The strap line reads, “a game that transports players to a time when heroes did battle with monsters of legend and the gods intervened in the affairs of mortal men”. “Taking on the role of one of nine ancient civilizations, players guide their people to greatness by commanding all aspects of their empire: gathering resources, raising massive armies, waging war against enemies, establishing profitable trade routes, building new settlements, enhancing production or military might with improvements, exploring new frontiers, and advancing through four distinct ages”. This all sounded remarkably similar to other offerings in the same genre.
Indeed, the game is basically the same as Ensemble Studios' other offerings, Age of Empires and Age of Kings. It's the usual deal; build peasants, cut down trees, build a base, build an army and then kill the enemy. Why is this different to any other RTS game then?
Well I'll tell you. It's because you can muster the powers of your chosen gods. Keep getting attacked by cavalry? Simply shoot lightening out of the palms of your hands. Instead of fighting one band of horse men with another band of horseman, why not unleash the wrath of medusa and turn them all into stone. He gets out his minator, you get out your multi headed hydra. He gets out his band of the undead, simply hurl meteors at him or build a pan dimensional passageway through which your army can march. It's great. I still don't know what half the things are, but love to see the results.
You also get a series of “heroes” which have different attributes and skills. Most of them will be adept at cutting up specific types of monsters or have softer skills such as long range fighting and the ability to rouse troops to fight harder. This adds a new dimension and sense of character, away from the faceless carnage of so many Strategy games. I actually find myself trying to save the key characters as opposed to marching them to certain death.
One problem is that hardened strategists might find this a bit too easy. I'm playing this on the medium level and haven't come even close to dying yet. Whilst I'm sure this is a lot easier at the higher settings, it may be a bit too simple for the veteran to get into. My experience is that RTS fans like things complicated rather than simple (as well as preferring tweed).
In conclusion it is really good fun. For those old enough to remember the Commodore Amiga, It's a bit like Populous on speed. Whilst it will always be a cover of someone else's idea, I still think it works. Haven't spoken to the girlfriend for at least 5 days.