Age of Empires Online Review

Age Of Empires Online

The classic RTS franchise goes free to play.

Age of Empires is a well known and loved series in the RTS genre. The latest installment of the popular Age of Empires series plays nothing like any other game in the series. Age of Empires Online is the first game in the series to be free to play and use a micro transaction store as a means to make money from the game. The many changes to the series will be good for some and may invite a whole new audience, but fans of the previous installments may leave this game with a sour taste in their mouth. The most drastic difference between its predecessors is the bright cartoon feel of the game. Graphically the game is nothing like any other in the series. All of the other games have been realistic. The intro movies to the other games have been serious and sometimes inspiring, but Age of Empires Online does none of that. The trailer for the game is a funny. All in all the graphics of Age of Empires Online are well done if not somewhat cheesy, but it seems like that is exactly what they wanted the game to feel like. The game does look very pretty, but not prettier that Age of Empires 3. That game was graphically brilliant, but all of the colors in Age of Empires Online are bright giving the game a very cheery feel something that none of the previous games have had. The cartoony feel of the game  is not necessarily good or bad, but a fan of the older games may not be happy with this change.

Age Of Empires Online

At its core, this game plays like most other RTS titles. Developer Robot Entertainment has added some interesting RPG elements here, that make it less accessible for those looking solely for skirmish play. For better or worse, there is no skirmish mode to be found. Instead, players create a capital and receive quests from a few citizens in their kingdom. As these quests are completed, new in-game buildings and units are unlocked, experience is earned, and the level of the players' capital is increased. Fortunately, the quests are both varied and numerous. At its core, the capital city has something of a Sim City feel to it. Outside of the quests players will be building and expanding their capital.

The Age of Empires experience has been enhanced with some of the elements reminiscent of the Dawn of War series, but they have been tailored to fit the Age of Empires series. Units can be equipped with special items that boost their power, and buildings can be equipped with upgrades that boost their build time for example. There are many items for players to find and equip to the units buildings in their empire.

Age Of Empires Online

PVP is a huge element to the RTS genre and Age of Empires Online almost got it right. Since players PVP with their city, they can only use the units that they have unlocked and their units and buildings are only upgraded with as many upgrades as they have. PVP games will almost always be stacked in one players favor because he or she will have played for longer and have unlocked more units to use in the game, or they will have purchased the premium version of the race and have access to all the units that way. After playing pvp in Age of Empires Online it leaves the player wanting something more.

Sadly, only two playable races were available at launch, but Microsoft Studios has promised more to come in the future, to be made available for a nominal fee. This brings up the fact that the game uses Microsoft points to play. This could be another deal breaker for some players. The store already has a dozen items available for purchase including premium versions of the free races, shrubs that are just for decorating the capital city, and additional game modes.

Age Of Empires Online

Sounds are perfectly in line with the cheery feeling of the game. While the soundtrack could never be described as memorable, it is appropriately fun to listen to. The sound effects are just as good as the previous games, but its hard to get some of the sounds wrong in this game. The whole sound experience is good, but not not enough to make it a rewarding aural experience. With all of the other changes to the series it is nice that the controls stayed the same. The game is controlled just like any previous Age of Empires game. Simple point a click manipulations of troops and for the advanced user the same hotkeys that have been in use for most RTS games are still usable here. The controls work well.

This game is difficult to rate, as it will always be compared to its predecessors. That said, as a standalone product, Age of Empires Online is a solid free to play RTS. Although a lack of skirmish mode and the occasional difficulty to find an acceptable PVP match are disappointing, gamers looking for a casual RTS/RPG hybrid experience will not be disappointed.

Age of Empires Online
There are some interesting RPG style elements here, but the lack of a skirmish mode is an unfortunate misstep for an RTS.
Much like its visuals, audio is cartoonish and fun.
Although the lighthearted map and character designs are aesthetically pleasing, they are a far cry from earlier entries in the series.
Similar to its predecessors, controls are intuitive with a low learning curve.
In lacking the depth many other titles in the genre generally have, Age Of Empires Online is RTS lite, and best enjoyed over a weekend.
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