reviews and playing tips: Pocket PC games
Age of Empires,
$29.95 Reviewed December 2002
If you are anything close to being an RTS
(Real Time Strategy) fan, you should clear out your social
calendar before picking up Age of Empires for your Pocket
PC. Ported by ZIO Interactive, Age of Empires is just as
addictive on the handheld as on the desktop, if not more.
Now, you can take the game anywhere you go and truly find
If there was any question about how well
a game with such an epic scale could be ported to a small
screen, let me put your doubts to rest. The handheld version
kept the structure of the game as well as multiple game modes
including Random Map, Campaign, Death Match and Scenario,
all carried very well by the sharp graphics. If by any small
chance you don’t know about this game, Age of Empires
is an RTS game where you direct your civilization as it advances
through roughly four historical periods. The time span represented
by AoE covers roughly the end of old Stone Age, the Tool
Age, the Bronze Age and the beginnings of the Iron Age (from
12,000 BC to 500 AD). Depending upon which game mode you
choose to play, you will build your civilization and grow
your population, invade enemy territory and destroy their
establishment, find artifacts or ruins or build a great Wonder.
In a Random Map or Death Match game, you
can win by achieving any one of the standard victory conditions:
Artifacts (the first player to control and hold all Artifacts
wins), Ruins (the first player to control and hold all Ruins
wins), Wonders (the first player to build and hold a Wonder
wins), or Conquest (the first player to conquer all enemies).
In the Campaign mode, you can choose from 8 Campaigns, each
has its own map and objective for you to achieve in order
to win the game. The Scenario mode presents you with two
dozen combinations in number of players, terrain conditions
and resource availabilities. You can choose a perfect game
you want to play without designing it yourself.
Because of the handheld limitations, Age
of Empire does not support multiplayer mode. So you will
play the computer AI that seems to me a little on the easy
side but stays true to its desktop counter part. There are
five difficulty levels in all game modes and in-game settings
where you can change music and sound volume, game speed and
scroll speed among other things. The game control mainly
relies on the stylus combined with a PDA button acting like
a Shift key to multi-select/unselect. Another omission in
the port to handheld is the support for Huge and Humongous
Maps, leaving you with four types of maps in the Random Map
The game window is displayed in landscape
mode and you have a choice of left-hand or right-hand orientation.
There is a mini-map along with your resource and building
options displayed in the small window under your game window,
very similar to the desktop version. Not only does the terrain
look sharp on a small window, you will notice a huge amount
of details have been carried over from the desktop version.
The only thing that got left out is the cinematics due to
the size of the Pocket PC memory. For you creative types
and hardcore AoE fans, you will not find a campaign editor
on your Pocket PC. But not to worry just yet: if you have
the PC version of AoE, you can however create games on your
desktop and download them onto your Pocket PC.
If you’ve ever played AoE, you will
know that sound effects are part of the game. When you are
fighting a huge battle at the frontline, the sound FX that
notifies you that a villager or a cavalry has been created
is essential to your game strategy. You should be very happy
to hear that pretty much all the sound FX of the desktop
version have been ported to the Pocket PC.
There are three components when you install
the game: Age of Empires (8.1MB), Campaigns (5.1MB) and Scenario
(1.2MB), with save files usually ranging from 150K to 700K.
The bigger your game, the longer it takes to load. The game
requires 10MB of RAM to run and currently supports ARM, Xscale
and MIPS. I tested the game on the iPAQ 3835, Dell Axim X5
Advanced and Toshiba e310, and didn’t encounter any
crashes. The only big issue I had was on the Dell: the map
cursor randomly jumps to places you didn’t select and
it can not be brought back no matter what you do. You must
quit out of the current game to escape this problem. It might
be caused by the Dell’s directional button since I
did not have this issue on the Toshiba or iPAQ.
Age of Empires answered eager fans who’ve
been waiting for this Pocket PC release with a big bang! Having
the depth and scale of a game that helped define the term epic
RTS on a handheld is a dream come true. If you are an RTS fan
and have 30 bones to spare, you should invest them in Age of
Playing Hints and Tips
The number one thing to remember when you play
AoE: pause the game when you take a break. The last thing you want
to do is to have the Egyptians whip your soldiers when you refill
your coffee cup.
Destruction is not always the way to win a game.
When you can build temple and make priest, make sure you do enough
research to convert buildings and people. Take your priests with
you when you go on a conquering quest. Kill the military units
with your fighting units and have the priests convert the enemy
workers and building (except Town Centers.)
It’s always worthwhile to build Scout units
both on horse and in water. They have much better line of sight
range so that you clear the Fog of War much faster.
Make advancing through the ages your top
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
It is amazing how the graphics and details
got ported to such a small screen and not lose the magic.
The sound FX is faithfully ported from
the desktop version.
Even without multiplayer mode, AoE has
everything else that makes this game so popular and so powerful.
The large number of scenarios, campaigns and death matches
on top of the random map make this game easily one of the deepest
game to date.
If I could only tell you how hard it
was for me to tear myself away from the game just to write