Ensemble Studios has a fantastic track record with expansion packs. Previous expansions for Age of Empires games have done a great job of expanding on the core real-time strategy experience. More recently, Age of Mythology: The Titans managed to not just extend the core game, but actually reinvent how the game was played. With Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs, Ensemble has crafted a solid expansion; yet, it doesn’t quite live up to expectations. Multiplayer enhancements make it a worthwhile purchase, if you’re big into skirmishing; however, aside from the lengthy of the campaign, there’s little to get excited for in the single player experience.
Extending the single player experience, The WarChiefs offers 15 new missions–more than half the number included in the original game. You’ll continue to explore the story of the Black family through two distinct acts: the first follows Nathaniel Black as he aids General George Washington in the Revolutionary War, while the second act puts you in the role of Nathaniel’s grandson Chayton Black during the period of westward expansion. Parts of the campaign are little boring due to rather easy missions; however, there are a few missions that are well crafted and memorable. One early mission has you crossing the Delaware River and destroying Hessian encampments while stealthily avoiding British patrols, whereas another later mission puts you in the middle of the Battle of Little Big Horn. Scenarios like these make The WarChiefs interesting and worth shifting through the less inspiring missions.
The WarChiefs adds three new civilizations to the mix, joining the eight original European nations. While the original game only allowed trading with Native American races, the expansion actually enables you to control them as playable civilizations. Both the Iroquois Confederacy and Sioux Nation are featured in the first and second acts of the new campaign, while the Aztecs can be used only in skirmishes. The concept of playing as a Native American civilization has been a major selling point for The WarChiefs; unfortunately, they fall a bit short from expectations. During the campaign, the Iroquois and Sioux play too much like their European counterparts. Mission objectives require building up similar artillery, infantrymen, and cavalry as in the original game; the campaign really doesn’t provide the opportunity to experiment with the unique features of the new civilizations.
Only when playing skirmishes do the new civilizations truly stand out. Each of the new civilizations possesses a WarChief that acts as a powerful hero unit. WarChiefs can provide bonuses to surrounding units, capture treasures, and actually grow stronger with experience. Combining the power of a WarChief with the new fire pit can actually boost the strength of a Native American army to rival that of European forces. Villagers can be tasked with dancing around the fire pit, which bestows greater strength in combat. These key features bridge the gap between Native American and European forces; moreover, stealth units such as the Iroquois forest prowlers open plenty of opportunities for cool strategies.
Beyond the three new civilizations and their accompanying units, The WarChiefs includes a smattering of enhancements to multiplayer. European civilizations now have the option to revolt instead of advancing into the Industrial, granting military bonuses. New trade monopoly victory condition enables you to win a skirmish by hold half the trading posts on a map and then purchasing a monopoly. Of course, new cards have been included for upgrading your home city. All of these relatively small additions go far in enhancing the multiplayer experience; arguably, this is the most compelling reason to purchase The WarChiefs beyond the extended campaign.
- Overall: 7.9
- WarChiefs lives up to its role as an expansion pack: rather than shake up the core game, it manages to offer up enough enhancements to make it interesting. Highly recommended for multiplayer, less so for the single-player campaign.
— Tracy Erickson