The Age of Empires series was one of the classic real-time strategy games that truly defined the genre. Despite the original game being released in the 90s, the game still delivers a fantastic gaming experience for veterans and beginners alike.
Nathan Smith spent some time with the newly released Age of Empires: Definitive Edition and shared his thoughts on the game below.
Age of Empires was one of the few games that I owned on my home PC and it remained with me for many years. I was enamoured with the historical storytelling, being in control of the progress of an entire civilisation and the quick decision making needed to make a variety of troops and sending them to the far reaches of the map to hopefully discover my opponents’ weak points.
The entire series was a wonderful mixture of Warcraft, StarCraft, Civilisation and Risk. The mental aptitude required to have a ‘long-term’ development plan and the quick ‘think on your feet before you get destroyed by enemy scouts’ was something that had never been explored before until Ensemble and Microsoft chanced their arm. I would say that it paid off for them.
Age of Empires: Definitive Edition is a collection of the original Age of Empires series that allows you to explore several significant periods of a civilisation’s existence and guide the fledgling (or former superpower) group to victory. You will send villagers out to collect different resources from around the map that you will use to build structures to help with your plight. Houses to increase your maximum population, barracks to train fighters, archery ranges, stables, markets, government buildings, temples, watchtowers and a raft of other buildings enable you to create and enhance your growing town on your way to winning the scenario.
The Age of Empires: Definitive Edition has been remastered for 4K gaming alongside upgrades to the music and sound and the UI has been given a bit of a tune-up too. This all creates an amazing total experience for anyone stepping into the game and I that I was pleasantly surprised at how crisp the game looked and sounded when I jumped into the first mission.
Now I must admit that it was probably 20 years ago when I played the first mission in Age of Empires but I don’t remember the game being as challenging as it was, even on standard difficulty. Maybe it was me not having played the game in a few years but it felt like the AI had a bit of a rework too that made them more aggressive. I like it.
Too many games these days ease you into the gameplay by providing a passive enemy that you can dominate by slowly stockpiling resources then crushing them as they sit back and throw oranges at your troops. Not Age of Empires: Definitive Edition. I had to build quick, move my civilians around to stop them from being killed and plot my next move all within the first 60 seconds.
The campaign is great if you want to walk through history, learn a little about the civilisation and spend a few hundred hours learning the map and constructing fantastic towns and cities. I would definitely recommend that you complete all the campaigns as they are all on different maps and have different victory conditions.
Multiplayer is the dormant giant in this game. Playing against another human is always the biggest challenge in most games as the unexpected is always expected. The maps can be huge and the fights epic. If Microsoft can find a way to gain ground in the overpopulated PvP market then they could have an even bigger behemoth.
Not all of the is perfect though, the unit types are all slightly too similar, the path that some of your citizens and troops take is strange, to say the least, and I did miss some of the improvements of the proceeding Age of Empires. I was constantly looking for some of the Age of Empires II improvements and felt a little disappointed when I realised that these weren’t included. Not being able to garrison your civilians during an attack or the auto rebuild a depleted farm or fish trap were glaring omissions from the remaster. Once I got over that I was back to enjoying the game for what it was not what it wasn’t.
Pick this game up if you are looking to relive some of your childhood or just want to see what all the hype is about. It’s worth it.