Review: Age of Empires: Age of Kings

DS Review

It's the genre you don't see very often on a handheld. Porn themed games? Well yes, but that's not it. I'm talking about strategy games. Advance Wars of course being the big exception for quite some time now, but other titles in this genre are rather rare. With the DS we should have a machine perfectly fit for strategy games; controlling armies in real-time, selecting units with your stylus, just pointing where they have to go with the second screen showing important information. Unfortunately we haven't seen games like this released.

Age of Empires: The Age of Kings was a successful real-time strategy game for the PC, released back in 1999. It was all about establishing your own base, collecting resources, aging up your empire and of course, attacking you're foes. Now, seven years after the release of this greatly received game, the DS gets its own piece of this real-time strategy action. Only problem, it's not real-time anymore. The game wants players to move their units turn by turn.

Although personally I'm a big fan of turn-based strategy games (Heroes of Might and Magic and the great Civilization series never seem to lose my interest) Age of Empires doesn't please me as I expected it would do on my DS. First of all the camera showing the battlefield is way too close meaning your view is so close on the field you can hardly tell what kind of unit there is behind another. Selecting a unit with the stylus often causes selecting the one next to it. Using the analogue buttons works better, but scrolling is rather slow with this method. Developer Backbone would have done a better job if they had looked closely to Advance Wars. The perspective is way higher there, making it better for the player to oversee things.

The basics of the game are the same. The game still requires you to build a base, collect resources and to demolish opponents, only this time turn-based. It works, but is of course much slower than the 'normal' real-time kind of gameplay. There's no need to hurry, everything can be thought out carefully. Creating a tactical feasible plan however is a hard thing to do. The maps are simply too small to let you fight out a decent war. Attacks often result in units standing close next to each other waiting to attack. Battles are fought automatically and shown on the upper screen, comparable with the ones you see in Advance Wars. The upper screen shows your chances of winning the fight when engaging. The game never leaves you blind to this which is nice.


The game includes enough variation of units; big heroes as Joan of Arc and Genghis Khan are still included, and every civilization has their own specialties. The DS incarnation of Age of Kings contains fewer resources with only gold and food available to collect. Building mines and constructing mills is enough to keep your empire flowing. This removes a lot of depth in the strategy experience, making it easier for you to grow your kingdom. The aging up system is kept in tact however, and also the research option is here. Unfortunately with only two types of resources these researches often result in adding income to the gold and food amount.

However, not all is bad about Age of Empires: Age of kings. The multi-player mode for example is one of the highlights. Next to the multi-card option there's a hot seat mode included. With a couple of strategy-minded friends this should be rather attractive. Graphics wise Age of Kings gets the job done. The real battles look a little cheap, but they are ok. The sound is one of the highlights of Age of Empires. Units addressing you in their native language, in combination with great atmospheric music are positive things.

But there's another point of criticism that can't be ignored. Age of Empires contains a couple of bugs. One of them occasionally causes the game to freeze when there're numerous units on the field. There have also been reports of people complaining about bugs screwing up their save files. While I had the luck not to come across this, publisher Majesco takes these complaints very serious and is still looking into them. It seems that we can add another game to the rushed-causing-bugs list.

Bringing Age of Empires to the Nintendo DS seemed a smart move. With the stylus mimicking the pc's mouse, the two screens capable of providing enough information and the graphical capacity to provide good looks. The first attempt of bringing such a strategy game to the DS isn't the success we all hoped for though unfortunately. Switching to a turn-based type of gameplay hasn't quite got the right effect; the tension Age of Empires usually has partly disappears with it. Couple that with the restriction of not being able to make tactical plans on the tiny sized maps. The overview is annoying; this all results in a very average strategy game. It's enjoyable if you manage to look beyond the design faults.

N-Europe Final Verdict

Great strategy game becomes an average one on the DS.

  • Gameplay3
  • Playability3
  • Visuals3
  • Audio4
  • Lifespan4
Final Score



Finally Another strategy game for DS
Historic fights
Hot seat mode


Overview sucks
Controls too precise
Turnbased gameplay removes excitement

© Copyright 2024 - Independent Nintendo Coverage Back to the Top