Age of Empires Online First Look

We pull our armies out of our sleevies and visit some cities in this free-to-play PC title.

It’s a bold move to take a franchise as known and loved as Age of Empires and give it away as an online free-to-play game, but that’s exactly what Microsoft is doing. Announced during GDC Europe 2010, Age of Empires: Online is being developed by Robot Entertainment, a team that rose from the ashes of the Ensemble Studios closure, and a group that hopes to break all the rules.

The title focuses on bringing the feel of the long-running historical real-time strategy series to fans, and at the same time establish new audiences, toning down the mature look of its predecessors for a slightly more cartoony aesthetic. It delivers the same Age of Empires gameplay fans have come to expect, but adds an additional layer of customisability and persistency, continuing to collect resources and trade with other players around the world while you’re away from your computer.

A Worker Report shows what your virtual minions have been doing while you’ve been elsewhere, offering up their wood, grain, stone, copper, resin, and scrolls of lore for approval on your return. You will be able to teleport and visit the cities of your friends, purchasing items and accepting quests unavailable in your own neck of the woods and returning a cut of the sales to the owner of the store. Cooperative play will be supported in 95 percent of the game’s quests.

Beginning at level one with nothing, you will build a kingdom, unlocking more elaborate structures and, as you complete levels, traversing through the ages. Combat missions will pull from a mixture of classic AOE gameplay, such as amassing forces from scratch and using premade teams to infiltrate and capture zones in random encounters. Each level gained rewards three points which can be spent on new abilities in the game’s tech tree, while Star Tech perks add passive bonuses, such as increasing your starting amounts of stone. There are a finite number of slots available, meaning that you will need to experiment and choose the ones that best suit your play style.

The development team is also including a new system called Advisers. Like Star Techs, they provide extra firepower or production boosts, but can be changed before each game on a whim rather than needing to respec. Each gained age unlocks an extra adviser slot, retaining the ones that came before it for a multitiered approach to the way you take care of business.

One of the biggest new features in Age of Empires: Online is the addition of equipment. Each building and unit type has slots which can be filled with items found, bought, and rewarded. These change the look and performance of your structures and the men on the battlefield. The example we saw, the epic quality Blessed Rune Shield, usable by any soldier with a free hand, granted our troops a 2 percent hit point increase, a 4 percent armour stat increase against infantry, and a 5 percent chance to resist traps and snares. Once equipped, every unit of that type will receive the item and change its appearance to reflect its presence.

A public beta for Age of Empires: Online has just gone live, and the title hopes to capture old fans and bring in some fresh blood with the same big, deep AOE experience and new online persistent play. The title will be free to download and play, with an as-yet-unrevealed premium content model also available. Expect to see it on the PC in early 2011.

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Discussion

73 comments
steelviper266
steelviper266

I just wasted an hour downloading, IT IS NOT FREE!!! NO WAY TO GET IN GAME WITHOUT PAYING.

lorly1
lorly1

Has anyone heard of the the game "0 AD" still in alpha stages but is free it has a much more historic focus seems very promising

lorly1
lorly1

The game might be good but its only 2 civs packaged and theres already booster packs . Common only 2!

lebman69
lebman69

I like the concept to play online... sort of... but I don't feel like getting destroyed by some loser while I'm at work. This game will require daily attention which a lot of us don't have the luxury to have, so targeting other demographics and to dumb down the series is a waste of time for AOE veterans to get into. Just go back to the real age of empires, where you click on a unit they speak there language back to you, have unique units and culture, farm, mine, gather. Create beautiful buildings, and monuments, make multiple villages and conqueror your enemies. Add some nation borders like in Rise of Nations, Kill population limits because it sux ballz, make maps massive for more expansion, and smarter AI's that aren't always looking to destroy you. I want to be captured by the game and taken away from life for a little while, not a scheduled maintenance and the stress you might lose everything you created.

tcfblade
tcfblade

Well, the graphics arent bad, but, its not age. im realy sad about this, if microsoft develop a age iv, im realy realy realy sure to buy, but, life is life.

Slavadil
Slavadil

... Meh....looks like a waterdowned bastard child of a brilliant series.

edflinkinp
edflinkinp

I just hope that AoE IV is not as dumbed-down as this one is. I mean the gameplay seems nice but the cartoonish interface is a major turn off for me. I liked the seriousness of AoE series, and now it looks like a game you can play on Facebook.

Rryant
Rryant

they did a battlefield heroes style on aoe, wierd its as if bfh & aoe had a child i...dont...like...it....at.....all send the child back to the hospital

sasmas
sasmas

the age of empires is always in fan's memory . I play age of empires seris(1&2&3) for 13 years . age of empires never die.I LOVE the age of empires . age of empires is my life

knight105
knight105

Getting rid of Ensemble Studios was one of the stupidest things Microsoft has ever done. Just look at what kind of crap came out of it. I, for one, am outraged. There goes the best trilogy of games ever to wallop the world with it's awesomeness.

stevo367
stevo367

I don't like the graphics at all. If it was intended for 6 year olds then i can understand the concept but this is (supposedly) AOE. I would rather they spend their time and energy on a new AOE standalone and not a cheesy looking MMO. This looks like something i would never even consider playing, even for free.

isasimov
isasimov

I think I'll stick with Age of Empires 2. If I want an MMO, I'll play one of the ten trillion free mmo's. If I want a deep, satisfying rts game, I'll buy an rts game. Why is it that all the companies that make STRATEGY games wish to turn their games into rpgs or city builders or some other junk. Thank God for Paradox Interactive.

Alex_Thomson
Alex_Thomson

Well, I'm always open to new ideas for franchises, but the thought of one of my favorite real-time strategy game series turning into a free-to-play, massively multiplayer game has me a little nervous...fingers crossed it ends up being worthy of the "Age of Empires" name.

GymFox
GymFox

Man.... Well, lets hope huh?

BiGBoY2kx
BiGBoY2kx

More REALISIM in game = a Good Game!! STOP UR BETA TESTS! NO ONE EXEPT KIDS WILL BUY THIS FCK GAME! OR RENAME IT DAMN IT! Age of Kids.

BiGBoY2kx
BiGBoY2kx

stupid childish sht... #fck dp! THEY DESTROYED AGE OF EMPIRES!

BiGBoY2kx
BiGBoY2kx

MORE REALISIM PLEASE!!! no one gonna buy this mess.....

a_noobi
a_noobi

city sim wrapped in classic RTS name, what worse its the noobish flashing indicators that makes the game even more childish.

stEElyDaN909
stEElyDaN909

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. There goes my childhood.

DamnedApples
DamnedApples

I'd be content with a remake of the Kings, or Age of Mythology 2. This doesn't look terrible, but it is a tad disappointing considering the leap from AoE to AoEII to AoM.

daltonhouse33
daltonhouse33

this game looks like a giant pile who ever made this destroyed a great game series i wont play this at all hopefully they make a good aeo next time around if there is a next time R.I.P. aeo

diabloNL11
diabloNL11

They ruined AoE, hopefully there will be a good title after this one if there even will be one. Just like Empire Earth, only the 3rd one was more like an rip-off of Warcraft

Slayerduckie
Slayerduckie

R.I.P. Age of Empires, it's a pity u had to face the same fate as CnC.

nexon7
nexon7

Yes they killed a very good series. Aoe 3 was the first nail and Aoe Online is the last. I will still play AOe 2 The Conquerors, the best part.

Maddogtaylor
Maddogtaylor

hopefully it wont be in the boring renaissance period....

Link521
Link521

Looks like Zeus and Pharaoh by Sierra...

charizard1605
charizard1605 moderator

Way to go, Microsoft. You just killed off Age of Empires :x

sonicsidewinder
sonicsidewinder

way to bastardise a classic. The art style is right off. And to bring out ANY rts with only one side to play as is ridiculous. RTS' are for god damn multiplayer, you need god damn 'multi-teams' to play as! Fuking sellouts.

jedi-james
jedi-james

Ah the 3rd was rubbish so this is no surprise. Rise of rome expansion still does it for me so i wont be playing this hunk of early learning center gash

INRI777
INRI777

who are the idiots who come up with these decisions? take age of empires, but make it more cartoony? this brilliant decision is right up there with making shadowrun and xcom first person shooters.

Sirbobislost
Sirbobislost

well..........thats the second classic strat game killed off RIP Cnc and AoE

lord_renrow
lord_renrow

I bet the designers think pokemon is cool. =S

BotEAterR
BotEAterR

Seriously guyz, i'v played many Free to play games in my life and this looks really good. It's so hard to find a free mmo game that doesnt contain "premium service"(personally, i havent found!). Or do u prefer another very expensive game that will be so boring after a little time and u will regret for givin the money? About the graphs, i think they are pretty good especially considering that its an mmo. After all, i believe there won't be lag issues or loading problems. Don't be so negative on the sight of free game like this. Just download and play, if u like keep playin.

wolverine_97
wolverine_97

NO TO PREMUIM CONTENT MODEL AND FARMVILLE GRAPHICS!!!!!

Blue-N-Yellow
Blue-N-Yellow

Fans won't like this game simply for the 'premium service' pay model the game is going for alongside the ability to equip your units with 'epic' gear. I don't want to play someone in an RTS game if my units are weaker simply because I haven't paid real money or grinded for gear. I don't care how 'deep' the core gameplay is; the fact remains that you discourage competitive play by giving players an edge over others. An RTS with RPG elements is fine for a casual game, but really inexcusable for an AoE game. Sad, really. Glad I still own (and play) AoE II and AoM.

bass9200
bass9200

thought age of empires was over with 3 didn't expect this.

wolverine_97
wolverine_97

as nay free to play game, there will be stuff to buybwith real money, makeing ppl who buy stuff almost immpossible to defeat or they will some sort of premium membership. i hopew this isnt gonna be like that

ShroudedEagle
ShroudedEagle

This looks like one of the biggest RTS games of all time.

OverlordEX
OverlordEX

Okay now this is an online game I might actually get into!

DoomSky
DoomSky

What Civs are coming with the game, just Greece? They should throw in Vikings and Japan (or China) for some diversity not like it's trying to be realistic anyway...

Stonemotmot
Stonemotmot

I loved AoE 2 but this looks a little too lvl based even more than AoE 3 like what if they let a lvl 1 city go up against a lvl 20 the lvl 1 will get >>>> I hope the maps are large though i just could not stand the small maps in AoE 3 the ones in 2 were so much better.

Jearoon
Jearoon

Was looking forward to playing. Then realised I have a macbook. I'm presuming this game has as much chance of becoming Mac compatible at launch as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates organising a best buddies tea party.

phv86
phv86

what the fuk they do with the graphics? it looks like sh|t. i still signed up for the beta being a aoe fan but wth... lets hope it dont sûck