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By , March 16th, 00:46

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Age of Empires 1997 original

When someone first plays Age of Empires, a warm feeling develops in his gut. Warcraft meets Civilization! Real-time empire-building! And does it ever look sharp and feel right.

But an uneasy feeling builds as you get deeper into it, a sense that all is not quite right. This is not quite the game you hoped for. Even worse, it has some definite problems. The pitfall when you review a game as anticipated and debated as this one is to make sure you criticize it for what it is, not for what you wish it was. I wish that Age of Empires was what it claimed to be - Civilization with a Warcraft twist. Instead, it is Warcraft with a hint of Civilization. That's all well and good, but it places it firmly in the action-oriented real-time combat camp, rather than in the high-minded empire-building of Civilization. The result is Warcraft in togas, with slightly more depth but a familiar feel.

Age of Empires places you on a map in an unexplored world, provides a few starting units, and lets you begin building an empire. Each game unfolds the same way. You begin with a town center and some villagers. The villagers are the basic laborers, and the town center enables you to build more of them and expand your settlement. The villagers are central to AOE: they gather resources, build structures, and repair units and buildings. Resources come in four forms: wood, food, stone, and gold. A certain amount of each is consumed to build various units and buildings, research new technology, and advance a civ to the next age. I really like it.