Release date: 2016
Version played: PC via Steam in 2016
The most recent expansion for the decade-plus old game, Tale of the Dragon is an add-on for Age of Mythology Extended Edition (which I reviewed here). This new package adds the Chinese civilisation to the game, with the option to worship Fu Xi, Nü Wa or Shennong, and another dozen or so minor deities to expand your empires in various ways. New soldiers and mythical units, as well as tide-turning god powers are also added, each with their own unique way to sway the tide of battle, be it with economic value or destructive force. The nine-level campaign features various objective-based levels as players command General Jiao-Long in a quest to restore Yin and Yang to the land.
+ the Chinese soldier units are backwards from the rock-paper-scissors combat from the base game. The Chinese cavalry are good against infantry, infantry against archers and archers against cavalry. It caught me off guard several times before I was able to wrap my head around this, but it soon showed the new depth combat can take
+ the Chinese god powers are worthy to stand alongside the Norse, Egyptian, Greek and Atlantean counter parts, with none feeling over powered or unfair. A great flood, and a sentry-style dragon are some personal favourites
+ various levels of the Chinese ‘Tale of the Dragon’ campaign try new things, including optional objectives and some minor mini-games. These “unlock” various units or building in each level, though none were mandatory for completion. It was an unexpected but interesting way to ‘spice up’ the standard gameplay. A handful of the nine-mission campaign scenarios did not even feature base building
+ the Chinese civilisation design is fresh; siege units are human infantry, the aforementioned strength/weakness swaps and the ability to create monks (which act the same as their ‘wololo’ counterparts from the original Age of Empires) was a welcome addition
– from the very beginning, it is clear that there was lots of re-used assets; the two heroes you control throughout are simple re-skins of ‘The Titans‘ Kastor, and a third is a barely modified Setna from the original game. I was not expecting anything groundbreaking, but these units feature the same model and special attacks, which made this often feel like a simple mod, rather than an official expansion
– I have to admit the voice acting is just as bad as the original game; if the models can be forgiven for sticking with the old, the voice acting could have been improved at least a little bit
– the new campaign is very short, and features almost unanimously Chinese-vs-Chinese levels; even a single level going up against the Greek armies, or a familiar face from the previous games would not have been amiss. There were also many times where the campaign levels had some shoddy design, where enemies were able to walk through a forest or through a single-block gap in a cliff which was seemingly unintentional and very frustrating
> after purchasing the base game many years ago, I often wanted the ability to play on larger maps (larger than the ‘Large’ on offer); this new expansion has added ‘Giant’ which fulfills that need of mine quite nicely
Should you play this game: At first, I was hard-pressed to find anything particularly great to suggest this. But the more I played, the more I was impressed with how well the new Chinese faction was designed (if not in terms of looks, then at least in gameplay). I bought this for five dollars in a Steam sale, and in that regard it was certainly worth it. If you are itching for some new real-time strategy gameplay, then it might be worth the usual price of $10. Fans of the original game, or RTS games in general will find something to keep them going here.