PC Games is the largest game mag in Europe. In the November issue, they have compared the three best RTS games so far (and some other ones). In case you live in Germany or Switzerland, get that issue! I have translated the final statements of the authors for you:
"In case you did not realize yet: For me, AoE is simply THE strategy trip. I will not yet make the mistake to call Microsoft's new game the winner in the real time strategy race of 1997 - there was just too little to see so far from the great competitor Starcraft. There is one thing that I can assure: If Warcraft 2 and Civilization 2 stand on top of your hit list, this game will enthrall you mercilessly. AoE has by far the most beautiful ingame graphics, a shamelessly clever AI, an ingeniously simple economy system, a very easy control, elaborated and exciting campaigns, a hard level of difficulty, an efficient scenario editor and a multi player mode that makes you addicted - and this enumeration could still be continued like this for a long time. It is especially remarkable that ES succeeded to keep the classical C&C gameplay and still build in dozens of innovative ideas. Thus they are ahead of many other producers. The competition has been bragging for months with features that no one needs or understands."
"You want a real 3D terrain, tons of units, oustanding special effects and fast paced action? Then TA is your game. If the remarkable animations or the balanced unit design do not cause a throbbing yet, you will be fascinated by the first greater battle. Heat seeking missiles whiz through the air. Tanks and solar panels burst into thousands of pieces, and aircraft fly risky maneuvers through narrow canyons. Due to the monumental explosions, you mean sometimes to be lost in the testing facilities of Industrial Light & Magic. TA is more than sound and smoke, though - it is currently the only RTS game where the 3D terrain is not only program code (compared to DR), but actually visible and influencing the tactical proceeding persistently. The reason why we decided against an award for TA after all was the non stop "tank rush hour" motive and the single player campaigns that were a bit dull. Of a rather unimporant nature were the "how does this look again" battlefields there were not clearly arranged - incomprehensible that you have to remove all these wrecks manually. However, even after deducting points in the branches atmosphere, mission design (Westwood just handles this better) and path finding, the thumb still points upwards: 3D terrain and multi player mode set new measures in the genre in any case."
"Already realized? When buying a video recorder most people decide for the
devices with the most overloaded remote control and the highest number of
functions. After the first euphoria and an accidentally recorded discussion
instead of an Al Bundy series one goes repentantly back to the original
virtues of such devices - particularly "play", "record", "rewind" and
"forward". This is quite similar to the way how DR players feel. Example
unit specific AI: an excellent idea that fails at the nature of an RTS
game: if the unit croaks anyway after a few shots, the endless adjusting of
the settings only pays off in some special cases. To come back to the
example of a video recorder: DR is a great RTS game with a vast quantity of
innovative, but not necessarily practical ideas - as it were, the "Winword
of RTS games" (80% of the users use 20% of the features). The evaluation is
thus mainly based on the cunning missions, the by far most productive
editor, the way point system that surpasses everything and an AI that gives
you the not quite everyday feeling of playing against a human opponent.
However, the AI is not everything - the fun is crucial, and it is in this
case affected, among other things, by the misshappened representation of
the 3D terrain."
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