Native American tribes finally get their time to shine in the Age of Empires world in Age of Empires 3: The War Chiefs. No longer relegated to simple trading partners, the Iroquois, Sioux, and Aztecs take to the battlefield with the Age of Empires treatment, and for the most part it all works very well. Although the single-player campaign was a little disappointing, the skirmish mode with the introduction of the Native American tribes makes this expansion a welcome addition to Age of Empires 3.
The new tribes are at the heart of The War Chiefs, and they each give some nice variety to the traditional Age of Empires 3 feel. Rather than a home country, the new tribes each have a Tribal Council that works in exactly the same manner. The Iroquois feel the most like their European counterparts, and so are the most familiar to play. The Sioux are primarily cavalry-based, and probably my least-favorite of the new nations. They require a fast-attack approach, which goes against my play style. However, I found the Aztec nation to be a lot of fun, with its emphasis on infantry and elite units. It took a bit to get used to playing without artillery, but after that initial change I grew quite fond of the South American warriors.
Each of the tribes boasts some impressive units, and most impressive of all is the new War Chief, the Explorer counterpart. These units continue to increase in abilities and strength as time and technology progresses, so they remain quite useful throughout the entirety of the battle. In addition to the War Chief unit, the Native American nations also get a new building, the Firepit. This unit can be worked by villagers, and conveys a nice variety of bonuses to its team. Of course, dedicating villagers to the Firepit takes them away from other gathering duties, so there’s a nice balancing act to work out. The Firepit also requires some micromanagement, as only one bonus is available at a time, so I often found myself switching around to give my warriors an offensive boost, then quickly changing to speed up production of my armies.
Not to be left out, the European colonies also get a nice upgrade in their “Revolution” ability. After Age IV, European colonies can choose to revolt against their parent country. This completely cuts them off from their home colony, removing their cards and replacing them with a few Revolution cards. Perhaps more importantly, villager units stop gathering and become militia, making a revolution a tricky choice. Often I found myself using the revolution as either a last-ditch effort to take a surprise victory, or as a crushing blow when I had my opponent on the ropes.
The rest of the game is tried-and-true Age of Empires 3, with the familiar graphics, excellent interface, and solid sound effects. The single-player campaign is a bit of a let-down this time around, and it really doesn’t do justice to the new Native American tribes. Once again we follow the exploits of the Black family, with some decent scenarios, but the mix of European and Native American armies during the campaign fails to showcase the new Tribes.
Age of Empires 3: The War Chiefs is another solid addition to the AoE franchise, and the new Native American tribes are a blast to play. While the single-player campaign wasn’t all I had hoped it would be, I still had a lot of fun skirmishing and building up my new decks with the tribes. Overall, The War Chiefs is a worthy addition to the venerable series.