Age of Empires 3: The WarChiefs
Ensemble Studios sent us a preview copy of their new Age of Empires 3 expansion, The WarChiefs, and it’s looking like AOE3 fans are going to be happily diving back into this venerable series. From my brief foray into this beta preview, I’m sure that fans of the AOE franchise will find a lot more colonial RTS goodness, but I’m not so sure The Warchiefs will bring anything really new and exciting to the table.
The WarChiefs introduces 3 new playable Native American empires to the fray. The Iroquois were the only empire available to play in the preview, and according to Ensemble studios they’re the most generalized of the 3 tribes, making them perfect for beginners. Joining the Iroquois are the Sioux Nations, specializing in quick-striking cavalry units, and the Aztecs with an impressive, all-infantry army. The time I spent with the Iroquois didn’t completely wow me, but they were a solid addition to the Empire list. They managed to hold their own against their European enemies fairly well through all the ages.
In general, the Native American empires play similarly to their European counterparts, with a few notable exceptions. The WarChief unit, an explorer analogue, is a bit of an improvement over the European unit. Unlike the Explorer, this hero-unit is able to improve as the scenario progresses. In addition to being a powerful combat unit on his own, the Warchief is also able to give nearby units combat bonuses, making it quite useful to send them into the heat of battle.
The Native American empires also get a Firepit building, adding a bit of strategy to the villager deployment. When keyed to the Firepit (and not busy gathering resources), the villager units dance around the building, granting a wide variety of bonuses to the growing empire. The Firepit can give bonuses to unit training rates, experience gathering rates, and even combat bonuses. I haven’t had much of a chance to see exactly how much the Firepit can turn the tide of battle, but it certainly adds another dimension.
The WarChiefs also adds a 15-scenario campaign, continuing the story of the Black family and their North American adventures. I got to play through the first act, and was pleased with what I saw. Rounding out the extra play content are a few more options for skirmishes. Players can now achieve a “Trade Monopoly”, winning the scenario when they control and hold a certain number of Trading Posts. And players may now have Treaty games, an official “no early rush” option which makes it impossible to attack before the agreed-upon time.
Overall, The WarChiefs looks to be a quality addition to Age of Empires 3. While I don’t see any improvements that will win new AOE converts, fans will certainly find a lot to like in the additional content. Look for The WarChiefs later this fall.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I'm an old-school gamer, and have been at it ever since the days of the Atari 2600. I took a hiatus from the console world to focus on PC games after that, but I've come back into the fold with the PS2. I'm an RPG and strategy fan, and could probably live my gaming life off a diet of nothing else. I also have soft spot for those off-the-wall, independent-developer games, so I get to see more than my share of innovative (and often strange) titles.
Away from the computer, I'm an avid boardgamer, thoroughly enjoying the sound of dice clattering across a table. I also enjoy birdwatching and just mucking around in the Great Outdoors.