I received the game in no time at all as is usual with play.com, the first thing you are met with is the half hearted packaging although not the worst packaging I have seen its still not what you call ascetically pleasing, it comes in a thin cardboard box with the 4 CDs in those little tacky white paper wallets however all manuals and quick reference guides where included so I was prepared to overlook the bad packaging.
I installed with no problems and proceeded to start the game, as I entered video and game setup for the first time like most gamers do when they get a new game I was surprised at how many options there actually where, what can only be described as a "quality" job has been done with the interface options.
As an AoE fan I was sceptical about what to expect from AoE3 after the disappointing AoE2 release, the graphics are great quality and massively improved from AoE2 while still keeping that important original feel, I have yet to find any glitches in the graphics which is a near unbelievable for an RTS game,
AoE3 has introduced something in game called the 'Home City' (which has a number of benefits earned through levelling it up by playing skirmishes) which allows you to send shipments of resources, troops and special upgrades to your town center after earning a relatively small amount of EXP during a single game through killing enemy troops or capturing treasures,
There are several campaigns available to play offering many hours of game play though they do start of relatively easy, but I advise even the most seasoned AoE player to do the 'Learn to play' as there are differences and new things that will catch you out, the skirmishes are a little more intense than in previous releases due to the addition of trade routes and native camps (war chiefs expansion) which really adds something special to the game,
Though disappointed with the packaging I was far from disappointed with the game which has offered hours of fun game play with fantastic online support available however skirmish mode does get a little repepative after a while as the computer AI is fairly limited and after several games you can find ways to easily cripple your enemy fairly early on meaning you have to take it online to keep it fun.
Game Options: 10/10
Online Play: 9/10
Overall Rating: 9/10