Reviewed: December 14, 2006
Released: October 17, 2005
You have to wonder what kind of planning goes into the creation of an expansion pack for games these days. Do they make it at the same time as the original game? What kind of sales figures does a game have to make to justify one? Is there even a set of standards or is it just so expected by now that it comes as part of the original budget?
What is most bothersome about expansion packs any more it that they are becoming consistently less worth it. Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs is no exception. While there is a new campaign and three new nations to play in multiplayer, you get the feeling that youíve done all of this before...and you have.
The WarChiefs plays pretty much the same as Age of Empires III, with the only real difference being that they limit the number of ďcardsĒ you have available in the single player campaign.
There are two new mechanics for your troops; the first is that if they are within range of a war chief they get a neat little halo of feathers around their base. I think it makes the troops in range better in some way, but I could never find where it said exactly how, and I never noticed that much of a difference.
The other new mechanic is the addition of dance. No, your troops donít suddenly succumb to a case of disco fever. Instead, you can build a bonfire and have peasants dance around it. The dancing gives you bonuses, like faster troop production, extra damage, or a steady trickle of XP. The more dancers you have the bigger the bonus. Unfortunately, at least for my megalomania, the bonuses arenít that significant and a lot of the time you canít afford to spend the resources and manpower to really take advantage of it anyway.
Otherwise youíre playing new missions of Age of Empires III. The missions are nothing new, but you tend to be stretched thinner than in the original campaign. You usually have fewer resources, or can only buy basic building units, or have three or four bases that you have to protect simultaneously.
What causes me the most frustration is that the expansion is called The War Chiefs, and yet you spend the bulk of the campaign missions without one. It makes little sense to me to create a game mechanic and then not let players use it. The same goes for the other expansion pack additions. The whole thing comes off more as a style modification than real changes to the game play experience.
Again, nothing new here. The added nations have their own units, but they arenít anything special to look at. The war chief area of effect is nice though simple. The really disappointing thing is that there are very few siege weapons in the expansion, so the fantastic building disintegration animations and impact effects arenít as widely used as they were in the original campaign.
The campaign gives you a whole host of new areas to stomp through, with lush scenery in the forest and drab rocks littering the desert. While the level design does what it can to liven up things, you spend the levels are either desert or forest so the scenery gets repetitive quickly.
The voice acting in Age of Empires III left something to be desired to say the least, and WarChiefs does nothing to correct this. In fact, the sound in The WarChiefs is lackluster all around. The sound effects are mostly gunshots and the swish of arrows. Again the shortage of cannons limits the explosions and impact of shells on buildings, so you end up with fairly quiet engagements.
While there are quite a few new missions to play through, they arenít that satisfying and the additional content feels more like it was tacked on than really ad attempt to add depth to the game. As happens with most expansion packs it isnít really worth getting unless you were a real fan of the original. If you werenít, then save some bank for a full game rather than be unsatisfied with this one.
The factions in The WarChiefs do add a new dimension to the multi-player experience, but I got the impression that they really donít stack up against the imperial powers from Age of Empires III.
If you liked Age of Empires III then you wonít be too disappointed. While the additional content is a little light, the game still delivers solid strategy both online and off. A great supplement for a fan, but otherwise better avoided.