Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties is a real-time strategy (RTS) video game developed through a collaboration between Ensemble Studios and Big Huge Games, and published by Microsoft Game Studios. The Mac version was ported over and developed by Destineer's MacSoft Games and published by MacSoft Games. The game is the second expansion pack for Age of Empires III, following The WarChiefs. The game introduces three new civilizations; The Chinese, Japanese, and Indians, as well as several minor peoples, campaigns, maps, and game modes.
Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties for PC was released in North America on October 23, 2007. The Mac version was released on August 5, 2008. The game was generally received well by critics, mostly praising graphics, and sometimes criticizing predictable aspects of the game. It earned a 79% score on Game Rankings and an 81% on Metacritic.
In general, the gameplay of Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties followed a similar format to the original game, Age of Empires III. Rather than introduce new methods of gameplay, most changes were focused on introducing new content to the game.
Export: This special resource only available to the three Asian civilizations is used to hire foreign troops and research technologies from the consulate, where the player can choose a foreign ally or, for the Japanese, isolationism. Export is generated automatically when the villagers are gathering, but its gather rate is much slower than other resources, making it expensive to afford a large foreign army.
- India — This civilization has no villager cards at the Home City, but they receive one villager with almost every shipment. All villagers that are not shipped from the Home City cost wood instead of food. Villagers are also not allowed to harvest livestock for food, but instead can build a structure called a Sacred Field which will generate experience points whenever livestock are tasked to it. Sepoys (Musketeers), Gurkha (Skirmishers) and Rajputs (much like Rodeleros) are the primary infantry units, and India has several types of camel and elephant cavalry. Both of India's Brahmin monks ride atop elephants and can heal other units from the start of the game. Their Home City is Delhi and their leader is Akbar the Great.
- China — The Chinese get only one explorer shaolin monk along with a weak disciple at the start of the game. Chinese monks and disciples have the ability to occasionally land critical hits, doing extra damage. The Chinese monk is the only hero who can train military units (disciples) during the Discovery Age and has the largest attack points compared to any other monk or explorer. The Chinese have a higher population limit than all the other civilizations; up to 220 population points, rather than the usual 200. However, to reach this cap, several upgrades must be made. Additionally, their military units are trained in blocks, much like the Russians, except that each block trains two different unit types. The Chinese build Villages rather than Houses or Shrines. Villages can garrison Villagers inside them, and livestock can be tasked to them to fatten much quicker. These Villages also supply 20 population. Their Home City is Beijing and their leader is The Kangxi Emperor.
- Japan — This civilization has the Daimyo and Shogun units. Japanese villagers cannot gather food via herding or hunting, but can build shrines near huntable and herdable animals to gain a slow trickle of food, wood, or coin (or experience once a certain shipment is sent from the Home City). The shrines also act as houses, supporting 10 population units. While the Japanese cannot hunt animals, their shrines can attract animals to them. This increases the Shrine's resource production. They have the unique ability to ship most cards twice. Their starting explorers are 2 Ikko-Ikki archer monks that that can be improved with extra attributes (via shipment cards or upgrades at the Monastery). The monks start off with an ability called "Divine Strike" which can be used to finish off guardians or enemy units. They also begin with a move that temporarily stuns treasure guardians. Their Home City is Edo with leader Tokugawa Ieyasu.
There are three new campaigns, one for each new civilization. Furthermore, these campaigns return to the historical, civilization-based single-player campaigns, which are different from the past campaigns in the Age of Empires III series. Each campaign consists of five new scenarios.
- Japanese campaign — The Japanese campaign focuses on the unification of Japan, which was also a scenario in Age of Empires II: The Conquerors. It mainly concentrates on the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate, which players will control, and a young general, named Sakuma Kichiro, the "adopted son" of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who leads numerous scenarios before the Battle of Sekigahara. First, Kichiro meets up with Daimyo Torii Mototada. Then they help the villagers outside Osaka castle, who ally with them to attack the castle. After that they have to move east to destroy villages before the villagers ally with the enemy. After the victory, in which they suffer heavy losses, Mototada has to return to his castle. Kichiro goes on to take control of the Tokaido Road (a trade route), then joins Mototada at his estate. There, Kichiro learns that it was Tokugawa who destroyed his home when he was a baby and murdered his parents. Kichiro remains loyal, and escorts the villagers to safety, but has to leave Mototada to fight alone. Mototada commits seppuku, though his death was not witnessed by Kichiro. Kichiro joins Tokugawa at Sekigahara. After the Battle of Sekigahara ends in victory for Tokugawa, Kichiro abandons his loyalty to his master and rides away through the war-torn battlefield, forsaking his honor and cursing his family name for generations.
- Chinese campaign — The Chinese campaign focuses loosely on the 1421 hypothesis and is about a Chinese treasure ship discovering the New World before Christopher Columbus. The story mainly focuses on Jian Huang, a Ming captain who dreamed of seeing the outside world, and his partner, Lao Chen, a large and powerful sailor and friend of Jian Huang, who are given orders to help expand the Ming Empire. But before exploring the New World, Admiral Jinhai, a cold and power hungry admiral, hopes to become emperor of the new lands. In the beginning, the fleet is under attack from Wokou pirates. Huang and Chen save the fleet and they land in a port on the coast of India. Suddenly, they are attacked by Indian soldiers of the Zamorin. They set up a new base and build ships to mount a rescue mission and save Jinhai, who has been captured by the Zamorin's troops. Then, they head west, and land in Yucatán. Chen and Huang go to rescue the rest of the crew and fleet from hostile Aztecs. Jinhai mysteriously disappears, and Jian suspects he was captured, along with much of the crew and they mount a rescue mission. They rescue many soldiers and Jian learns of the Admiral's treason. Jian and Lao Chen rescue the crew who fled from the mutineers in the caves, then set up a base and defeat Jinhai. Jian, Chen, and the surviving crew members scour the beaches for evidence of their presence and then sail home to China, hoping that no one will ever find out the Chinese were once there and the disturbed natives will forget and go back to their daily lives.
- Indian campaign — The Indian campaign is about the Revolt of 1857. The protagonist of the Indian campaign is Lieutenant Nanib Sahir (a portmanteau name of Nana Sahib), a member of the Sepoy regiments, who first allied with the British East India Company, but slowly becomes disillusioned from its cruel ways and abuse of the Indian citizens. He helps the British regain control of the saltpetre trade. Nanib and his superior, Colonel Edwardson, then defeat arsonists in Calcutta. However, Nanib eventually joins the rebels in the Sepoy rebellion after he and his men are forced by the company to use new Enfield Rifles, despite the cartridges' coverings of beef and pork fat, which was a taboo to Nanib's and the sepoys' Hindu and Muslim beliefs (historically an untrue rumour). Nanib then fights and destroys a company fort by assaulting weapon caches to cause fires and explosions. Nanib and another sepoy hero, Pravar Patel, rally enormous forces and decide to rescue Bahadur Shah II. They sneak into Delhi in the dead of night and destroy weapon caches to cause elephant stampedes which destroy gates. Then they rally soldiers and battle through the Delhi, freeing the Shah. Nanib then leads his forces in an assault on Colonel Edwardson's stronghold. Nanib destroys Edwardson's saltpeter sites and defeats three waves of attackers. Then, he captures the fixed guns and assaults the fort, killing Edwardson in the process. Nanib's situation is very similar to Chayton Black's situation in "The Warchiefs" campaign: "Shadow". Nanib's character is very much based on Mangal Pandey who served as a soldier for the Company but got fed up from its abuse of Indian Citizens; and led the first rebellion against the British East India Company.
New game modes
A variety of new game modes are introduced in the game. The four new game modes are: King of the Hill, Regicide, Treaty and Treaty No-Blockade and two traditional game modes are: Supremacy and Deathmatch.
- King of the Hill: Players must capture and defend a particular fort until the time runs out. If a player manages to hold the fort for the whole time specified, then that player wins the game. However, other players may capture the fort, resetting the timer.
- Regicide: The goal of this game, much like that in the Age of Empires II version, is to defend the player's Regent, a single unit that represents their king. If he is killed, the player loses. The game ends when all enemy Regents, or all friendly Regents, are killed. Only one map may host the Regicide game mode: "Honshu-Regicide."
- Treaty: The host specifies a peace period (ten, twenty, thirty, or forty minutes) in which no player can attack another and players can only build within a distance of their starting town center. Furthermore, blockades to prevent Home City shipments can be put on a player's opponents. Treaty mode is also available through Age of Empires 3: The War Chiefs, but The War Chiefs does not feature Treaty No-Blockade
- Treaty No-Blockade: Similar to the forty minute treaty mode, but no blockades are permitted. The game was not balanced for this mode and therefore some civilizations have clear cut advantages.[ ]
In Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties, each of the three new civilizations get a Wonder when advancing from age to age. Unlike previous Age of Empires games, the player will not achieve victory by building a wonder. Players will have to choose a wonder which is beneficial and unique to their civilization. Once built, this wonder will provide an initial bonus of units or resources (rewards), while continuing to provide a benefit to the players' civilization. This initial bonus becomes larger, depending on which age is being advanced to. Unlike advancing from the Town Center — like in past Age of Empires games — a player must select a desired number of villagers to build a wonder and advance. It is possible to continue building the wonder without villagers, however, the rate of advancement is dependent on the number of villagers working on it. Thus, more villagers increases the building speed, and the more villagers building a wonder, the faster the civilization will advance, but this is negated due to economical reasons, as taking villagers can dent overall resource production. Wonders that are destroyed cannot be rebuilt.
In developing Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties, Ensemble Studios worked with Big Huge Games for the first time. This partnership came about as a result of Ensemble Studios being busy with other projects including Halo Wars, and Big Huge Games' real-time strategy team with spare time on their hands. Several Big Huge Games employees, including Brian Reynolds, had declared they were fans of the Age of Empires series, and thus they asked Ensemble Studios if the two could work together on the upcoming expansion. The two studios did large amounts of communication through the internet, and Reynolds says the entire process worked well. Ensemble Studios took the role of the "customer" in their relationship with Big Huge Games, and thus the game was designed to satisfy Ensemble's needs. Ensemble designers Greg Street and Sandy Petersen were also heavily involved in brainstorming and developing the game.
IGN praised the graphics in Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties, noting the graphics engine used in the game was strong enough to support the game; able to "render high-level battlefield action and ground-level cinematics easily". Gamespot agreed, approving of the added "visual pizzazz" in the form of Wonders, buildings, and units. The greatest praise came from GameSpy though; reviewer Tom Chick described the "gorgeous pagodas, arches, minarets and colors" as "a rare and generous package of new visuals". IGN called the game's voice acting "great", also praising the "livelike" sounds of the characters. Gamespot disagreed, complaining that the audio was overly similar to past games in the series.
The gameplay generally received praise from reviewers, with some caveats. While IGN's Steve Butts "loved" the game's new units and operations, he complained of a predictability in the missions, asking for more surprises. Gamespot's Jason Ocampo agreed, noting that the "campaigns feature familiar plot twists", while praising the "new twists" on the Age of Empires series-style gameplay. GameSpy noted that some of the changes were well overdue. However, the gameplay was given a big ticket, with the hypothetical question posed; "Ever play an expansion or sequel and then realize you can never go back to its predecessor because you've been spoiled by the new?"
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Allen 'Delsyn' Rausch (2007-05-23). Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties interview with Brian Reynolds. GameSpy. Retrieved on 2008-02-15.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Brian Reynolds Interview — Part 1 - July 2007. Age of Empires III Heaven. HeavenGames. Retrieved on 2008-01-22.
- ↑ Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties Goes Gold. Gameplanet. Retrieved on 2008-01-15.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Jason Ocampo (2007-10-23). GameSpot review, page 1. GameSpot. Retrieved on 2007-10-23.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Heroes and Villians. Age of Empires 3.com. Retrieved on 2008-02-16.
- ↑ About the Game. AgeOfEmpires3.com. Retrieved on 2007-12-03.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Game Modes. Age of Empires 3.com. Retrieved on 2008-02-16.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 Allen 'Delsyn' Rausch (2007-05-23). Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties (PC). GameSpy. Retrieved on 2008-02-15.
- ↑ Brian Reynolds Interview — Part 1 - July 2007. Age of Empires III Heaven. HeavenGames. Retrieved on 2008-02-15.
- ↑ Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties Demo. Gamers Hell (October 4, 2007). Retrieved on 2008-02-16.
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties — PC. Game Rankings. Retrieved on 2008-01-15.
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties (pc: 2007). Metacritic. Retrieved on 2008-01-15.
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 13.2 Tom Chick (2007-10-24). GameSpy review. GameSpy. Retrieved on 2007-10-24.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 Steve Butts (2007-10-23). IGN review, page 3. IGN. Retrieved on 2007-10-23.