Age of Empires: The Age of Kings is part of the long-running Age of Empires series. There are some noticeable differences between this one and the ones in the PC, with the biggest one being that the ones on the PC are real-time strategy games, whereas this one, on the DS, is turn-based. I think this game was vastly overlooked for other strategy games. And by other strategy games, I mean Advance Wars: Dual Strike. This is a shame, because I think gameplay wise, Age of Empires is really, really better! Read on to understand my wild and crazy views.
Like I said before, this game is a turn-based strategy game. You and the opponent's units are placed on a battlefield divided into small squares. Most units and buildings take up one square each, although some take up more. Also among the battlefield are various terrain types, like mountains and forests. You and your opponent take turns moving and battling units, researching new technologies, and expanding the empire. Still sounds a lot like Advance Wars? There are tons and tons of differences. For example, once you've started your empire off by building a town center, you actually have to build things to support you. This is where the resource gathering comes into play. Once you find a square with resources on it, like gold and wheat, it's recommended you build a mine or a mill there. If you do, you'll get some of that resource every turn, which can be used to make buildings, new units, or upgrade your age, which lets you build different and more powerful units. Also, let's say you build a barracks to make some fighting units. In Advance Wars, once both players have a good amount of money, it turns into a battle of who has the most Neo Tanks. In Age of Empires, however, Barracks and other buildings have unit caps, so you can only build, say, 5 Swordsmen at a barracks. This ensures that the game doesn't go on for days, and makes it a lot funner.
The game has great singleplayer and multiplayer modes. In the singleplayer, you play as different leaders of different civilizations (there are multiple campaigns, each with a different leader). The game also has a really great tutorial campaign in which you play as Joan of Arc, which'll get you knowing everything you need to know about the game.
The multiplayer mode is also great. Basically, you and a couple of friends pick a map, and your respective armies. You can also choose if you want to play with Fog of War on, or that kind of thing. I haven't played each army in-depth, but they all seem pretty balanced, and are all mostly the same except for the heroes of the army (like Joan of Arc). Different heroes have different powers, like healing nearby troops, or lowering the defense of all enemies in sight. You can play multiplayer in Multi-card or Hot-Seat games. Sadly, there is no wi-fi play, but hey, it's really fun to just get 3 friends and start playing a hotseat game.
In Age of Empires, you can control with the touch screen or the D-Pad + buttons. One of the more annoying things about the game is that the touch screen control is pretty crappy, which kind of hurts, since that's really what I feel like using when it's 4 AM and I'm trying to finish a game off, half-asleep. The touch screen just doesn't register taps properly, and you'll find yourself making more booboos than you really want to.
However, the D-Pad and buttons are just fine to control the game. Other than that, there's not much else to say, because everything works perfectly as long as you don't use the touch screen.
The graphics in this game are actually one of the finer points of the game. The game has sort of a diagonal-overhead view to it, kind of like Final Fantasy Tactics. The sprites on the battlefield look very nice, and so does all the terrain like rivers and mountains. I mean, these aren't super-stunning 3D graphics, but I'd say they're very nice and colorful. Once you enter a battle, your units are much larger (and so is the opponents) and you see them cutting eachother up. The only thing a little weird about battle scenes is, the game tries to coordinate both players health with what's going on in the battle, and that doesn't really work. For example, your opponent's health might be zero at the end of a battle, but you'll still see soldiers standing up, when in reality, they should all be dead. But that's not a big deal, the graphics are still really nice.
The game's sounds are all pretty spot-on, although sometimes the death screams can get pretty annoying and repetetive. The music itself isn't that great, except for the title screen music. However, all battle sounds are perfectly done. I couldn't ask for much else.
As I said before, the game has a great multiplayer mode, so replay value is also good. Playing the AI, however, may get kind of boring. It's a lot more fun if you have a brother or friend to play against. Another thing that adds to the replay value are the unlockables. After finishing games, you get points that can be redeemed at the unlockables shop. You can buy things like new multiplayer maps, and new units to be built.
+Deep, refined strategy gameplay
+Great singleplayer and multiplayer modes
+Arguably infinite replay value
+Well done colorful graphics
-Touch screen control stinks