We Just Played Age of Empires Online - Launching Today

Age of Empires Online launches today. Here are our impressions.

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Age of Empires Online is the new free-to-play, persistent online real-time strategy game that just launched today, and it has a rich real-time strategy heritage. You've hopefully heard of the Age of Empires series--a group of RTS games that combined world history with resource management and horseman rushes that won all our hearts, until publisher Microsoft shut down its developer, Ensemble Studios, in 2008. From the ashes of Ensemble rose Robot Entertainment, a small, independent studio that established and built the initial versions of what we now know as Age of Empires Online before passing the game off to Gas Powered Games, the Seattle-based studio responsible for the Supreme Commander series. Now, Gas Powered is acting as a full-on development studio for Age of Empires Online, while Microsoft plays the role of the publisher, and will provide customer support for the game now that it has launched.

Age of Empires Online lets you choose to play as one of several different ancient civilizations, such as the Greeks or the Egyptians, and build up a persistent estate (which functions in a manner similar to player housing in other massively multiplayer games). You can build up your estate with various improvements you'll earn through playing, as well as with cosmetic enhancements (such as statues of Greek gods) which you can purchase from the in-game store. Yes, like pretty much all other free-to-play online games, Age of Empires Online will have a microtransaction-based cash-op store where you can buy optional in-game content, such as additional adventure boosters for $5 or additional "premium" playable civilizations for $20. However, the vast majority of the game's content is being made available free of charge, including its many, many quests, the majority of which can be performed either alone or with a friend.

We briefly took the game for a spin by taking on a simple cooperative mission as the Greeks to destroy an enemy monument located at a far corner of the map. The mission worked a whole lot like what you'd expect from an Age of Empires strategy game--we started off with a small stronghold with several prebuilt structures such as a barracks and an archery range, and with a handful of villagers whom we sent to harvest food, wood, and gold so that we could build up additional buildings to create artillery units like ballistae and catapults. Since we were playing a press demo, our nation was already fairly advanced along its technology tree and ready to "age up" to era III--a classic game mechanic from the Age of Empires series that signifies that you've researched enough new improvements to reach the next tier of technology (and with it, its many improvements). We found ourselves quickly and easily selecting our premade hoplites, archers, and cavalry and driving off small invasion skirmishes with the help of a second player--a representative from Microsoft playing as Egypt who helpfully watched our flank while we poked blindly at the keyboard, gradually remembering our old hotkeys.

As you might expect from a mission like this, it wasn't enough for us to take the tiny starting battalions under our control to conquer the mission, so we churned out as many additional units (along with heavy-duty ballistae) as we possibly could while our partner also aged up to recruit siege towers. With both siege towers and ballistae, and a throng of infantry and cavalry supported by Egyptian priest units (which heal nearby injured allies), we gradually rolled our way northward, picking off small pockets of resistance until we found the enemy monument, guarded by arrow towers and various enemy units. Since we were grossly overprepared for the conflict, we managed to squash our enemies flat, especially since the game appears to have an intuitive rock-paper-scissors balance between unit types. (That's a fancy way of saying that ballistae eat arrow towers for lunch.)

Age of Empires Online has officially launched and is now playable for a sweetheart price of free (plus microtransactions for additional content boosters and civilizations).

Discussion

19 comments
Shane2848
Shane2848

This is one of those games people definitely need to experience before making assumptions based on the art style (as with most games, say, Jet Set Radio). I was in the beta, and honestly did not have high expectations going in, although I'm a huge fan of AOE2. After a month of playing and learning all the mechanics of the game, I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.

http://www.brainhood.net/

NJO_89
NJO_89

The sadist thing is, the priests say nothing. They forgot.... WOLOLOLO AYOO.

stEElyDaN909
stEElyDaN909

Instead of complaining, I'm immensely thankful we even got a new AoE game in the first place! If it's even half as good as the originals were, I can still see myself spending hours upon hours playing this game. Also, think about this: if this game is successful, Microsoft might be open to more serious retail remakes of the original games or maybe even a sequel. The very thought of playing AoE2 with modern graphics and good matchmaking makes me giddy!

bub166
bub166

@Agelu Have you heard of Age of Mythologies? Almost everyone loved that game to death, that I know of.

midnightmidway
midnightmidway

You geniuses complaining about price...you'd better do a little research and then attempt to do some basic math and then compare with other MMOs...different methods perhaps, same end result. Stop your damn whining. Any moron knows that you're going to have to pay if you want to play the game on any kind of serious level, that's the case with ALL MMOs. Anyone who liked the old AoE games and then claims this game sucks, is a liar, because they clearly haven't played it for any significant amount of time, if at all

Ovirew
Ovirew

It's a pretty good game, and my advice to anyone who wants to play it is, don't spend money on EVERYTHING, just buy the civilizations you want to play as and any interesting new game modes.

Agelu
Agelu

Worst of all, AOEO has mystic "features" for each civ. Magic shouln't be in AOE at all... this is an ugly effort to make the game more "casual" and "mainstream".

GamingMaster06
GamingMaster06

You just know in a month It'll be, now you can play as the Persians....$20 please :)

xjgunsx
xjgunsx

1. Guys, the game IS fun. 2. Mostly free but why not pay $20? 3. download it and play for yourself for a day before completely judging it. ...everyones fav AOE game seems to be AOE 2. I thought AOE 3 w/ expansions were the best.

mhder
mhder

Will pay $99 for updated AOE2. Anyone?

trebor_ekal
trebor_ekal

this game is seriously overpriced... This is not a free game. There is no subscriptioon, but if you want to progress and use the good rewards then you pay way too much to open it up. :-(

MrBlobz
MrBlobz

this game is actually pretty fun, they just need to half all of the prices

Dimebag_Darrell
Dimebag_Darrell

The article failed tro mention that if you don't buy certain "premium" content, it hurt the free game. For instance, for one of the early missions completed, there is a "choose a blue quality, rare item and you also get these other items" reward. This is a rather normal thing for most games. Problem is the blue reward is locks unless you buy the premium civilzation pack, meaning some of the free play rewards can't be used unless you buy content, and civ packs are $20. Then there is the "Here's a new building you can make, oh, and nine of the ten items it sells are locks unless you buy the Civ pack." The game isn't really free to play. There is way too much "go buy this so the gameplay isn't hampered" content in the early game. Both of the above are issues I ran into before reaching a level 5 civ. Micro usually adds extra content to a game which you can play fora while before you need to pay for stuff, but AOE online has it built right into the progress, so if you don't buy early, you are constantly limited until you do buy at least $20 or 1600 MS points worth of content.

ZJohnnyZ
ZJohnnyZ

Free to play stripped down. $100.00US for full game!

toderascu23
toderascu23

By far not that much fun than the first one. Actually not that much fun at all..

Scorpion1813
Scorpion1813

They would have been better off just remaking AoE1.

tooki
tooki

So when do we get a proper sequel to AoE2?

Dezuria
Dezuria

Sadly, the content for this is overpriced.

Yulaw2000
Yulaw2000

I have fond memory’s of playing Age of Empires 1 and the Rise of Rome expansion back in the day. Good times.