Sunday, August 28, 2016

Most Underrated Game

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and will be writing out entries, hopefully I can get all thirty days without any breaks, and if I manage to do that (since August has 31 days) I will think of an additional entry to write about.  I have done a 30-day challenge before, it for movies, but that was a while back, feel free to read those too if you like.

            Today is day 28 and the topic is “An Underrated Game”.
            This game is one of my personal favorites, and is my favorite game of its genre, the Real Time Strategy Game.  I estimate that I have played it more than 1,000 hours since I purchased an actual physical copy from an actual physical store years ago (it was around the same time I bought “Exo-Squad” on DVD and I would watch my cartoon on one monitor while playing this on the other, since that time I bought a copy of the game on Steam, and use Netflix to watch cartoons because technology marches on).
            I would like to point out this game is well regarded with 90% of its Steam reviews being marked as positive and an 81 on meta-critic.  This game I speak so highly of is the final entry in a now dead and buried franchise.  It is “Age of Empires III”.
While you can zoom the camera, this is not the most accurate artwork for depicting this game.
            In the game you take on the role of a colonial leader who must manage villagers to gather resources, erect shelter and economic buildings, and then raise an army of diverse soldiers, mercenaries, and native allies to drive off rival colonial powers.  Different civilizations have different strengths and weaknesses, the Dutch produce and consume the most gold via their banks and mercenaries, the English have the best houses and bombs, the Spanish have the best medieval units like knights and spearmen, and the Ottomans have the least expensive villager production and ultimately the biggest and most powerful cannons in the game.  Those who make more progress in the new world thru building structures and establishing trade routes will be able to request greater support from the mother country, such as small orders of soldiers or better economic tools.  By utilizing these items, you must snowball your resources to crush your opponents.
            Each game takes about 40-50 minutes (sometimes longer, probably less if you are skilled at strategy games, I am not, I suck and split my attention between this and something on Netflix because I don’t really care about being good I just do this to relieve stress).
            “Age of Empires III” came out right after the well-received change of pace in the series, “Age of Mythology” which took the series back to its roots in the ancient/classical settings of antiquity, but introduced the monsters of myth and legend, like medusa, giants of various elemental flavors, and sphinxes.  It was colorful and had an epic campaign that told a spin off story of original characters and some lesser known players from “The Iliad”.  It had taken the series in a cool new direction and opened things up to being a little more unusual.
This game (much like "III") also seemed to be short on expansions.  It's not like Asia doesn't have gods and monsters.
            Prior to that “Age of Empires II” is considered a classic with dozens of civilizations (almost all of which play exactly the same) clashing for supremacy in (what was for the time) an epic game, I remember playing it back in middle school for hours and hours at a time.
            Here is the thing, I think that “Age of Empires III” is over shadowed by its big brothers, and the fact that no future games will ever come in the series might be causing it some unfair derision by those who got the game back when it first came out and it now doesn’t seem to have inspired any nostalgia except for my own, it is almost 11 years old now but I see no memes or posts about it anywhere.
I don’t think people give this game enough credit, and I do not think enough of its positive features (like unit variety and the speed at which units can be trained) were taken and put into the remastering of “II” (the remastering of “II” is a shit show, the thing does nothing to mix up its old rules and as such feels unplayable by modern standards, I had hoped when I bought it to see some tune ups to the AI and the rules… No such luck, and I still see its HD release as an exploitative cash grab).
This game had its charms, but I do not feel like it holds up.  It is almost 17 years old.
            What is weird though… “III” isn’t really overlooked.  It has a slightly better review score than “II” (though only 29% the number of people reviewed it) and has both more reviews and better reviews than “Mythology”.  Its meta-critic score trounces both of theirs (81 to their 68 and 66, though on Wikipedia, reviews of time were less kind), so I guess “III” is more positively regarded overall.  It just doesn’t feel like it to me as I look around the internet.  This is the only “article” I can see on the topic, though there are some message boards and a reddit thread.
            Regardless, I think that this title is a good RTS, so good in fact that I am still disappointed that the series ended.  At the very least I feel that “III” could have used 1 more expansion.  It has 8 European civilizations, the first expansion introduced 3 American Indian civilizations (that expansion is kind of shit), and the second expansion introduced 3 Asian civilizations, which means that the game left out Africa (the last great colonial scramble) from any play, even though the Zulu and Ethiopia would have made sense.  They could have even done a 4th expansion, including Oceana civilizations like Hawaii, Australia, and New Zealand.  But that is just wishful thinking, I have gotten used to the burdening to the point of being bloated mod culture on “Civilization V” and wanting more content for a thing I have liked for a solid decade doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.
I know there are handheld entries in the series.  No, those don't count.

            What game do you think it underrated?  Is it something that came out years ago and never got the following it deserved?  Or is it something on early access that should be getting more purchases to get the project into full gear?  “Slime Rancher” looks alright, is that it?  Let me know in the comments.  Conversely, is there any franchise that is no longer around that you miss dearly and you want to talk about where it could have gone? 
Seriously now, promises of future installments were made.  Deliver.  I want them.
If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

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