The Forgotten Age of Empires
A closer look at Age of Mythology‘s history and future
The Age of Empires (AoE) games are one of the best-known franchises in the RTS landscape. But one game of the series, which is different than the others, is often ignored: Age of Mythology (AoM).
The game was released in 2002, three years after the release of its popular predecessor Age of Empires 2. It was the first game that used the new 3D engine called BANG which was used to develop further AoE titles.
This article takes a closer look at the game, the differences between it and the other Age of Empires titles, and its future.
While Age of Mythology’s mechanics is similar to those of Age of Empires, it takes place in a time different time, where ancient gods ruled the world and mythological creatures were an omnipresent threat to humans.
The game was developed with very high ambitions. It was the first game that used the brand new 3D Engine called BANG, which was later used on other Age of Empires titles. On top of that, it included a brand new multiplayer mode. This was a huge challenge for the Ensamble studious, who worked 3 years on this project. According to the developers, every big feature was a “bag of bugs” feature as explained in this interview.
Contrary to Age of Empires, Age of Mythology does not follow historical correctness, but religious correctness. It includes mythological units, heroes, and god powers.
Each culture feels complete and detailed, and the game did a fantastic job of giving each one a unique feeling. Most units, buildings, research items, etc. have a detailed historical description which is not necessary for the game but acts as interesting trivia.
AoM’s gameplay is similar to other games of the RTS genre. You start by gathering resources to build towns and form an army to destroy your opponent’s army and towns.
The game’s unique touch — and the main difference to Age of Empires — is that it revolves around ancient mythologies.
Each Culture has three Major gods you can choose from, well-known deities such as Zeus, Thor, and Ra. Every time you evolve into a new age, you can pick a new minor god, like Freyja, Prometheus, Atlas, etc.
Each god provides different powers and units and therefore requires a unique strategy to play as or against.
There are five cultures to choose from:
The Greeks culture can be considered as the most straightforward culture in the game. They have strong, but slightly more expensive units. Their heroes are actual heroes from Greeks’ mythology like Odysseus or Perseus.
Egypt’s units and buildings are cheap but weaker. They don’t have real hero units but rather Priests and one Pharao who is devastating against Myths units.
The Atlantean culture puts quality over quantity. Their units are the most expensive ones but they are better at their counterparts at every level.
Every Atlantean can be turned into a hero unit by paying a cost.
Additional to normal Human villagers, the Norse also have dwarves who are faster at gathering gold. This culture uses their army, not their villagers to build buildings, which makes them highly mobile.
The Chinese culture was introduced to the game in 2016, making it the newest culture in the game by far.
AoM and AoE differences
Despite having elements that are shared across the games, there are certain differences between both titles.
Compared to Age of Empires in which you can pick from 18 cultures, AoM contains just five. The reason for this is the uniqueness of each culture. While a lot of content is shared between the cultures in AoE, AoM’s cultures have completely distinct units and powers.
Due to each culture's uniqueness, AoM is perceived as more difficult and unbalanced than AoE. Every culture requires different strategies to play, depending on the enemy.
Each god you pick grants you a god power which should be used wisely. Some God powers are an attack like the Lighting Strike granted by Zeus, which kills the selected target. Others help the player in different ways, like the Gaia Forest power, which creates a dense forest.
While Age of Empires relies solely on history, AoM features many imaginary units, called Mythological units. These units are strong against human units, but week against heroes.
Mythological units are not meant to replace an entire army, but rather be an effective unit against an enemy army if used wisely.
Favor is a resource that is used to recruit mythological units. It takes the place of AoE’s stone resource. Each culture has its own way of gaining favor. The Norse for example, gaining favor through battles while the Greeks get it from praying at temples. This, once again, stresses the importance of different strategies for each culture.
Auto queueing is a feature in AoM which allows the player to set an building to create units for as long as the player has the resources to do so.
There is a big debate over this feature because many experienced players claim that this feature steals the fun of an RTS game because it takes away a big part of the micromanagement.
Since its release in 2002, the game received three big, game-changing updates.
Age of Mythology: The Titans — 2003
The game's first extension brought a new culture, the Atlanteans to the game, making it 4 cultures in all. Also, as the name suggests, the update brought the new Titan units. Titans are the most expensive and strongest units in the game which will dominate the entire map once unleashed.
Since this extension, the way to play the game changed drastically. Rounds with Titans enabled are a rush to the last age, to build a titan as fast as possible to win with him.
Also, with The Titans expansions, the debatable auto queueing feature got into the game.
Age of Mythology: Extended Edition — 2014
Twelve years after the game's original release, it received an overhaul. The Extended Edition includes The Titans extension, added Steamwork integration, and Twitch support. This update also included improved graphics and balance changes.
Age of Mythology: Tale of the Dragon — 2016
The latest extension was released on January 28, 2016. It added new multiplayer maps, a new single-player campaign, and most importantly the Chinese Culture.
Since Age of Empires 2 and 3 have gotten an overhaul with the Definitive Edition, is there a future for Age of Mythology?
The German games newspaper Gamestar interviewed AoM’s creative director Adam Isgreen regarding AoM. His answer was this:
Let me put it this way: I love Age of Mythology, we all love it. Instead of a Definitive Edition we have another idea what we want to do with it. I don’t know if we’re going to realize it or if there will be a Definitive Edition, but be sure that we won’t forget Age of Mythology!
- Source: Gamestar Article
In short, it is unsure how AoM will develop in the future. But surely, something will happen! However, it is sure to take at least a temporary backseat to Age of Empires 4, which is planned for release sometime in 2021.
Age of Mythology was a highly ambitious project for the studio and noticeably developed with much enthusiasm for its theme. As a fan of the game, who enjoyed many rounds in the extended edition, I am happy that something will happen for the game's future. Maybe, with some luck, it will be announced next year.