Turn-based strategy gamers in need of a fix should probably drop their PCs and pick up a Nintendo DS if they haven't already. The genre is thriving on the handheld system these days, with games like Age of Empires: Mythologies and Civilization Revolution and the Advance Wars series leading the way. Griptonite Games has done a terrific job with this sequel to 2006's Age of Kings, reimagining another Ensemble Studios oldie but goodie with enough depth and detail to satisfy the most discriminating strategy purist, while remaining accessible to neophytes.
This is a hybrid of traditional RTS gaming, like that in the classic Age of Empires games for the PC, and of old-time turn-based strategizing seen today largely in DS games such as Advance Wars. RTS influences include the three complementary factions--the fierce Norse, the jack-of-all-trades Greeks, and the defensive Egyptians--and the need to build settlements and gather resources. Villagers are employed to construct various buildings to help your civilization thrive. Mills are used to process wheat, barracks and stables produce and enhance various units, and shrines generate god powers. This sounds like a typical RTS, although the game plays out in turns. Each day you erect buildings, crank out spearmen, archers, cavalry, and the like, and then shuffle them around the map into battle positions.
In many ways you have the best of both worlds here--the tried-and-true design conventions of an RTS along with the more measured tactical considerations of being able to dole out orders in turns. The depth is tremendous, especially for a handheld game. The three lengthy single-player campaigns tour through the factions in historical order. You can also take on solo skirmishes and a selection of scripted scenarios for each faction, or battle up to three other players locally or online via Wi-Fi. Map design and objectives are fairly predictable in the campaigns and the scenarios, although everything moves along pretty quickly. If you like traditional turn-based gaming, you'll like what is on offer here, even though you won't be blown away by any innovations to the genre. Sieges are the main annoyance. They tend to drag on too long and turn the otherwise crisp and clean graphics into mobs of colored blobs where it's just about impossible to see where your camel ends and the enemy's spearman begins.