The theme for Age of Empires III
is the discovery of America and the subsequent European countries that high-tailed it over there. The Single Player Campaign takes you down many generations of conquerors, explorers, and pirates in a tale that intertwines all of the major powers who were vying for power at the time. The Campaign is lengthy and offers a lot of different situations for the player to work through.
As is usual in the
Age of Empires games, Age of Empires III has a set of ‘Ages’ that you can upgrade to throughout the course of a game. Normally you start on the Discovery Age, and you have the ability to move up through four other ages as well. This is how you progress through your tech tree, as each Age offers new units and upgrades.
New to the
Age of Empires series is the Home City. Throughout the Campaign, you gain experience by completing goals and generally killing things. As your experience goes up, your city’s level goes up with it. What your city does for you is allow you access to various types of reinforcements depending on what Age you are currently on. The gimmick to all of this is that you can customize and unlock new reinforcements to use, as your city’s rank is persistent throughout the campaign.
Another new addition to the series is the explorers that each player starts out with. These "heroes" usually have some type of special ability, and are a little more durable than your average soldier. The explorer basically serves as a beginning game scout that can kill treasure guardians (treasures placed around the map can give you experience, money, etc.). In the campaign, they are usually a main character in the plot, but in Multiplayer they are strong, early tools that you can use to scout and gain an upper hand with.
In Age of Empires III, there are eight different countries that you can play as. Throughout most of the game, around 90 percent of the units on both sides will be the same. The differentiating factors for each country are a handful of unique units and some varying economic boons or banes. This is the same formula that the previous
Age of Empires games used, and as it wasn’t broken, the developers saw no need to fix it. It offers the same depth and dynamic playability here that it did in the previous titles.
While this is all good and well for the large Single Player Campaign, the real meat of the game lies in its Multiplayer capabilities and how players fight with and react to one another. Surprisingly, Age of Empires III seems like a "dumbed down" version of the previous games. Your need to increase experience for reinforcements, along with some old features being cut, and nigh impossible rushes gives multiplayer a much more sluggish pace than what we’re used to.