One of the best free open source games on the internet has to be 0 A.D. It’s a historical RTS game for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux operating systems, covering the time period from about 500 B.C to 500 A.D. It sort of has the same feel as some of the earlier Age of Empires games (maybe Age of Mythology), and though it’s open source and still in alpha stage, it’s quite playable and pretty fun.
There are 6 civilisations: Celts, Hellenes, Iberians, Romans, Persians, and Carthaginians. Even at an such an early stage, it’s interesting to note that each civilisation already has it’s own style, and it’s fun to experiment with them using different strategies. There is a brilliant original soundtrack, and the graphics are great. The save game system works fine, and an added bonus is that it’s completely portable. I have it installed onto my USB stick so I can play it at school on the netbooks at lunch, and it works just fine (though a mouse is pretty essential, I’d say).
The most current version is the Alpha 9 version, Ides of March, which came out yesterday. Some of the new features include the recently finished Roman faction, a barter system, new music, animations, and improved AI. Also, what I had eagerly awaited has arrived, and there are now about fifteen random map scripts to choose from, in addition to the thirty or so scenario maps. Something promised on the menu screen is a campaign mode, which would be really cool.
But at this stage, the game is not without its faults. The AI is not very balanced yet, especially on attack (buildings in particular), and it takes a really long time to finish a game, unlike newer RTS games like Age of Empires III. Call me impatient, but when the AI is attacking my town, I’d rather the game just finish quickly, instead of the AI running away for no real reason my town centre is down, leaving me to rebuild for ten minutes before he returns and actually finishes the game. Also, buildings take too long to build and destroy, so much of the game is spent waiting for your houses and barracks to build, or waiting for enemy buildings to burn down. Another annoying thing is the unemphasised distinction between different teams. You have to look closely to tell which soldiers are yours, because all the colours look similar, and it gets confusing when four different players meet in the middle of a map.
But none of these problems hurt the game that severely, and as long as the AI problem continues to be worked on, I’ll continue to play 0 A.D. well into the future. Another thing to look forward to is the official release. Unlike many open source games, 0 A.D. expects to release a fully functional version for free sometime this year, but we’ll still get version updates around every three months or so.
So check it out! The 0 A.D. website is here, and you can read about and download the game there. Something the developers really want to get out is the fact that they need help with programming, art, sound; basically anything you can do to help them finish the game will be much appreciated by the game developers.
What do you think of the game? Feel free to tell us in the comments!