Age of Empires Online is the latest game to be released in the well known and loved series. This game has joined the up and coming trend of being free to play/micro transaction opening the game up to an extremely wide audience.
Upon logging in to the game you get to choose your races currently from Egypt or Greece however there are plans to release some more races in the near future. The game rotates around your capitol city. You are able to completely customize you capitol designing it to look exactly how you wish, in my case clumped in a corner to save space not that I needed to. The city expands throughout the game as you receive or purchase different blueprint to allow you to make more buildings with their various uses or just for decoration. Other players will be able to visit and view your city and even do some shopping while they are there, with some of the money they spend even going in to your pocket.
At the palace in your capitol you are able to spend skill points adapting your civilization to your needs and play styles. In addition once completing a few quests in the game you are able to unlock the advisor hall allowing you to choose from the advisers you have collected providing bonuses. These advisers are attached to each age so as you play the game and advance your age in the levels the advisor perks come in to play. In addition to the adviser’s and palace upgrades you are also able to fully customise your army though the armoury where you can equip items you have acquired adapting your units to your needs greatly increasing the efficiency of your army. These upgrades also change the appearance of your units and representing their power.
Unfortunately due to the design of the game, free to play / micro transaction, if you wish to enjoy some of the game features such as the advisors or any gear that is ‘blue’ or above and even some the buildings for your city then you need to purchase a civilization packfrom the ‘Live’ store. This can be frustrating at times especially when you finish a quest and get a nice shiny new weapon or advisor and then you can’t even use it. On the other had there are advantages to this such because each civilization pack is much cheaper than buying a whole game meaning that once you have found your preferred civilisation you can purchase this single civilisation pack only saving you money.
With the purchase of ‘Battle for Crete’ you unlock the arena for your capitol city allowing PvP. This booster pack is on of the cheaper packs however to actually use this pack you need to own a civilisation pack otherwise it is pointless (Not that you are told this I personally made this mistake only to find that I could not place my arena or use the weapons and upgrades it unlocks) . Do not worry though if you don’t have the booster pack as you can still be invited to PvP by a friend with the pack you just don’t get any of the rewards or befits, allowing you to still enjoy this game mode.
The various quests that you embark upon consist of a large number of generic quests; rescue hostages, kills people, destroy town, defend against waves of people, gather xxx of some resource. These quests are done in such a way that they never felt as if you were constantly doing the same thing over and over again. This is done with the use of an interesting plot with a multitude of side quests. Occasionally you will depart for some rather exciting quests that greatly differ from the usual with great rewards; these are separated greatly apart thus making them much more enjoyable when they do happen. With the game being online with many ‘packs’ on the way you will never run out of quests to do as more will always be released. This also means that the developers can very easily listen to the community and try to create what people want.
The actual gameplay of Age of Empires Online has not changed since the original series even down to some of the smaller details meaning that if you have ever played one of the games before you will know exactly what to do when you go to do a quest. The game has the same resources found in all the previous games; food, wood, stone and gold. These are all acquired in the same ways seen in the previous game.The combat is also extremely similar with the styles of units and how they act. This will sound as if nothing has been done to the game apart from make it online bases and to begin with that is exactly how it feels. Once you get in to the game all the other little details come out and despite a large amount of it being near enough the same as previous games it does not feel like it has been simply copied. Everything run smother it all just feels similar but greatly improved making it hard to describe why it just is.
The combat as you would expect with an Age of Empires game is rather well balanced with a nice variety of units. Each unit has its strengths and weaknesses typical to the previous games and the type of unit. So as you would expect spearmen are good against cavalry. All the units can be upgraded in different ways such as in quest upgrades like a generic upgrade from the armoury ‘Melee units do 10% more damage.’ While in your capitol city you can use various items looted and given from quests or even crafted to improve your individual unit types such a giving all spearmen special armour and spear increasing damage and health.
Not all the upgrades are as simple as damage and health improvements and the more powerful upgrades sometimes come with downsides such as the unit trains faster but costs more. This means that you can make your army how you wish. This does mean that if you play PvP you need to be prepared for units that look the same or very similar to be extremely different in the ways they perform in combat.
As you have properly seen from the pictures the graphics of the game are extremely different to what is standard today. I have to admit when I first played this game in the beta I hated the graphics but slowly I have come to like them. The graphics contain a large amount of details and animations despite being to cartoony. Microsoft’s reasoning for the choice of graphics is to make the game ‘fun and approachable’ and I would agree with them. Players from a wide age range can play this game with these graphics and a wide verity of computers with the low computing requirements.
Personally I believe this game will shake up what we know as ‘Strategy’ showing that it can be done online opening up a huge social factor to the genre. With great potential to keep the game going with extra releases and constantly up to date content never seen before with a strategy game Microsoft have started to open up a whole new genre. This said there are flaws in the game but most of these come from the money aspect. I believe Microsoft haven’t quest worked out the right prices for the amount of content unlocked, this however is very much a personal thing. If there is only one thing to take from this review it should be this; Download this game now it is well worth the time you will not regret it. You have nothing to lose and most people will enjoy the game even if you never pay for anything.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.