Age of Empires III dawns

Ensemble Studios' latest brings real-time strategy franchise to the New World, trades swords and catapults for muskets and cannons.

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Microsoft Game Studios today ushered in a new Age of Empires with the announcement that the third installment in the historical real-time strategy series has shipped to North American retailers.

It has been six years since Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings came out, and the series has undergone a face-lift in that time. Dallas, Texas-based developer Ensemble Studios opted to move the series in to a new setting with the third installment, putting players in control of one of eight European colonizing forces attempting to control South and North America from 1500 to 1850 A.D. In addition to the New World, Age of Empires III also includes a few new gameplay features, most notably the "home city" system.

In Age of Empires III, each player has a home city to turn to for reinforcements. Unlike other RTS games, where everything starts over from scratch with each new battle, the home city is a persistent part of the game. Win or lose, every battle earns home city experience that players use for increasingly beneficial aid.

Age of Empires III is rated T for Teen and is now available in two editions. The standard edition retails for $49.99, while the $69.99 collector's edition includes a 210-page art book, a "Making of..." DVD, the game's soundtrack, a full-color poster, an exclusive player's guide, and a collector's edition game manual. For the final word on the game, check out GameSpot's review.

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