Review: Age of Empires 3: the Asian Dynasties for BlackBerry

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Age of Empires 3: the Asian Dynasties is a strategy game developed by Glu. Originally developed by Ensemble Studios in 1997, Age of Empires became a hit real time strategy game with several sequels across the PC, Nintendo DS, and Mobile platforms.

Though previous portable AoE titles have been converted to a turn-based format, AoE III has gone back to its roots with real time strategy control. Playing an RTS on a mobile sounds futile, but Glu has modified the controls so that it just sings on the BlackBerry. With the ability to input commands while the clock is paused, cycle to the next idle worker, and jump to points of interest, the controls are more intuitive and quick. Also, units aren’t sitting ducks when left idle, as they’ll attack any unit that comes into contact with them.

Group selections are also intuitive: two taps on a unit selects all the units of the same type in the vicinity, while three taps select all the units of that type on the entire map. I found that this mass selection interface did away any need for grouping units together or trying to select a big army on screen. Separating selections into unit type really open up the strategic possibilities like flanking with quicker units, or sending your lower-cost units to the front lines.

The Campaign is a good length for a mobile game (not too short, not too long) with lots of historical bits to round out the levels. There are 3 playable nations each with unique abilities: China, India, and Japan. Each civilization has a unique wonder, which can give you special units and/or benefits when built.

The Skirmish mode has a lot to offer besides just making the game ridiculously hard after completing the campaign. In the “Regicide” gametype, opponents spawn with a super-unit that must be destroyed to achieve victory. In “King of the Hill”, players battle over a central fortress and try to hold it until the timer runs out.

I thoroughly enjoyed this game. Kudos to Glu for making such a great UI for a genre that has always been regarded as “too big for mobile”. I give this game 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties, is $3.49 at with the coupon code: BLOWOUT (that’s 50% off the App World price).

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