I cut my teeth on turn-based strategy games back on the PC. I wasn't necessarily that good at them — though I did rock me some Warlords 2 — but I always had fun with them and their board-game equivalents.
Soon after I got my Nintendo DS Lite last Christmas, some friends suggested Age of Empires: The Age of Kings as a good turn-based strategy game. And I can say a couple of things about it right away:
Age of Empires does a lot of things right on the DS. You have a choice of inputs, either using the D-pad and the buttons or the stylus. Most people, it seems, go with the D-pad.
The graphics and isometric viewpoint of the battlefield provide a nostalgic kick to the old days of PC games. The animations and audio are amusing the first few times you see or hear them.
There are two major resources in the game: grain and gold. You progress through the ages, handling those resources and building your army. While you can build up an army, the maximum number of units is capped to keep it from getting too unwieldy — and if you have a number in the same area, a helpful menu will pop up to help you select the right ones.
It's definitely got a learning curve, but you can pick up on it quickly — and you won't want to put it back down.
There's also multiplayer and, even better, multiplayer "hot seat," which means you only need one DS that everyone shares. That can take a while for a game, but it's a great way to introduce the game to people who don't own it yet (or don't have a DS at all).It's a hard game.
The AI takes no prisoners. As you play through the five different leaders — starting with Joan of Arc in a tutorial that is NOT a pushover — you go up in levels, and some of them can get quite difficult.
In addition, you'll often find yourself with a small army thanks to unit cap restrictions. That forces you to be more strategic.It's a long game.
There are five different character campaigns you play through — Joan of Arc, Richard the Lionhearted, Saladin, Genghis Khan and Minamoto Yoshitsume. Each of those campaigns will give you hours and hours of play.
This isn't a "hey, I beat it in a few hours" type of DS game. It'll keep you going for days or even weeks — depending on how much you play — and even if you beat all of them, you can go back and try to do better, or you can play multiplayer.
In terms of sheer amount of gameplay for your buck, this is probably one of the best deals you can find for the DS.It's not a perfect game.
The audio and animations get old after a while. The graphics can be a bit clunky and hard to differentiate. The units are fairly standard (in a rock, paper, scissors kind of way), though there are something like 65 of them.
The stylus seems like a neat idea at first, but it quickly becomes a burden to use.
It can simply be frustratingly hard at times.
Now, don't get me wrong. I think this is a great game, and I think that if you're a fan of turn-based strategy games, you can't go wrong with Age of Empires: The Age of Kings.
You'll get tons of play from a single purchase. It's definitely worth it. It's just not ... perfect.