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When I was younger I always loved tactics and just generally kicking ass in video games (or trying to) I got this game for free with a graphics card when I got my first computer (I think I was about 9 or 10?) and I can still remember my first play... man I was awful! When I was young this game was just bad-ass and was great fuel for my imagination back then. For parents, there is nothing really in this game that is in any way a bad influence or going to bring up your child wrong. If anything, it made me think faster, cleared and helped to improve my general intelligence (I think). For those people who think games are just robotic and a waste of time, I invite you to give this a go. I guess there was things that would have been better for my development however, what's a 9 year old going to do? Play a game that they enjoy in their free time, or sit down and learn their times tables?
What inspired my to play this again was when I was at my mates last weekend and saw this in his games cabnet and the memories just flooded back. We played online together the next day, (needless to say I was awful and couldn't remember what to do) and let's say I lost my edge! Anyway, after an hour or two it all came back and I was sucked back into that time consuming game. This game is a monster with a big hunger for free time!
The main aim of the game is to start with a number of citizens/peasants, and use them to get resources. From there you can build buildings and from there you can build an army. You can use that army to go to the enemy base and then stop them from getting resources (By killing their citizens). You could think of the whole thing mathmatically, you need to do more damage with your army than it cost you to create it. It's a pretty standard tactic when it comes to rts games however this one executes it beautifully.
The depth of the units and buildings is huge, with each unit playing a valuable part in the game. The game I got came with a chart showing what counters what and uses for each unit. From what I can see the creators were trying to make a game where there was no one unit that could just walk over the map and wreck everything, but that thought and consideration had to be put into each move. Every unit has a weakness and every unit has a strength. Never before have I saw a player just making one unit and actually winning. (unlike some other RTS games I've played)
From what I can see, this old game is still miles above the modern RTS games that just lack the thought and balance that this has. From the Prehistoric age to the Nano age, you'll be having a blast playing this game. With an incredibly challenging campaign to the endless random map game mode you'll be saying goodbye to your free time. The best thing is that pretty much any computer can run this too! The stat requirements are pretty basic as it was made back in 2003.
The only flaw I see in the game is that the AI for the enemies is just rediculously good... when I was younger the only way I could win was if I gave myself a friendly NPC to help me out. Perhaps I just need more practice! If you're reading this as a serious gamer then I would say this game is pretty much flawless when it comes to multiplayer and provides an excellent competitive opportunity. I've heard of people playing for money in this game, although I'm nowhere near good enough to do that (yet).
Oh yeah one thing, If you want to play online Sierra no longer have servers for this game. You need to use a program like Hamachi or Game Ranger to play with your friends (good job it's free).