Age of Mythology is a mythology-based, real-time strategy computer game developed by Ensemble Studios, and published by Microsoft Game Studios. It was released on November 1, 2002 in North America and a week later in Europe.
In contrast to previous titles in the Age of Empires series, it focuses on the myths and legends of the Greek, Egyptian, and Norse cultures. Its campaign follows an Atlantean admiral, Arkantos, who is forced to travel through the lands of the three civilizations in the game, hunting for a cyclops who seeks to release the titan Kronos.
Only four months after its release, Age of Mythology sold over 1,000,000 copies. General manager for PC games at Microsoft, Stuart Moulder, said that "The worldwide popularity of the entire franchise continues to grow, while the fans' excitement inspires the development team at Ensemble Studios to create more innovative games each year."
Age of Mythology: The Titans, an expansion to Age of Mythology, was released on September 30, 2003. The expansion contained a new civilization; the Atlanteans, and several new units, including the titans. Critics and fans received the expansion with enthusiasm, although its ratings were not as high as that of the original version.
On May 8, 2014, the Age of Mythology: Extended Edition was released on Steam. It features improved graphics, water, lighting, along with day/night cycles, Treaty gamemode, Steam achievements and a mod workshop. It has received mixed reviews from both by fans and critics due to performance lag, bugs, and other issues.
Age of Mythology: Tale of the Dragon, an expansion to Age of Mythology: Extended Edition was released on January 28, 2016. It includes a new civilization; the Chinese, a fully voiced campaign, and other new features. The expansion came with significant balance changes to the existing civilizations.
Like many other real-time strategy games, Age of Mythology is based on building towns, gathering resources, creating armies, and ultimately destroying enemy units and buildings. In this way, players are able to defeat and conquer rival towns and civilizations. Players advance their tribe through four "Ages": starting in the Archaic Age, the player may upgrade to the Classical Age, Heroic Age, and, finally, the Mythic Age. Each upgrade to a higher Age unlocks new units and technologies for the player, which strengthens their town. Conversely, upgrading requires a large amount of resources to be paid, and certain buildings to be built.
There are three playable cultures in Age of Mythology: the Greeks, Egyptians, and Norse.
Each culture contains three civilizations, based around a "major god" such as Zeus, Ra or Odin. The player chooses a major god before the game begins, then, every time they advance to the next age, they choose one of two "minor gods", such as Bast or Hel. These gods are generally less significant deities in the mythos than the major ones. All gods have unique god powers, special spell-like abilities that typically damage an opponent or benefit the caster in some way, plus unique technologies and myth units.
There are four major resources in Age of Mythology: food, wood, gold and favor (unlike in the previous Age games stone is not used). These resources are chiefly used to train units, construct buildings, and research technologies. Civilian units — namely, Greek villagers, Norse gatherers and dwarves, and the Egyptian laborers, and fishing ships — are used to gather resources. These Worker units can gather food by Hunting animals, gathering berries, harvesting livestock, farming and fishing. Wood is gathered only by chopping down trees, and gold can be gathered by mining at gold mines or from trade. Players can research technologies that increase the rate of gathering these resources. Favor is acquired in different ways by different cultures. Greek players gain favor by having villagers pray at Temples, Egyptian players earn it by building Monuments, and Norse players receive it by fighting, or by possessing heroes. Resources can be exchanged at a player's Market.
For more details see: Units (Age of Mythology)
Age of Mythology is essentially a war game, so in addition to civilian units, players can train a variety of military units. The three main groups are human units, which are more or less historically accurate, divinely inspired heroes and monstrous myth units such as the Sphinx and Cyclops.
Each of these units takes up a set number of population slots; civilians take one, while some myth units can take up to five. Players start with a limited number of population slots and can then build houses and town centers to acquire more. Most units can be upgraded, making them better at certain tasks.
Units can be subclassified into seven categories: infantry, archers, cavalry (human units), siege weapons, ships, heroes and myth units. The rock-paper-scissors model often applies to units in battle. In general lines, infantry are best against cavalry, cavalry are best against archers and archers are best against infantry. The same applies with the three different types of warship — arrow ships, siege ships and hammer ships. Heroes are extremely effective against myth units, which in turn are devastating to human units – who, in sufficient numbers, can overwhelm heroes. Siege weapons, meanwhile, are best at destroying buildings. Heroes are also able to collect relics, which grant the player additional economic or military bonuses when garrisoned in the player’s temple.
Buildings in Age of Mythology can generally be split into three categories; economic buildings, military buildings, and defensive structures. The most important economic building is the Town Center (similar to the building of the same name in other Age of Empires series games). All Worker units are trained at the Town Center, as are some vital technologies. Most importantly, players advance through the ages at this building. The Town Center provides 15 population slots, and building additional houses will earn the player ten additional slots per house. Other economic buildings include the Farm and Market.
 All military units are trained at military buildings. These buildings differ in name and usage between cultures, but all are able to train similar units. Military buildings are also used to research military-specific technologies, such as armor upgrades and attack improvements.
Wall and Towers are defensive structures; units cannot be trained at them and they are used only for defense and researching pertinent technologies. As in the other games, a Wonder is a grand building that represents the pinnacle of architectural achievement. In certain game modes, once a player builds a wonder, a ten minute countdown begins. If the wonder is still standing after the countdown ends, the player who built the wonder wins.
Multiplayer is a highly popular element of Age of Mythology. Most multiplayer games are played through Ensemble Studios Online (ESO), or via a direct LAN or IP connection.
Age of Mythology includes one free multiplayer account on ESO. Similar in function to Blizzard Entertainment's Battle.net, ESO allows players to play matches and chat with other players.
In multiplayer games, there are seven different game types available:
- Supremacy – standard game, includes randomly generated map and all gameplay aspects.
- Conquest – similar to Supremacy, but victory is only possible by defeating all other players.
- Deathmatch – players begin the game with high resources, but the game is otherwise the same as Supremacy.
- Lightning – similar to Supremacy, but the game plays at double speed.
The following are "semi-gamemodes" and are only playable by choosing the specific random map:
- Nomad – players start with one civilian unit and no Town Center, and must build up on a settlement before continuing.
- King of the Hill – players must fight for control of a Plenty Vault in the center of the map for a set period of time.
- Sudden Death – If a player's Town Center is destroyed, they have a set period of time to rebuild it before they lose the game.
Multiplayer tournaments and LAN parties are also popular throughout the world, with players flocking to computer gaming lounges to participate.
The Age of Mythology editor is far more advanced then that of its predecessor Age of Empires II. As well as standard unit placement facilities, the editor allows units to be overlapped, and it facilitates for large mountains and steep terrain. Triggers, a popular aspect of scenario design in Age of Empires II, are also present in the Age of Mythology editor, as are cinematics and other special effects.
Unlike the campaign modes in Age of Empires and Age of Empires II, Age of Mythology has only one central campaign, Fall of the Trident. This tells the story of Arkantos, an Atlantean admiral who is sent on a quest to regain favor from Poseidon, god of the Atlanteans.
Arkantos’ quest takes him to the Trojan War, where he meets Ajax, Agamemnon, and Odysseus and helps them to win the war. He then continues his travels and meets Chiron, who advises him to pursue the cyclops Gargarensis, a devotee of Poseidon. Arkantos, Ajax, and Chiron travel through the Underworld in their search for Gargarensis, and end up in Egypt.
In Egypt, Arkantos meets Amanra, a mercenary queen, who asks for his help in a domestic matter. He obliges, and helps her to defeat an ally of Gargarensis, Kemsyt. While in Egypt, Arkantos learns the truth about Gargarensis: he hopes to gain immortality by freeing the Titan Kronos from Tartarus. He continues north, still in search of Gargarensis.
In the Norse lands, Arkantos meets Reginleif, a Valkyrie, and together they attempt to prevent Ragnarök from taking place. They encounter Gargarensis again, and he traps them in a small valley with no escape. In this valley, they must survive onslaughts from Gargarensis’ forces, and wait for aid from Odysseus.
While the heroes are fighting Gargarensis’ forces, he establishes himself in Atlantis, locking up its former leaders. To conclude the campaign, Arkantos and his allies march on Atlantis, and Zeus bestows his blessing upon Arkantos, giving him the power to defeat Poseidon and Gargarensis. Arkantos uses this power to kill a living Statue of Poseidon and Gargarensis. Poseidon, enraged that he failed, destroys Atlantis. Arkantos is unable to escape but is immortalized by Athena and becomes a god.
The Golden Gift Add-on Campaign
An official campaign, The Golden Gift, was released as a download on Microsoft's website. The campaign follows adventures of Brokk and Eitri, the dwarves who appeared in the Age of Mythology campaign. The plot unfolds with both dwarves planning to create a giant Golden Boar as an offering to the Norse God Freyr. While working separately, Brokk is approached by Skult (also from Fall of the Trident) who warns him that Eitri is making preparations to create the Boar without his brother, of which Eitri is also told the same about Brokk. As both brothers race to complete the Boar in the great forge, Skult steals the finished piece and hold it in Loki's fortress. The brothers eventually assault the base and the Boar is eventually retrieved and successfully offered to Freyr.
Ensemble Studios began work on their first fully 3D engine in parallel to their development of the first Age of Empires. Christened the BANG! Engine, this was announced in January 2001 (And hinted at in 2000) for use in a new game, codenamed RTSIII. RTSIII would eventually become Age of Mythology.
In developing Age of Mythology, Ensemble Studios decided to move away from the heart of the Age of Empires Series; history, to avoid becoming stale and repetitive. This allowed them to work with new ideas.
For the June 2001 Issue, in preparing for E3 2001, Computer Gaming World released Magazine #203 featuring Thor on the front cover, the Age of Mythology Article had a whole 4-5 pages worth of information that can be read here. This article is the first piece of publically revealed Age of Mythology Information. However if one was lucky enough to gain the "Making of Age of Empires II" video, once can see the modelling of a now cut Norse Heavy Cavalry, called simply enough the Heavy Cavalry, making it the first true piece of revealed AoM content, back from sometime in 2000.
Age of Mythology has the most amount of beta/alpha content in the series (Despite a majority of it being inaccessible), hundreds of pre-release screenshots, and several videos exist showing some units such as the Apep, Griffon and the Norse Hirdman. According to Bruce Shelley they released numerous pictures (every week) videos, and other pre-release material because they saw it as "nurturing the community" and to develop hype.
The Story was at least changed several times, the most notable massive change being the switch of main characters, such as Misenus being replaced with Arkantos, other characters such as Mnevis, Achilles, and another unknown Cyclops Antagonist, Siegfried and another bandit called Shaba Ka (being merged with Kemsyt) The campaign structure changed at least 3 times, originally having some 40 scenarios, not including the cut Arena sub-campaign and the tutorials before being changed to 36 and finally 32. It is possible that the campaign was originally intended as an Anthology-based campaign much like The Age of Kings, or the later DS Age of Empires: Mythologies.
Following the announcement of the game for September 2002, a trial version was released to the public. This contained a shortened version of the game’s campaign (5 scenarios) and two random maps. In the trial version, the player could select any of the nine Gods available in the full version of the game.
Age of Mythology underwent a large amount of play-testing during its developmental phase, as Ensemble Studios attempted to create a more balanced and competitive game than its predecessors. Greg T. Street commented that one of the reasons Age of Mythology is so popular is because the development team spent many hours working on the game through active testing, rather than just taking advice from a "faceless drone in another building."
In July 2002 it was announced that a Multiplayer Alpha would be released, this was given to a random, and chosen 10,000 players, and lasted for a month before closure.
The sounds of Age of Mytholgy were designed in the way of using custom, recorded sounds (instead of pre-recorded archive sounds or the use of synths), such as beating meat with real weapons and sledgehammers to be used as hack sounds, or recording penguins in SeaWorld Texas that was slowed down with other sound effects added to be used as the well known eerie souls in Erebus.
There was much debate during Age of Mythology’s development concerning the unbalanced nature of God powers, and how to make them “fair”, while still maintaining their element of fun. It was concluded that the best way to make it fair for everyone was to limit the use of god powers to one a game, compared to the original Hero that casted Godpowers system.
On September 30, 2003, Ensemble Studios released an expansion to Age of Mythology, entitled Age of Mythology: The Titans. It contained a new culture, the Atlanteans, as well as new units and a new mythological race, the titans. The expansion was received well by critics and fans alike, though its rating was not as high as that of the original.
A soundtrack to Age of Mythology was released on October 22, 2002, under the record label "Sumthing Else". Music director Steven Rippy said the game's score, and soundtrack, were based on musicians including Peter Gabriel, Tuatara, and Bill Laswell, as well as the video game Grim Fandango. He also said that the musical work done on Age of Mythology was unlike anything he had done before. An example of this was "writing for a seventy-piece orchestra and then flying out to Washington to record it." Sound artist Kevin McMullan agreed, stating that "working with a live orchestra and creating a dynamic music system have been the most unique aspects of this project."
According to the Making of Age of Mythology, unlike previous Age of Empires games, Age of Mythology used real life instruments from the Ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Scandinavian eras, for a "Natural" feeling, some non-Antiquity instruments were used such as a Toy Piano (for the credits song for example) along with Indian Tablas and Persian Ney Flutes were used as well, despite being from areas the game did not cover.
In their review of the soundtrack, Avalanche Online stated that "Age of Mythology has an acustic [sic] sound that brings you back to the Earth's roots." The only criticism in the review was for the 16th track; "Gary's Reserve," with the reviewer writing "Whatever possessed them to place a jazzy dance track on the end of the wondrous non electric musical heaven and make it feel so out of place is beyond me." Regardless of this, the soundtrack was still rated 10 out of 10, and its review concluded with the statement "I really cannot enthuse over this soundtrack enough."
The tracks appearing on the soundtrack are as follows:
- Cat Named Mittens, A (Main Title)
- Eat Your Potatoes
- Chocolate Outline
- Never Mind The Slacks And Bashers
- Suture Self
- Flavor Cats (In The Comfort Zone)
- Slaysenflite, (Fine Layers Of)
- Hoping For Real Betterness
- Adult Swim
- Ballad Of Ace LeBaron, The
- In A Pile Of Its Own Good
- Behold The Great Science Fi
- Have You Met Her Thunder (Trailer Soundtrack)
- If You Can Use A Doorknob (Victory Theme)
- Ma'am...Some Other Sunset (Defeat Theme)
- Gary's Reserve (End Credits)
- Eat Your Potatoes – (quiet mix)
Age of Mythology was well-received by the public, reaching an estimated 1 million units sold within five months of its release.
Age of Mythology received a score of 9.3 points out of 10 on IGN. Reviewer Steve Butts stated that "Age of Mythology is much more polished and gripping than any of their previous efforts" (referring to the Age of Empires Series). He rated the game's presentation as 9.5 points out of 10, commenting the campaign provided an almost perfect gaming experience, whilst the code was solid and stable. The game's graphics scored 9 points out of 10, with Butts declaring that "Some fantastic effects and believable animations make this one a joy to watch." Although he stated that the music was occasionally repetitive, the reviewer still rated it 9 points out of 10, mainly because of its "first rate voice-acting." The gameplay was highly applauded (9.5 points out of 10), which Butts simply saying "I haven't played an RTS this fun in a long, long time."
Gamespot's Greg Kasavin gave the game a 9.2 out of 10; gameplay was ranked 9 out of 10, with Kasavin stating that "you'll get the impression from Age of Mythology that the designers spent their time further adjusting the gameplay conventions that they themselves have already helped pioneer.". The graphics also scored 9 points out of 10, with the comment that "Age of Mythology is a great-looking game, filled with bright colors and carefully detailed animations." The reviewer was very fond of Age of Mythology's sound, stating that "it has a stirring musical score that's distinctly different for each of the civilizations, and unit voices are done in the three cultures' native languages," and ranking it 9 points out of 10. Age of Mythology was rated 10 points out of 10 in the value criteria, with Kasavin stating that "Age of Mythology offers tremendous lasting value in either its single-player or multiplayer mode." Finally, the game scored 9 points out of 10 in the tilt criteria, for an average of 9.2 points.
Review website Netjak gave Age of Mythology a score of 9.3 points out of 10, praising it as being "simply divine". The gameplay was ranked 10 points out of 10, with the reviewer appreciatively stating that "the single player campaign is the "meat" of the game." The graphics were also rated highly; 9 points out of 10, and the game's 3D animation (as opposed to the 2D animation in the Age of Empires series) was applauded highly. The review complimented the sound for not being overly interfering, but instead providing "a pleasant backdrop to the action, while managing to not overpower the ambiance." The game received a replay value score of 9 points out of 10, for an average of 9.3 points.
Age of Mythology received a metascore of 89 points out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 31 reviews. This score included five reviews which gave the game a 100% ranking. 30 website users gave the game an average score of 8.2 points. Age of Mythology was ranked similarly highly on Game Rankings, with a score of 89% based on 47 media outlets. All of the reviews presented gave the game a score of at least 70%.
Expansions & re-releases
The first official expansion to Age of Mythology is known as Age of Mythology: The Titans, or just The Titans for short. It introduced a new faction, the Atlanteans and a 12 scenario campaign featuring Arkantos's son Kastor as he and the surviving Atlanteans struggle to regain their lost glory by following the ancient Titans.
On May 8, 2014, Age of Mythology: Extended Edition was released on Steam. It features improved graphics, water, lighting, along with day/night cycles, Treaty gamemode, Steam achievements and mod workshop. Compared to the original release, Extended Edition recieved average reviews (of 70%) due to lag, bad optimisation, and bugs, it is reviewed better however by customers on Steam, recieving around 9/10, however much of the playerbase do not think of the re-release well, and as such a Petition was made by Nakamura one of the former balancers of Tale of Dragon.
On September 19, 2015, a new expansion for the Extended Edition of the game, labeled Age of Mythology: Tale of the Dragon, was announced and planned to be released in January 2016, featuring China as a civilization, new random maps, and a new campaign. It was released on January 28.
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- Interview: Rock of Ages
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- Age of Mythology: Volume II
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- Age of Music
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- Age of Mythology
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