I've been waiting for Age of Empires III ever single I finally finished exhausting all of the fun from Age of Empires II. I really think it was well worth the wait.
First, it is VERY much like Age of Empires II. That is a HUGE bonus for me. I love the Age of Empires series and if they'd changed the whole gameplay a great deal, it would have lost a lot of what I adore about this series. I can literally play each of these games for months and months before I begin to get bored. That is the brilliance of a well designed real time strategy (RTS) game.
Next, the graphics are of course MUCH improved over previous versions. That of course means you need a much faster machine than you had before! Hopefully most people out there upgrade their computers regularly, to run ANY packages that come out each year - the newest release of PhotoShop, the newest games that come out. If you have a slow, old machine and can't run the newest games, well you really only have yourself to blame. I NEVER want game makers to make bad games just so they can run on ancient machines. It's their duty to make the best games possible. It's my job to get the machine that are current, to run them.
OK, so on to gameplay. You get a collection of fun cultures, each one nicely costumed and with appropriate vocals and sounds. I love the detail in the homes, the people, the environments. You can "skirmish" to your heart's content, learning about the strengths and weaknesses and looks of each group. But don't go thinking you can memorize what works in each situation. The game does nicely to add complexity to that cookie-cutter approach.
Instead, you have a great deal of customization ability, even on the fly. You can really build your style of culture to match your personal point of view, within cultural limits of course. This means when you face others in combat, you can never assume "Oh they're an X which means I just have to do Y". You have to watch, react, and implement a new plan.
I really enjoyed the graphics a great deal here, from the cantering horses to the forests and smoke and flames. They did a great job of really making you feel that there is a little world being run inside your computer monitor.
The sounds are equally good, with the voices and sounds, the background noises and alerts. I admit the trumpet calls get a little repetitive, but what can you do.
I suppose to some the downside is the fact that you need a modern machine. Again, I don't consider that a downside. It's an awesome game with a lot going on. It's not meant to run on a little 386. It's hard for old system owners to accept, but the world moves on. If you're going to play modern games, you have to move along with it. Believe me, it's only going to get worse as more games come out. It's time to grab that piggy bank and upgrade.
I did find it really amusing that the scenario begins with the Aztecs. We just spent Black and White II fighting those All-Powerful Aztecs. What is it with the Aztecs in modern games?? I guess these things come in waves :)
Buy Age of Empires III from Amazon.com