Truth be told, PC Advisor had a bad time learning about history at school – we never saw the point of reading about agrarian policy when there were all those juicy wars to choose from. The reassuringly violent Age of Empires series would have been right up our street.
AoE3, the latest incarnation of an increasingly venerable franchise, picks up where the second game left off. The New World has been discovered and the European nations are piling over to get a piece of the pie. You take control of an initially tiny pioneer settlement and build it up into a thriving city, shepherding resources and developing various technologies. Then you build an army and bust some heads. Rinse and repeat.
So what's new? Well, one feature that has been added is the home city, a separate screen where you can demand supplies and reinforcements from your buddies back in Blighty – or wherever. An interesting idea, but one that adds little and disrupts the flow of the game.
AoE3 looks fabulous. Some have suggested it's now a bit difficult to see what's going on, but we disagree; at least, we would suggest that a certain element of anarchy to the particularly vast battle scenes has always been part of the series' appeal. Judicious use of hotkeys and shortcuts enable the experienced AoEer to get a grip on the chaos.
Do bear in mind, however, that you'll need some pretty hot hardware to stand a chance of a game – the PC Advisor offices contained one computer that was up to the job, but many that weren't – and some glitches have been reported, so remember to check for patches.