Two years after Microsoft shuttered Ensemble Studios, the makers of the Age of Empires real-time strategy game series, Microsoft has announced a new chapter in the venerable series —
The game is being developed by Robot Entertainment, an outfit comprised of former AoE vets, and it’s to be played in a persistent online world through the Games for Windows LIVE service.
From Microsoft’s press release:
With more than 20 million copies sold worldwide, the Age of Empires series redefined real-time strategy games for Windows-based PC players. Now, the timeless franchise once again invites players to experience its rich storyline in new ways. Developed by Robot Entertainment, Age of Empires Online will invite players to create a living, growing online world, shared with friends and friendly rivals around the globe. Begin the journey with your own Greek civilization, and watch as it progresses from a village to an empire. Embark on quests along the way, alone or with friends, and immerse yourself in epic tales, quirky characters, adventure, history, and strategy. Together with the Games for Windows LIVE service, Age of Empires Online delivers a rich, social experience that lets you play however you want — anywhere, anytime.
Marrying fresh features with iconic gameplay, Age of Empires Online offers something for long-time fans, newcomers, and everyone in between. Age of Empires Online will feature:
- A persistent online capital city that lives and grows even when youre offline
- Cooperative multiplayer quests, trading, and a level-based system that lets you
progress at your own pace
- Fun, approachable style and storylines
- Free-to-play experiences via Games for Windows LIVE
Kotaku described Age of Empires Online as “look[ing] like Age of Empires started hanging out with Farmville, and the two got real close.
Maybe it is. But I’ve never played Farmville on Facebook, so I don’t really know how this comparison holds up. I do know that the art style for AoEO looks radically different than the art style for Age of Empires III; it’s a cel-shaded, deformed, and cartoony look. Take a look at the trailer for Age of Empires Online and see for yourself:
I’m curious about the game, I’m glad to see that the Age of Empires franchise has not been left on the dustbin of history, but I’ll be honest. It’s unlikely that I’d play this. Playing games online has never appealled to me, and though I applaud the move in the series’ setting back to prehistory and antiquity (the setting for the original Age of Empires), the lack of an offline game mode is a turn-off.
I’m sure the game will be fun. I’ve never not had fun playing an Age of Empires game. But I’ll content myself with medieval fun in Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings and early-modern fun in Age of Empires III and lead conquering the online world to a new generation of self-styled military geniuses.