Age Of Empires II: The Age Of Kings For The Nintendo DS

   10/10/2006 at 17:44       Alastair Scarlett       5 COMMENTS.
A brief description - this is an historically set strategy game based on the popular Age of Empires PC games. It was released in the US ages ago and is due out in Europe next month.

I have played through the tutorial campaign and on the whole I like it, although there are bits that aren't perfect but I think they just take a bit of getting used to. Firstly, the view. It can get a bit crowded and if you have several units grouped together, you need to scroll over them (using the D pad) and check the top screen to see who is who.

This brings me to controls. The view is kind of isometric, which means that up on the D Pad actually moves up and right on the screen, right moves you down and right, etc. Once you get used to it, it's not a problem. Of course, you can always use the stylus, but then, as with Advance Wars DS, using the stylus sometimes feels a bit cumbersome. To be honest the buttons are pretty well mapped out so you don't miss the stylus too much.

Now for the game itself. As I said, I'm just through the tutorial, but it works well, introducing you to movement first, then bringing in building creation and researching new skills/technology at suitable points. The scenario for the tutorial is that you are Joan of Arc relieving Orleans from the English siege. There are six missions to complete and each one takes a bit longer to complete. Make sure you actually read the manual, as the mid-mission save is not obvious and you may make the same mistake as me and think you need to keep the DS on all the way through! :o)

The units available depend on the buildings you have in your town, and the research you have completed. Basically though, you have foot soldiers: Longswordsmen, Pikemen etc; missile dudes: Archers, Crossbowmen, Skirmishers; mounted units: Scout Cavalry, Knights, Camels; and siege engines: Onagers, Battering Rams etc. It is also possible to hire mercenary units, which seems to give you a random choice of any units in the game. Favourite so far - Persian War Elephants, they just look so good on the map!

To pay for all these units you need to do a bit of resource gathering. This is achieved by building mills and mines on suitable patches of land. You can then build farms around your mills to increase yield. Do not fear if you have no mine though, you can sell excess grain to boost your liquid assets.

Capturing the enemy's mills and mines involves you destroying them, then building your own. Any farms that surround the mill then become yours too - a nice touch.

From the main menu you can review your mission goals. Some are mandatory, others optional. At the end of the mission you are awarded points, which you can then spend on other maps etc. Hmmm, remind you of another game?

Age of Empires: The Age of Kings has a good graphical style, the still images that accompany the story have a good medieval feel, and it has a 'Library' which gives tons of background info on the periods that the game covers, units available, Heroes of the ages, etc etc

Overall this is worth a punt. Fans of the original PC games may or may not be pleased to hear that this is turn based rather than real time. Fans of Advance Wars DS should like it, as it is similar, but also different. And those who fancy some strategy action on the go, but were put off by the cartoony style of AW:DS should find this more to their taste. (They should also re-evaluate their decision not to get AW:DS - read my review to see why!)
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