Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties

Gambatte Colby-san!

While the expansion pack for Heroes Of Might And Magic V is just a visual rehash of the original, The Asian Dynasties (TAD) shows just how add-ons can be done, bursting with rich gaming pleasure and significantly enhancing the core AOE III engine.

There's more going on than I usefully have room to list here, but the handover to a new development team (Big Huge Games in this case) has allowed the series to be treated to a fresh, yet reverential, set of eyes, ears and hands.

Thus Wonders make a return, spicing up your end game options, the clever deck system gets a few race-based twists that make you rethink their usage in a way best described as 'completely' and a hundred other smaller tweaks, tinkers and amendments make it play like an almost totally new game. Plus it still looks beautiful.


Excitingly for this old codger, TAD also sees a return to the 'stealth education' mode of the original AOE, providing as absorbing and interactive a history lesson as you could ask for. Play the game alongside an open Wikipedia browser, looking up the character and location names as you go, and you'll see the developers have done a pretty accurate job of recreating events that shaped these three nations in the past.

TAD is pricey for an add-on pack, but if you can stomach the cost, there's plenty of succulent, meaty goodness to be had from TAD. Plus it will big up your brain, and that can't be a bad thing for a pony.

The verdict

Oriental gems

Big Huge Games
Sim / Strategy