Fun as a Single Player
I decided to revisit this game, as it's been many years since its release and, when it came out, this game's graphics in optimum settings exceeded all but the fastest gaming computers. I dusted off the original and both expansions with it too and loaded them into the computer. With Windows 7 the computer had to revert back into “Basic Color Mode” but I got it to run. Now that computer CPUs are out in front of the graphic requirements by alot, I could run AOE III in all its glory and, let’s just say that it does have some amazing sequences, especially the ship-o-the-line battles and building bombardments. In this version, you get an explorer from a home city that has special attributes that are very helpful and make you feel like you are in the game a little bit, or that you have a field general at least. And you get shipments from your home city that are very handy throughout the game.
That said, when comparing to its predecessor, Age of Kings, the game does leave some things to be desired with regards to gameplay and, especially multi-player campaigns. The left and right clicks are changed and different in this version which took some getting used to but that is no big deal. My biggest issues are that this version lacks the trade carts and ships that were a major team-building point for Age of Kings. Instead of creating a trade route, there is a static, pre-programmed route on each map which takes away from the creative element in the game. This knock is also evident with the workers or villagers. In the previous game, a major point of strategy was setting the lumber camp near the woods or mine near the mineral or granary near the berries etc. because they actually had to lug the resource back to the proper receiving point or the town center. Whereas in the AOE III version this strategy is just thrown out, as the villagers just gather wherever they are and don't walk anywhere, the resource just magically appears in your coffers. I don't know if this was because programming the graphics upgrades and the strategy points was too much to handle or if the creators just wanted to just bypass some of the micro-managment in AOK but I miss it. It was part of the basic strategy in the game.
Another thing that is a disappointment is that the general geographic distances in the maps are not as large in this game as they were in AOK (AOE II). I’m guessing that must have to do with the intense graphics of the latter game.
And last but not least, when playing a multiplayer game, your choices for team games are much more limited in this last CD-based game in the series. In AOK, for instance, you could arrange a local network game with up to 8 players on teams of 2, 3, 4 or whatever. But in AOE III you can only have two separate teams offering less variety in the matchups. It's a drag.
So my final analysis is that AOK is a better all-around game because it incorporates more variables with regard to strategy and multiplayers teamwork. Like its title animations, AOK is a better chess-game. But if you are after more vivid graphics and maybe just want to jaunt through the colonial period, AOE III is worth a spin!