Reviewed: February 17, 2004
Released: September 30, 2003
Remember the Titans? No? Well, thatís to be expected if youíre not millennia old, and are a living breathing creature. That not withstanding, if youíve ever wanted to see one, then pick up Microsoftís Age of Mythology: The Titans expansion. An add-on for the original Age of Mythology, Titans offers some cool new things for the fans of the first game, including a new culture to play with new units, a new campaign including 30 different levels, and of course the main draw, uber-powerful Titans that walk the earth.
Ensemble Studios is certainly very thorough in their game designs, and Titans is no exception. To begin with, the new race is the Atlanteans, a name Iím sure youíll recognize if youíve played the first game. The Atlanteans are a very powerful race, and the design team did an excellent job of making them different enough to enjoy playing.
Their villagers are completely self-sufficient; when they gather resources they do not need to go to a building or cart to deposit them. Unfortunately, you still need to raise buildings to research the technologies to improve their gathering skills. Their military units are also tougher than any other comparable unit, and the Atlanteans specialize in counter-units that excel at neutralizing certain types of units, such as infantry, archers, or cavalry.
The last and final benefit of the Atlanteans is that any human unit can become a hero. You can have a hero archer, counter-infantryman, or anything else, including hero peasants, which gather significantly more efficiently. The downside to all of these cool-sounding benefits is that every unit in the game is more expensive in every way. They cost more resources to create, and most significantly, they cost more population. The minimum Atlantean unit still utilizes two population spots. As a result your armies are much smaller in number.
The Atlanteans also donít worship any gods like the other races. They worship Titans, the creators of the gods. The gameplay isnít drastically affected by this, but the Titans have definitely different powers. My personal favorite is the ďtime shift,Ē which lets you move your buildings after youíve built them. A nifty feature if ever there was one. Titans has also added a nice touch; divine powers are now reusable, but only twice and after a renewal period.
The other, most significant change is the inclusion of titans themselves. Every race has oneóthe Atlanteans get Kronos, the Vikings get Ymir (a big frost giant), the Egyptians get a giant Anubis and the Greeks get a huge sword wielding guy. If you get your titan out with any time before your opponent(s), then you pretty much have victory locked in your crushing grasp. Titans also includes a new campaign, and as always, the plot line is excellent. While Iíll leave the details left unsaid, donít get too antsy to see titans in the early part of the campaign. If you want to see titans early, just start up a quick game.
Utilizing the same engine from the very popular and successful Age of Empires, which is the base game for Age of Mythology, Titans has a very easy-to-learn command system that can utilize the slow, unwieldy mouse or by quick, efficient keystrokes. The tech trees are plentiful, but arenít so cumbersome as to interrupt gameplay. Itís easy to keep track of your troops, and commanding large armies is very easy to do. The biggest downside to the gameplay is that it is a bit simple; complex deployments and commands arenít available for nifty on-the-field tactics.
The graphics have been improved from the original Age of Empires, but are exactly the same as from Age of Mythology. That being said, Titans graphics certainly meet the requirements for any real-time strategy game. Motions are fluid, and the units are well rendered and artistic.
The campaign movies are just zoomed in graphics, but look pretty good overall. The boards are very easy on the eyes, and there is a great variety of level design. Sure, the graphics could be a little more fluid, but this game will run on most machines and that's a plus.
The music for all of the Age games has always been excellent. There is the usual background symphonic music which changes when battles take place. The sounds, too, are well done. Arrows thwack, swords ring, and men groan nicely upon expiration. In the campaign movies, the voices are rich and varied.
The Titans expansion really falls short when it comes to value. The biggest complaint is that this game retails at $29.99 at most stores. For that price, it should pretty much be a stand-alone expansion. This is doubly true because it is an expansion in such an old line of games. Admittedly, the campaign was better than most, but it really provided only about 10 or so hours of fun, and since many folks have been playing the predecessor to Titans for a long time, the skirmishes have less luster.
Additionally, the multiplayer draw of this game is limited. The titans, while very cool, are really unpractical for most multiplayer games. Many games are over long before any Titan ever even starts creating, much less finishing. And if they are built, it is either overkill or an agreement by both players to build up before harassing each other.
Microsoft has continued to make some very solid games for the PC, even after diverting their attention to the Xbox. Age of Mythology: The Titans expansion is still of very good quality, but it seems like only the die-hard fans of the previous games will really jump on it.
While the Atlanteans are cool, and itís always fun to level your enemiesí towns with a 4-story creature, itís a pretty steep price to pay. You may want to wait for this expansion to become part of a bigger AOM bundle.