Six years have flown by since Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings became one of the definitive real-time strategy games on the market. Age of Kings typified this style of gaming in many respects, but it innovated and improved the style in many others, establishing the template for untold numbers of historic real-time strategy games to come. Coming off the successful spin-off that was Age of Mythology, Ensemble Studios is back with another installment in the series that put the developer's name on the map. Age of Empires III advances the series hundreds of years into the future, trading swordsmen and catapults for musketeers and cannons, while keeping the series' signature formula basically intact. What's more, the game features some gorgeous visuals and an interesting, inventive twist in its persistent "home city" system. So it's unfortunate that the actual meat-and-potatoes combat of Age of Empires III didn't turn out better, since what ought to be the most fun and exciting part of the game is actually the part that feels like it's seen the fewest improvements.