Age of Empires Online
UPDATE: This game has been shutdown and is no longer available
Age of Empires Online Overview
Microsoft Studios at last brings the Age of Empires flavor you know and love to the free to play market, with some concepts fresh to the series, in additions to classic MMORPG mechanics and a fresh, cartoony coat of paint to boot. Boasting iconic civilizations, Age of Empires Online lets you progressively build your capital as you quest and loot your way through the ages. Though Age of Empires Online is not without its fairly significant flaws, it attempts breathes life into the series with its simplicity; it’s new art direction and the fun of its variety of new features. For some, the game is a blast from the past. Unfortunately, most might not feel as positively about it.
Age of Empires Online Screenshots
Age of Empires Online Featured Video
Age of Empires Online Review
This is a series that most likely needs no introduction, unless you’ve been hiding away from civilization for 20 years. Age of Empires is quite literally the forefather of real time strategy games; it was one of those titles that started it all. Though many in its category faded away with time, Age of Empires is alive and kicking, as proven by its recent venture into the MMO market. This might be a surprise to some, considering how far it went, going from a full feature 50$ game to a free-to-play model. It’s a surprisingly smooth transition, though it could also be said that it could have been done better in many aspects.
You most likely will notice the change in artistic style as soon as you log on. Apart from Games for Windows Live’ soul-corrupting presence (That is a rant for a whole other article); you’re thrown straight at your civilization choice, and a few clicks away you’re ruling over your capital city. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to chew at here; only a handful of civilizations at the time of reviewing, with only a few others expected to be released before year’s end. The issue is that this feels slightly rushed; what RTS game releases with only two civilizations? This is not something you would expect from Age of Empires. Your capital is where you accumulate loot, pick up quests, craft items that will give bonuses to your troops, and build buildings with a variety of functions. To do so, you need material such as wood, stone, etc, that can only be acquired by doing quests around the world. Some buildings are used as stores, buying items, blueprints and materials. Others are simply used to produce material over time (Think, a bit like a Facebook game), discover technologies or sell you money store items.
Walk Like An Egyptian
Most of your gameplay experience will center on questing, upgrading your capital city, and PvP. Aside from playing with your capital city, most of the gameplay can be experienced with a companion. There are a few things wrong with that approach however, notably that team games can be very laggy, and plagued with incessant stutters. Not only that, but matchmaking can take quite a long while. The gameplay itself will seem familiar to most; it starts with a great deal of base building, which some will love and others hate. Setting up a viable economy has been, for as long as Age of Empire existed, a significant part of its gameplay, and you can expect to find a lot of it here. Maps also have random treasure chests filled with resources you’ll be able to use in your capital city after the game, always guarded, and sometimes in very odd places. Goodies aside, each quest has you performing a variety of tasks, from simply taking down enemies, to retrieving kidnapped family members in exchange for capital city rewards, gold, resources and Empire points (Used to purchase from special stores). You’ll also get experience, which goes towards acquiring levels that will in turn give you points to spend on the technological tree.
Show Me The Money!
The tech tree system is not bad at all, as it lets you go down three different trees; military, economy and utility. You’ll unlock buildings, units and whatnot, which is a very good encouragement, as players can see their progression materialize into specialized units, or special buildings. Some buildings can be quite silly however, like the workshops that simply produce resources over time. Why not simply have these be acquired during missions? Where it gets very ugly though, is the item system. Yes, you’re not done hearing about this aspect of AoEO. To put it simply, having the right items make a world of difference, and someone who has crafted his way up will simply dominate anyone who does not have matching items. Worse, money store buyers can acquire special gear, giving them a definite advantage over regular players; if you do not cash in, you cannot compete. In some cases, there is simply no reason to PvP unless you’re looking to get rammed by paying customers. The game will tease you with blueprints you can’t use unless you’re “Premium”, give you quests you need to be premium to complete, and even give you “demos” of premium content. Yes, the pressure to buy is fairly high here.
Unfortunately, we’re not talking about small sums here; purely aesthetic capital items are about 7$, civilization packs are 20$, and a season pass that unlocks all content released up until early 2012 is a stunning 90$! In the end, you might realize that the gameplay comes down to a rock paper scissor combination, where infantry is good against cavalry, who is good against archers, who are good against infantry. While some will enjoy this, it’s the same since ye’ ole Age of Empires, and it’s starting to smell a lot like yesterday’s (Or last week’s in this case) leftovers. Mixed with a very limited amount of content, a lot of which you’re actually expected to pay for, horrible networking, unfair balance and Microsoft’s Games for Windows Live system, this makes for a very stale disappointment coming from the Age of Empires series. It’s pretty much the same old with MMO features roughly glued to it. It makes for shallow fun, with very, very little depth.
Final Verdict: Fair
If you’re desperate for some Age of Empires action, go ahead. It’s good looking, and it’ll give you exactly what you expect. However, don’t expect anything long-term, and forget about PvP unless you’re ready to dish out at least 20$ for the premium civilization content. All in all, it’s a very disappointing experience, and there is no doubt that Microsoft Studios is capable of much, much better products, than this re-packaged excuse with the Age of Empires name on it.
Age of Empires Online Links
Age of Empires Online Requirements
OS: Windows XP / Vista / Windows 7
CPU: Intel Pentium 4 2.0 Ghz
RAM: 1 GB
HDD: 1 GB Free
Graphics Card: ATI Radeon 9500 or better, nVidia 5200
OS: Windows Vista / 7
CPU: Intel Pentium 4 2.4 Ghz or better
RAM: 2 GB or more
HDD: 2 GB Free
Graphics Card: Geforce 6600 GT or better