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the Rise of Rome

The Rise of Rome

Age of Empires Expansion Pack a Welcome Addition

Fans of "real time strategy games" like StarCraft, Dune 2000, etc. have undoubtedly enjoyed Microsoft's "Age of Empires," in which you build your civilization while seeing to it that others don't build theirs.

Now, MS has given a new title to lovingly load onto your hard drive via the expansion pack "The Rise of Rome." It not only gives you a new empire to build, it adds features to the original game that are welcome, indeed.

Age of Empires is kind of like a cross between "WarCraft II," "Civilization II," and "Conquest of the New World." It plays like the usual real time strategy game, which is to say it's a lot of fun!

"AOE" presents you with random maps, as well as various campaigns and scenarios. As with the competing games mentioned above, you start with limited people and resources, sending out villagers to gather food, cut wood, mine rock and gold, etc. Other villagers become builders, constructing the other buildings that help your civilization grow (like the Barracks that unleash your hordes upon your enemies).

If you've played those other games, you'll be right at home with Age of Empires and its expansion pack. We found it a hoot.

The Rise of Rome, which requires you have Age of Empires installed first, lets you guide the heirs of Romulus and Remus to the heights of their decadence. Or you can take charge of Carthage, Macedonia (Alexander's ragtime band?), or Palmyra if you prefer.

One nice new wrinkle to the expansion pack is the ability to build more than one of a particular unit at a time, the lack of which we found a shortcoming of the original model. Now, by clicking repeatedly on the little box that starts the process, you can control how many of each unit you want, as long as your resources will support them.

Naturally, there are also new units to construct and control as well, new technologies to invent, and a new set of campaigns and scenarios.

Age of Empire's graphics are first rate, with each figure animated quite well. The sound is also top notch.

Up to eight players can duke it out online, via the Internet (Microsoft's Internet Gaming Zone), over a LAN, or modem to modem.

The Rise of Rome is a fitting expansion to Age of Empires, and if you enjoyed the first game you'll probably want to have it.


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January 31, 2006