Review – Age of Empires for Pocket PC

by Reads (48,806)

We brought you news a week ago that ZIOsoft was getting close to releasing their port of Age of Empires for the Pocket PC platform. Well, they were supposed to release it today, but no info is up on their site yet. Stay tuned because it should be available soon.

Even though the game’s not available for you…yet…we got oour grubby little fingers on an advance copy. I love this game for the PC and AstrosFan (Brad) seems to lover it for the Pocket PC. Here’s his full review.

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No, you didn t read the title wrong Age of Empires the hugely popular real time strategy classic by Microsoft, has been ported to the Pocket PC. Zio Soft announced back in May 2002 that they would be making Age of Empires available on the Pocket PC in late 2002.

The handheld device category is growing fast, so the time is right to introduce new, feature-rich games for the Pocket PC platform Zio Interactive CEO Peter Kim in the 5/22/2002 press release.

Well, after this summer we know that Microsoft has put pressure on PPC manufacturers to drop their prices. Dell, Toshiba, and Viewsonic have responded with a fury. Now we see here that Microsoft has started to make available their PC software products to software developers to port their PC counterpart to the handheld market. With the gaming market making up quite a bit of software sales, it s about time!! We also must take into consideration faster processors, better graphics (ATI getting involved with Toshiba), and namely larger memory.

Which brings me to:

Memory. Oh boy, I hope you have plenty, or at least a good amount available on your Storage card. ZioSoft sent us over a 25 MB download for the game. There are three parts to it that at this time (pre-release) need to be loaded separately. I have loaded all of them onto my Toshiba e310 206mhz StrongArm PPC s SD card. Here is the break down:

Main game executable: 8.1 MB of storage space

Campaigns: 6.6 MB of storage space

Scenarios: 1.3 MB of storage.

Also needed is at least 10mb of free space to run the game. So, I loaded almost 16 MB onto the Storage card by telling active synch to store it there on the install. At the end, a nice pretty Age of Empires icon was left in my programs/games directory.

Fire it up!!

First thing off you ll notice that you play the game in landscape mode. Next, you ll hear some wonderful background music start up and begin to play. (With headphones on, instead of the internal speaker, it truly is good music.) The music is the same as what is on the PC gold edition version (if I can remember correctly).

Now you ve got some choices:

  1. Random Map
  2. Campaign
  3. Death Match (oooooh yeah! Sorry for all you fraggers out there, no online play just AI/Bots J )
  4. Scenario
  5. Saved Game
  6. Cancel

I ll just explain Campaign and Scenario for you. The others are self-explanatory.

Which to play?

Campaign starts you down the long road of building your own empire. You basically follow some quests that get progressively more difficult until you reach global domination. Here are the campaigns you ll get:

  1. Yamato Empire of the Rising Sun
  2. Voices of Babylon
  3. Glory of Greece
  4. Ave Caesar
  5. Enemies of Rome
  6. Pax Romana
  7. Rise of Rome
  8. Ascent of Egypt Learning Campaign

Whoa, that s a lot of replay value there. Each campaign will have many different scenarios under it. Once you complete one, you move onto the next. Just like the original.

The Scenario option lets you choose some different Multiplayer settings that allow you to choose between 2-8 players at one time, depending on the game you want to play. Each has a different objective. The Scenarios are:

1. Come and Get Me

2. Border Patrol Crossroads

3. Cuttthroat

4. Gold Rush

5. Hill Country

6. Hostile Lands

7. Intruder

8. Marooned

9. Oasis

10. Passes

11. Pathfinder

12. Rising Tide

Are you starting to see why this game is so large? And hasn t been moved to the PPC platform until now? If you’re an AoE newbie don’t feel overwhelmed. I know this all seems like a lot and it is, but they’ve done a great job providing documentation for the game. Theri manual is one fo the best I’ve ever seen, especially for Pocket PC games!

So how does it stack up?

I m in heaven. This review could have been shorter by me just saying Make your villagers happy, get this game!

Everything ran very smoothly on my unit, so I d expect just as good a result with the other units. You will need PPC 2000 or PPC 2002 to play. No old CE devices here, fellas. As I mentioned before, I suggest loading it onto your memory card. I couldn t tell any difference in loading times.

The graphics are amazing. Remember playing AOE on your old 15 monitor? I do. Just shrink that down to your PPC, and Voila! The screenshots do it no justice.

Beautiful graphics, smoothing scolling on the map to get to your stranded forager who s getting mauled by a tiger. But wait until you crank up the sound..Oh yeah!!! The swords clanking on armor, your villagers grunting while mining stones, the Aaargh!! of another victim falling prey to your broadsword, and the infamous Victory sound when battle is won. What s nice is you can turn up your system volume all the way. Then crank up the sound meter in the game, for just a little bit more volume to those headsets. I tried cranking it on my external speaker, but it just doesn t sound as good.

Conclusion

I think for most of us all we want to know is if the graphics are smooth, and the gameplay controls set up good. Well, they are. The D-pad can move your field of view around, or you can stylus the map. Check your food stock, settings, information about your barracks, etc., etc. The interface is the same as when you used to play it on your PC, except you use your stylus instead of a mouse. Simple as that.

This has to be the absolute best port I ve ever played on the PPC. Some do a pretty good attempt at getting everything right, but Zio Soft has really taken their time to make sure everything looks good, sounds good, and plays good.

If you can t tell, I m pretty darn impressed with this one. I can honestly say this has been the most fun I ve had at doing a review! Of course, my wife thinks I m nuts for screaming Get back to building the towers! I don t need you foraging! as your little villager runs around doing your bidding.

So, make yourself a King, Tyrannt, or Dictator and build the empire of your dreams in Zio Soft s Age of Empire for Pocket PC. Who would have thought spanking some Sumerian butt with your Babylonian sling shotters would be so much fun!

When it gets released, do not hesitate to buy this. Make sure it s on your Xmas wish list! This would make the perfect companion with one of the new PPC s that have hit the market. Especially if you ve never seen what a PPC can do visually and sound wise. You will not be dissappointed.

-AstrosFan

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