Age of Empires: Online dawns on PC

Microsoft announces new downloadable strategy game from former Ensemble Studios devs Robot Entertainment.

GamesCom 2010 has yet to officially open its doors, but already announcements of new titles are making their way out of Cologne, Germany. Yesterday, THQ revealed development of Red Faction: Battlegrounds, a downloadable vehicle combat game from its THQ Digital studio in Warrington, England. Now, the latest announcement comes courtesy of Microsoft, who is bringing back its Age of Empires property in the form of Age of Empires: Online.

Welcome to the Beard Age.

This upcoming PC exclusive marks a reunion of sorts, as it's being developed by Robot Entertainment, a shop started by former members of longtime Age of Empires developer Ensemble Studios. Microsoft closed Ensemble in 2008 shortly before the release of Halo: Wars, its final project. Even after the closure of the studio, there was little doubt that the Redmond company would continue to release new games in the Age of Empires series after director of Microsoft's Games for Windows PC label Kevin Unangst confirmed the franchise still had "future potential."

Age of Empires: Online is described by Microsoft as a more "social" take on the strategy franchise, with the ability to play cooperatively and a "persistent online capital city that lives and grows even when you’re offline." In addition to these new social elements, the game features a more stylized aesthetic than previous titles in the series. A FAQ section on the official site seems to address a number of issues series fans might have with this new direction.

Age of Empires: Online is a Games for Windows Live exclusive and will be released as a downloadable title in 2011. A request to Microsoft for a clarification on the game's "free-to-play experiences" had not been returned to GameSpot as of press time.

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Discussion

61 comments
Henu
Henu

AoE with cartoon-style buildings and troops? no thx

DDERME
DDERME

Age of mythology 2 make it already.

mrbrainheart
mrbrainheart

not so exited now Its going to be online only, and the 'social' thing I don't know. ...guess that they will never make AoM 2, shame though it was a great game, with an interesting story and loads of pontential for a sequel..

ComRaven
ComRaven

Robot knows that the campaign in Age 3 wasn't universally liked by the fanbase, so they are stepping back from that again. I can't say too much about the MP setup and options, and I hope that Robot will make some announcements about it soon.

mYTH_2k4
mYTH_2k4

@ComRaven I read your post at Robot. It was very well written. The fact that it comes from a long-time AoE fan makes it heartening. And while it did clear up some initial misconceptions I had about the game (the social emphasis in the trailers/adverts/beta sign-ups didn't do a lot tbh), it still looks a bit... off-flavor at the moment. Age of Empires was the very first game I played online competitively. Not only that, the historical emphasis and perfect execution of the campaigns in AoK makes it my all time favorite game-title. I was, in fact, a bit let down by AoE III which had a spot-on (for the most part) multi-player but an average campaign and storyline. Not in the least because it wasn't historic. So I'm willing to look past the graphics and the social elements. And I'm sure that the gameplay would probably turn out to be conducive for competitive play. But if the 'Quests' are not historically flavored, it just won't be the same. For me atleast...

wahyudil
wahyudil

eerrrr ... I want something that can be played on LAN please .... My connection is kind of "disaster" here ...

masterlu
masterlu

Oh gawds, will you give the "social" bit a bloody rest already?

thestrateger
thestrateger

Wooooohhaaa!! That's so exciting! Finnaly another game. The old empire is rising again! :)

stziggy
stziggy

You look how the Xbox 360 nickle and dimes and you don't think Microsoft is going to follow suit in this game? There idea of "free to play" content will be time trials on how fast you can enter in your credit card.

sstravisd
sstravisd

Oh AOE, bring back lot of good old memories, actually it was my first step into RTS. :)

Stonemotmot
Stonemotmot

I am a true AoE fan but the attention being payed to social stuff makes we wary. If this is even slightly worse than AoE 3 i wont buy it AoE 2 Age of Kings. Rules the world of RTS

TheClown24
TheClown24

From the looks of this my hatred for Microsoft is about to soar to new heights, and that's saying something. How dare they do this to Age of Empires!

ComRaven
ComRaven

I haven't seen too much of the MP side, and much of that has yet to be announced. Yes, there is a campaign for each civ; the difference being that you get the missions in your capital, rather than on a 2d campaign map like in earlier games. I agree that some of the marketing so far has been unfortunate.

Captain_Lorelli
Captain_Lorelli

@ComRaven I don't know if u can answer this because of the NDA but; As far as multiplayer goes can you play 2v2 3v3 4v4 and also do you bring your current army in(Capital City) or do u start from scratch in the dark ages like Age 1 and 2?

Lionman363
Lionman363

@ComRaven So let me get this straight. There is still going to be a historical campaign alongside CPUs? Well I have to admit, Robot haven't done a very good job of telling us. So far all I've heard is pure emphasis on the social options and online play.

ComRaven
ComRaven

The singleplayer campaign is still there for each civ; however, there is also co-op.

Captain_Lorelli
Captain_Lorelli

@Lionman363 I can understand your concern for the campaign. I really never cared for any of the other features outside of multiplayer. I mean, they have to add new features, or it would just be Age 1 with new graphics. Seems like there are some rpg elements in place as well. Co op/ and or persistent worlds are becoming fairly standard practice in multiplayer games these days. I do not think it will take anything away from the game, but I do think it is unfair if they ignore those who do appreciate the singleplayer campaign side of things.

Lionman363
Lionman363

@Captain_Lorelli Yes, I did read it. Yes, I know the classic gameplay is the same. Yes, I know the new Capital City plays like AOEIII's Home City system and more. But it is a little bit irritating how it is going to be in an entirely online setting without the historic campaigns and whatnot. I know there will be missions and other mission-based objectives, but some of this new stuff doesn't really suit the AOE formula. That's why so many people are ranting. If I can get into the beta, I'll definitely check out these new features and see if they do spice up the formula. Until then, we don't like what we've seen and heard so far and would much rather have a normal AOE sequel that can be played both offline and online.

ComRaven
ComRaven

This is NOT a social game. The only social elements are: you can do co-op missions, trade with other players, and visit their cities to look at the customization. That's it. It is not a Facebook game or somesuch.

Captain_Lorelli
Captain_Lorelli

@Lionman363 Did you even read what ComRaven posted? He sounds like a legit fan of the old series and he is really enjoying it. I would trust his words rather than a ranting mob of people with no experience with the game. If it plays anything like Age 1 or 2 competitively I'm sold. All the extra stuff is a bonus to me. Starcraft 2 is an updated version of 1, if this is that with matchmaking and more features, bring it on.

SirMordredX
SirMordredX

Fantastic - this could be really epic. Imagine if it's more open-world as well; then I could bombard a city over night and wait until the morning to reap the rewards. Awesome series - shame Ensemble no longer exists to make it though.

Lionman363
Lionman363

@ComRaven I do respect what you're trying to state, but we really don't like how this instalment is in favor of social gaming. Yes, very few have played it, but when you consider the huge amount of social and online games out there that some of us have already played, it's kind of natural for a new instalment like this to receive negative reception. Right now, we are waiting for the next REAL instalment of the series to come out and I don't feel that this will be it.

BK-Sleeper
BK-Sleeper

It's great to see that 90% of the people posting here have already played the game. I see that their dislike is well justified from that perspective. Oh wait...

PotHeel
PotHeel

Why does every new game in every franchise have to be an MMO? None of them can beat WOW, they've been trying for years so why do they keep on trying? Just make AOE IV already!

ComRaven
ComRaven

And what is wth people calling it shameful etc who haven't tried it? Jeez...

Ice-Cube
Ice-Cube

This is not what we want, I don't understand why they have killed the Age of Empires franchise. This is ridiculous! Too many fond memories with AOE 2 & 3..

ComRaven
ComRaven

The game is not more or less acurate than previous AoE titles.

mbvader
mbvader

AoE 2 was the first ever game I played and now Microsoft is killing it with this shameful piece of junk that doesn't deserve to be called an AoE... Simply unforgivable!

Kulcan
Kulcan

WTH . What is happening to RTS? Company of Heroes online .. now this? >.>

gbrading
gbrading moderator

Age of Empires? With cartoonish graphics? And not necessarily historically accurate? Microsoft, you're killing my childhood! :cry:

redneckdouglas
redneckdouglas

Stronghold Kingdoms and now Age of Empires Online. X.X

strayfies
strayfies

Hey remember those cool games you liked ten years ago? Well here's a cartoony version you never have to stop paying for.

foxrock66
foxrock66

From the faq... "Why the new look? What was wrong with the graphics before? It looks more “cartoony” now. The “Age” franchise has an incredibly loyal fan base. Do you think this new iteration will alienate any of your fans?" "Absolutely not!" Yeah... guess again. RIP AOE

Neogenic
Neogenic

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

RE3_UBCS
RE3_UBCS

Ensemble Studios is never coming back...the studio has been completely dissolved. One half of Ensemble is Robot Entertainment who work for Microsoft and have access to Age Of Empires license, they are managing AoE3/AoM servers and making THIS game. The other studio is called BONFIRE Studios, and they have yet to reveal a game but whatever it is it will not be related to AoE franchise in any way, they are independent right now and have nothing to do with Microsoft.

sircyrus
sircyrus

The images on the official site look like Warcraft graphics. I had rather liked the more realistic look of AoE. This doesn't sound like Ages of Empires at all, really. It sounds more like one of those Browser RTS games. Travian, Evony... those kinds of sites. That will be extremely disappointing if it truly is in that vein of game. The fact that they say question in their FAQs means it will not be free. It's either going to have a fee, or it will have microtransactions that put anyone who doesn't buy them at a disadvantage. AoE is one of the few RTS I've enjoyed, but nothing that they've announced here has me thinking I'll play this one.

Lionman363
Lionman363

@mYTH_2k4: Exactly what I was thinking. I'm really hoping that AOE:Online won't have you logging off and logging on consistently for several days to win a single match. The gameplay trailer mentioned something about an empire being able to grow 24/7. That's ridiculous. Age Of Empires had entire matches that could last a few minutes up to a few hours, not a few days. All I'm hoping for is that this is a gimmick to make money so Robot Entertainment can start making the real AOE4 in the years to come. If this is the new direction for Age Of Empires, a franchise I've adored since childhood, then Robot can seriously just piss off for all I care.

RE3_UBCS
RE3_UBCS

wtf is this ****? Where is Age Of Empires 4?

73X
73X

Well, this is a disappointment. I was hoping to see news on a fourth AoE game.

stakex007
stakex007

While Im happy to see Age of Empires is not dead... I must admit this game does not look like its going in a good direction. It reminds me of Civilization: Revolution which was a stripped down, cartoon styled version of Civilization for the consoles. While it was still, at its core, a Civ game... it simply was not up to the standards and quality one would expect from such a game. I have a feeling this is going to be AOEs equivilent to Civ: Revolution... a stipped down, "casual" version of a game that was never intended to be such. Throw in no offline play, and all but forced co-op gaming and this is setting up for massive failure. Not everyone wants a social based game that forces you to play with other players. I personally see far too much of a change from what made AOE great for this to be a major success.

SteelBallsBill
SteelBallsBill

My first PC game was Age of Mythology, I have many fond memories playing that game online on a dial-up connection! :P

4darklink
4darklink

guess i gotta keep playin my age of empires 3 T.T

asswipe12
asswipe12

Ya I just check there main website out, I don't think this is going to be good. They have to bring back Ensemble Studios too make this work, and I'm not a big fan with the Catoony animation, they make it look like a kids game now. I remember the old times when I went to my friends house to play some old school AOE.

Funkyhamster
Funkyhamster

Why did Microsoft even close Ensemble if the same people are going to keep making AOE games? I love the AOE series, but I hope a "legit" AOE4 game comes out at some point...

mYTH_2k4
mYTH_2k4

For die-hard AoE fans like myself, the day they shuttered ES was a Black Day in the history of video games. Since then, I've hoped against hope that the franchise would be relaunched someday... as AoE4 or maybe even AoM2. There were hints of AoE: Online just before the closure of ES but they were mostly rumors of a cancelled MMO. My delight at finally seeing a piece of Age related news was turned to dismay when I watched the trailer. And seeing 'Farmville' and 'Mafia Wars' in the list of 'Games you play' while I was filling out the Beta Survey killed something deep inside me. Being a fan, I'm still hoping that this would do well, but I've come to accept the fact that I can never lay my hands on a game that's true to the good ol' Age RTS... :(