my beginning Ulfsark when DeadPharoah reached the Classical Age, so I figured that I would not be able to traverse the length of the map and do any damage at that time. So I held my position for now, making a mixed force of Hersir, Throwing Axemen, and Raiding Cavalry. I eventually added a second Longhouse to speed up military unit production.
Upon reaching the Classical Age, DeadPharoah began construction of two Barracks and a Monument to Villagers. The Monument's purpose is to generate favor, while the Barracks produces Spearmen, Axemen, and Slingers. He chose to make Slingers, Slingers, and more Slingers. He took a time out from producing Slingers at one Barracks to reasearch the upgrade for, yep, you guessed it, Medium Slingers.
I wanted to generate favor, so I set out with 3 Raiding Cavalry, 6 Hersir, 1 Ulfsark, and 3 Throwing Axemen. Along the way, they constructed a House since I hit my max population limit. A few of the Hersir did not stop immediately during construction, catching the attention of 5 of 12 of DeadPharoah's Medium Slingers. These Medium Slingers quickly retreat back to the others after seeing the superior force. After the house finished, I charged into DeadPharoah's Medium Slinger force. They were overmatched at first, but the addition of new Medium Slingers and the Watch Tower behind the Barracks helped turn the tide of the battle.
Four Hersir and one Throwing Axeman limped away from the site of the battle without pursuit. I had a serious problem on my hands. Five Throwing Axemen, one Hersir, and one Raiding Cavalry were going to reinforce the front force, but Medium Slingers in numbers are quite strong against the Hersir and the Throwing Axemen. Since there was not any pursuit, two Watch Towers of my own was built outside of DeadPharoah's base to stave off a swarm of Medium Slingers. Meanwhile, DeadPharoah finished an Armory which is necessary for advancing to the Heroic Age and for damage and armor upgrades.
DeadPharoah attempted to break the containment with a force of 20+ Medium Slingers. Despite the recent addition of an Einherjar, they decimate my containment force who consisted of mostly Hersir and Throwing Axemen. One Throwing Axeman managed to escape behind a Watch Tower and began to repair it when the Medium Slingers tried to push onward. They were unable to take the Tower down before upgraded Medium Cavalry and two more Einherjar push the Medium Slinger force back into its base.
Getting greedy, I pressed the attack with a mostly Medium Cavalry force. Despite the good unit matchup, the Medium Slingers were great in number. It should have been a tight battle.
But DeadPharoah invoked Plague of Serpents - Anubis' god power. This turned what was an even battle to a horribly lopsided one.
He chose not to press forward, opting to focus on advancement instead. After paying the required food and gold, he chose to worship the minor god Nephthys which would grant him the god power of Ancestors, a temporary force of very strong melee units. He would also have access to Scorpion Men if he so desired to have them. I also spent the resources necessary for advancement after hastily building an Armory, choosing to worship Bragi for access to Battle Boars and the god power Flaming Weapons. Battle Boars are truly a sight to behold, plowing into formations and flinging bodies left and right. The question is, will I be able to generate enough favor to be able to get enough of them?
DeadPharoah, frustrated with not being able to harass my main, tried to be creative. He snuck a Laborer north of the containment, all of the way to the north of the choke point of my main. The Laborer began construction of two Barracks, but was quickly spotted by a few calvary who broke off the containment force to prevent that sort of thing from happening.
After reaching the Heroic Age, I decided to attack. I immediately called on Bragi to enhance my military's weapons with searing fire and charged into DeadPharoah's base with 18 Medium Calvary, 2 Einherjar, and 1 Hersir. DeadPharoah reached the Heroic age about thirty seconds quicker, so he had a resistance of 26 upgraded Heavy Slingers. Also, in response to the roaming Cavalry, he also had 6 Medium Spearmen and still had Anubis' Serpents to match up against them.
DeadPharoah, not wanting to leave anything to chance, invoked Nephthys' Ancestors power as well. These minions appeared from behind the approaching cavalry, cutting off their route to escape. This proved to be too much for my attacking force, as the positioning of the Ancestors was a stronger advantage than my flaming weapons. DeadPharoah had over half of his forces remaining, so he pressed forward, finally destroying one of my frontal Watch Towers. The time limit of the Ancestors expired, though, and DeadPharoah was content to retreat and wait in his base for a little while longer. DeadPharoah built a Market to allow advancement into the Mythical Age, a Siege Works to speed up the process of destroying structures, and used his Pharoah to recover the relic he discovered in the beginning. After returning it to his Temple, the Anvil of Hephaestus reduced the cost of his Armory upgrades.
DeadPharoah spent the time advancing to the Mythical Age under the guidance of Osirus, while I was frantically replenishing my troop count. DeadPharoah had access to Mummys, but it was clear that he wasn't interested in pumping mythological units against me since I was always going to have a few Hersir in my army. The god power of Osirus changes the Pharoah into the fearsome Son of Osirus, a unit with a powerful lightning attack which hits four targets at once. DeadPharoah finally pressed forward and obliterated the containment of 21 Heavy Cavalry, 1 Battle Boar, and 2 Hersir with 28 Heavy Slingers, 6 Heavy Spearmen, 2 Siege Towers, and the Son of Osirus.
With no more containment, the omnipatient DeadPharoah moved his military force to the center of the map. He erected a Migdol Stronghold there for the production of Camelry, anti-Cavalry support forces. I wasn't going out without a fight, though. After constructing a Market, I reached the Mythic Age through the guidance of Hel. I swallowed the cost of upgrading my Cavalry to Champion Cavalry, and sent a force of 20 Champion Raiders and 1 Battle Boar to engage in combat with 32 Champion Slingers and the Son of Osirus. The Raiders quickly surrounded the Slingers, but the Son of Osirus proved to be too strong a force to overcome. Many Champion Slingers died, but even more Champion Raiders expire as well.
I followed up that attack with 14 more Champion Cavalry, a Frost Giant, and the Mighty Nidhogg - the mighty dragon summoned from the underworld by Hel. DeadPharoah had quick reinforcements, with a force more powerful than before. Six Champion Camelry and three Mummies engage the Champion Cavalry in the front lines while the Son of Osirus and 30 Champion Slingers plow down everything in sight. The mighty Nidhogg incinerated Slinger after Slinger, but even he fell to the superior force.
DeadPharoah, riding a wave of momentum, slowly pushed through my choke, into my main. After DeadPharoah's forces forced their way to my villagers, I conceded the game.
Congratulations to DeadPharoah for overcoming a slower start to win the game.
See the statistics here.
See the timeline here.
Download the replay of this (probably mediocre) game here.
DeadPharoah was victorious because he showed a better control of his units and a better understanding of the game. After getting contained early, he did not panic. He stuck to his game plan, and took advantage of a little complacency on my part. I lost control of macromanagement in the last 5 minutes, and the game slipped from my grasp.
Being the first Age of Mythology report, do a service for future battlereporters and comment on how this report could've been improved. It was tougher than expected to report, not having a reporting standard to follow.
Age of Mythology has a lot of potential. It does not play slow like Age of Empires 2. I'd say that this game is not as good as StarCraft, but it plays more like it than Warcraft 3 does.
The author would like to thank:
God - For giving me some direction in life.
battlereports.com - For sustaining a fine gaming community for all of these years.
battlereports.com pop-up ads - For telling me I'm a winner every time I refresh. :)
Ensemble Studios - For creating an RTS with good culture diversification.
Absolute Background Textures Archive - For providing the background for this report.
The Anaheim Angels - For defeating the team that beat the St. Louis Cardinals.
This is a CrackHeadJeb production. ©Copyright 2002. All rights reserved.
First published on battlereports.com by author's submission.