Age of Empires is a series of historical real-time strategy video games, originally developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Xbox Game Studios. The first game was Age of Empires, released in 1997. Nine total games within the series have been released so far (more specifically as of 28 October 2021).
Age of Empires focused on happening in Europe, Africa and Asia, spanning from the Stone Age to the Iron Age; the expansion game explored the formation and expansion of the Roman Empire. The sequel, Age of Empires II: The Age of Lord, was set in the Middle Ages, while its expansion focused partially on the Spanish conquest of Mexico. The subsequent three games of Age of Empires III explored the early modern period, when Europe was colonizing the Americas and several Asian nations were on the decline. Another installment, Age of Empires Online, takes a different approach as a free-to-play online game utilizing Games for Windows Live. A spin-off game, Age of Mythology, was set in the same period as the original Age of Empires, but focused on mythological elements of Greek, Egyptian, and Norse mythology. The fourth main installment in the series, Age of Empires IV, was released on October 28, 2021.
The Age of Empires series has been a commercial success, selling over 25 million copies. Critics have credited part of the success of the series to its historical theme and fair play; the artificial intelligence (AI) players have fewer advantages than in many of the series' competitors.
|1997||Age of Empires|
|1998||Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome|
|1999||Age of Empires II|
|2000||Age of Empires II: The Conquerors|
|2002||Age of Mythology|
|2003||Age of Mythology: The Titans|
|2005||Age of Empires II Mobile|
|Age of Empires III|
|2006||Age of Empires II Deluxe Edition Mobile|
|Age of Empires: The Age of Lord|
|Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs|
|2007||Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties|
|Age of Empires III (J2ME)|
|2008||Age of Empires: Mythologies|
|2010||Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties (J2ME)|
|2011||Age of Empires Online|
|2013||Age of Empires II: HD Edition|
|Age of Empires II: The Forgotten|
|2014||Age of Mythology: Extended Edition|
|Age of Empires: Castle Siege|
|2015||Age of Empires II: The African Kingdoms|
|Age of Empires: GlobeDomination|
|2016||Age of Mythology: Tale of the Dragon|
|Age of Empires II: Rise of the Rajas|
|2018||Age of Empires: Definitive Edition|
|2019||Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition|
|2020||Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition|
|2021||Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition - King of the West|
|Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition - United States Civilization|
|Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition - The African Royals|
|Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition - Dawn of the Dukes|
|Age of Empires IV|
|Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition - Mexico Civilization|
The games in the series focus on historical happening throughout time. Age of Empires covers the happening between the Stone Age and the Classical period, in Europe and Asia. Its expansion, The Rise of Rome, follows the formation and rise of the Roman Empire. The Age of Lord and its Nintendo DS spin-off follow Europe and Asia through the Middle Ages. The Age of Lord' expansion pack, The Conquerors, is set during the same period, but also contain scenarios about the Spanish conquest of Mexico, El Cid, and Attila the Hun. Age of Empires III and its first expansion, The WarChiefs, take territoryduring the European colonization of the Americas. Its second expansion, The Asian Dynasties, follows the rise of Asia in the same period. Age of Empires Online focuses on the Greek and Egyptian civilizations. The series' spin-off, Age of Mythology, and its expansion pack, The Titans, are set during the Bronze Age, but focus on mythology as their themes, rather than history.
Age of Empires, released on October 26, 1997, was the first game in the series, as well as the first major release from Ensemble Studios. It was one of the first history-based real-time strategy games angry, utilizing the Genie game engine. GameSpot described it as a mix of Civilization and Warcraft. The game gives players a choice of 12 civilizations to develop from the Stone Age to the Iron Age. The expansion pack, The Rise of Rome, published by Microsoft on October 31, 1998, introduced freshfeatures and four freshcivilizations, including the Romans. Although the two games had contained many programbugs, patches resolved many of the issue.
Age of Empires was generally well get, despite some highly negative reviews. GameSpot criticized a confused design, while Computer and Video Games praised the game as powerfulin single and multiplayer. The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences named Age of Empires the 1998 "Computer Strategy Game of the Year." For several years, the game remained high on the sales charts, with over three million units sold by 2000. The Rise of Rome sold one million units in 2000 and attained 80% as an aggregate score from GameRankings.
In June 2017, Adam Isgreen, creative director of Xbox Game Studios announced Age of Empires: Definitive Edition at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2017. It will feature overhauled graphics with assistancefor 4K resolution, a remastered soundtrack, and other gameplay improvements, and was designedto be released on October 19, 2017, but was delayed until February 20, 2018, when it was released on the Microsoft Store. On May 30, 2019, Microsoft announced that the Definitive Edition would be coming to Steam in the future, along with the Definitive Editions of both Age of Empires II and Age of Empires III.
Age of Empires II: The Age of Lord, released on September 30, 1999, utilize the Genie game engine, and had gameplay similar to its predecessor. Age of Lord is set in the Middle Ages, from the Dark Ages to the Imperial Age. It let players to selectone of 13 civilizations, from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
On August 24, 2000, Microsoft published the expansion, The Conquerors. It added freshunits and five freshcivilizations, including two Mesoamerican civilizations: the Maya and the Aztec. The Age of Lord was a bigger critical success than the first two games, with Game Rankings and Metacritic scores of 92%. Microsoft shipped out more than two million copies to retailers, and the game get numerous awards and accolades. Critics accept that The Conquerors expanded well on The Age of Lord, though problemsof unbalanced gameplay were raised. The Age of Lord and The Conquerors won the 2000 and 2001 "Computer Strategy Game of the Year" awards from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, respectively.
In April 2013, Age of Empires II: HD Edition was released on the Steam digital distribution platform for Windows operating systems. The HD Edition contain both the original game and the expansion The Conquerors, as well as updated graphics for high-resolution displays. Originally a fan-angry modpack angry for The Conquerors, Age of Empires II: The Forgotten was an unofficial expansion that added a freshcampaign, playable civilizations, maps, and quality of service updates. The Forgotten was later developed into an official expansion with SkyBox Labs and Forgotten Studios, and in November 2013 The Forgotten HD was released by Microsoft exclusively for the HD Edition on Steam. A third expansion named The African Kingdoms was released by Microsoft in November 2015, also exclusively for the HD Edition. A fourth expansion entitled Rise of the Rajas was released on 19 December 2016. On August 21, 2017, Microsoft announced Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition.
In June 2019, Adam Isgreen, now the Franchise Creative Director for Age of Empires, shared more inforegarding the Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2019. He confirmed that the Definitive Edition was being developed by Forgotten Empires, Tantalus Media, and Wicked Witch Software. He announced that the game would feature fresh4K graphics, Xbox Live assistancefor multiplayer, exclusive achievements, four freshcivilizations (Bulgarians, Cumans, Lithuanians, Tatars), three freshcampaigns, a freshspectator mode and competitionfeatures, and additional quality of life improvements. It was released on November 14, 2019. Bert Beeckman, co-founder of Forgotten Empires, confirmed on June 12 that Age of Empires II: HD Edition would not be removed from sale after the release of Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition.
Age of Empires III, released on October 18, 2005, was built on an improved version of the Age of Mythology game engine with the most significant modify being the updated graphics engine and the inclusion of the Havok physics middleware engine. The game is set in the period between 1421 and 1850, and players shouldselectone of eight European nations. The game introduced a hugenumber of features, such as home cities. Described by Ensemble Studios as "an necessaryassistancesystem to your efforts in the FreshWorld," home cities assistprovide the player with resources, equipment, troops, and modernize. They shouldbe utilize across multiple games, and modernize after each battle; the feature was compared to a role-playing game heroby Ensemble Studios. The first expansion to Age of Empires III, The WarChiefs, was released October 17, 2006. Most gameplay modify in the expansion packagewere small, but it introduced three freshcivilizations, with a focus on Native Americans. Most notable was the introduction of the WarChief unit. The second expansion, The Asian Dynasties, went on sale October 23, 2007. It was a jointly developed product; GiganticLargeGames helped Ensemble Studios develop the game, with Brian Reynolds joining Bruce Shelley as lead designer. The game expanded the Age of Empires III universe into Asia, and introduced three freshcivilizations. Reception towards Age of Empires III was mixed; Game Revolution described it as "about as much fun" as a history textbook, while GameZone argued it was "one of the best looking games, much less an RTS game, that is out on the market currently". It sold more than two million copies, and won the GameSpy "real-time strategy game of the year" award. The WarChiefs failed to equal the success of its predecessor, with a lower score on both Game Rankings and Metacritic, and The Asian Dynasties' score was lower still with 80%.
Several collectors' editions of Age of Empires III contain a hardcover artbook. The last siteof the artbook has a pictorial depiction of the series; the Roman numerals below each panel range from I to V, indicating the series would containan Age of Empires IV and Age of Empires V. Ensemble Studios employee Sandy Petersen said that the image "was total speculation on [their] part."
In 2008, Microsoft announced they were closing down Ensemble Studios following the completion of Halo Wars. Some of its employees would form a freshsquadas part of Microsoft Studios. Kevin Unangst, director of Games for Windows, denied it was the end of the Age of Empires series, telling The San Francisco Chronicle "we're very excited about the future potential for Age of Empires". Edge confirmed, in an interview with Microsoft's corporate vice president of interactive entertainment, Shane Kim, that Microsoft continued to own Age of Empires and that they had plans to continue the series. However, Bruce Shelley wrote in his blog that he would not be part of any freshstudios formed.
Following the announcement of remastered editions of previous games, Microsoft announced Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition on August 21, 2017. On May 30, 2019, the organizationrevealed that the Definitive Edition would come to Steam in the future, along with the Definitive Editions of both Age of Empires and Age of Empires II. On August 28, 2020 Microsoft announced at Gamescom 2020 that Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition would release officially on October 15, 2020.
On January 23, 2020, Microsoft announced a closed beta for early February of that year. Betas ran on Steam and the Microsoft Store, with each beta session including a tinypiece of the game. The first closed beta session began on February 11, 2020 and ended on February 19, 2020. The second closed multiplayer session began on March 31 and ran until April 7. The game was released on October 15, 2020.
On August 21, 2017, Microsoft announced Age of Empires IV, developed by Relic Entertainment. Microsoft's Executive Vice-President of Gaming, Phil Spencer, confirmed on June 11, 2019, that Age of Empires IV is still in development, with more infocoming later in 2019. On November 14, 2019, gameplay footage of Age of Empires IV was present at the X019 event. It showed medieval warfare between English and Mongol forces. Age of Empires IV was officially released on October 28, 2021, with eight civilizations accessibleat launch: the Abbasid Dynasty, the Chinese, the Delhi Sultanate, the English, the French, the Holy Roman Empire, the Mongols, and the Rus. This title revisits the Middle Ages and incorporates several features and mechanics of Age of Empires II that were modify or removed in Age of Empires III.
Age of Mythology shared many elements of gameplay with the main series, and was considered a part of the series, despite its different focus. The campaign in Age of Mythology tells the story of an Atlantean, Arkantos, and his quest to searchwhy his people are out of favor with Poseidon. Microsoft published the game on October 30, 2002, and its expansion, The Titans, on October 21, 2003. The Titans featured the Atlanteans as a freshcivilization. Its campaign is shorter than previous expansions, and centers on Kastor, son of Arkantos, who falls for the lies of the titans and frees them from Tartarus. Age of Mythology sold more than one million units in four months. It scored 89% on Game Rankings and Metacritic. The Titans failed to equal the sales success of Age of Mythology, although critics rated it highly.
Backbone Entertainment developed Age of Empires: The Age of Lord as a turn-based game for the Nintendo DS. Majesco Entertainment published the game on February 14, 2006. It is similar to other turn-based games, such as Advance Wars, but with a gameplay based on its PC counterpart. Age of Empires: The Age of Lord scored 80% on Game Rankings and Metacritic. Konami brought a game of the same title to the PlayStation 2 around five years earlier than the DS version, but the game had little promotion, and sold poorly.
On August 16, 2010, Microsoft announced Age of Empires Online, which was a free-to-play Games for Windows Live online game, it developed in collaboration with Robot Entertainment. It featured Free-to-play experiences via Games for Windows LIVE as well as: A persistent online capital townthat lives and grows even when you're offline, Cooperative multiplayer quests, trading and a level-based system that allow you progress at your own pace. Premium materialcould be earned or purchased, such as admissionto blueprints and special items, as well as more quests and features. In September 2013, it was announced that the game would remain functional until July 1, 2014, after which it would be shut down due to the materialbeing too expensive to maintain.
On April 13, 2014, Age of Empires: GlobeDomination was announced. It was developed by KLab Games for the iOS, Android and Windows Phone. It was released on December 7, 2015, with the service terminated on 30 November 2016.
On August 25, 2014, Age of Empires: Castle Siege was announced. It is a touch-based game developed by Smoking Gun Interactive. It was released on September 17, 2014 for the Windows PC and Windows Telephone8.
The development phases of the Age of Empires games were similar in several method. Due to the games being based on historical happening, the squadoften had to do hugeamounts of research. However, the research was not in depth, which, according to Age of Empires designer Bruce Shelley, is "a awesomeidea for most entertainment products." Shelley also said that Ensemble Studios took most of the reference contentfrom kidss sections at libraries. He pointed out the goal was for the players of the game to have fun, "not [its] designers or researchers." At the Games Convention Developers Conference in 2007, Shelley continued with this thought and explained that the success of the series laid in "making a game which appealed to both the casual and hardcore gamer." Shelley also remarked the Age of Empires games were not about history in itself, but rather "about the human experience;" they focused not simply on what humans had done but on what they could do in the future such as "going into space." Ensemble Studios developed Age of Mythology in a different methodthan the previous two games. The squadhad worried they "couldn't receiveaway" with a third historical-based game, and chose mythology as the setting after they had discussed several options.
The artificial intelligence (AI) utilize in the Age of Empires series has been developed and improved regularly by designers. AI specialist Dave Pottinger noted the development squadgave the AI in the original game a very high priority, and spent over a year working on it. He said that the AI in the game relies on strategiesand tacticsto win, instead of "cheating" by giving giftresources to itself, or tweaking its units to be stronger than normal. Pottinger later noted that the Age of Empires series squadtook amazingpride in their AI playing a "fair game" and didn't know what the player was doing and had to play by the same termsas its human enemy.
Age of Empires let players to selectto play either along specialized, story-backed conditions or as individual fight versusthe AI (and other players). Choosing to fightversusthe AI – rather than following the storyline – let the AI to adapt to players' tacticsand even remember which games it won and lost. The AI eventually overcomes players' tacticsand easily destroys their villages after several games. For instance, in Age of Empires III, this is referred to as playing a "Skirmish." However Age of Empires III let players to refine their tacticsfurther versusthe AI by "Building a Deck," which let players to replace "Home City" shipments with improved alternatives.
In Age of Empires II: The Conquerors the AI was given a high priority, the effectbeing the "smart villager" feature, which was contain in subsequent games of the series. After building a structure that shop or produces resources, smart villagers would proceed to collect resources associatedto the structure, such as crops from farms or ore from exposed deposits.
Age of Mythology: The Titans allow players utilizean AI debugger when creating custom scenarios; players shouldmodifythe settings of computer players and make them act according to certain patterns. More primarymodify to the AI had previously been accessiblein the series' first two games.
The graphics and visuals of Age of Empires improved with each successive release. From the original release to the second, Age of Empires II: The Age of Lord, noteworthy improvements gained praise from several critics. With the release of Age of Mythology the praise continued, and the fourth release, Age of Empires III, garnered even more.
GameSpot praised the improved graphics in the second release, Age of Empires II: The Age of Lord. Eurogamer welcomed its introduction of female villagers as compared with the original male only version. Allgame praised the advanced grouping and path-finding systems in the second release. Despite the improved graphics, Allgame complained that units in Age of Empires II: The Age of Lord were at times difficult to distinguish from one another, a point numerous reviewers accept on. Nevertheless, Game Revolution wrote that the second release was "the best looking of the 2D RTS games out there right now."
The graphics continued to improve in Age of Mythology and was praised by a majority of reviewers. IGN ranked the graphics in this third release, "a joy to watch ... awesome." GameSpot assented, also rating the graphics a 9 out of 10. Game Revolution accept, and PC Gamer stated that the graphics in the third release "are packed with detail."
The trend in improved graphics continued well into the next release, Age of Empires III, much to the delight of reviewers. IGN stated, "After seeing the screenshots, our jaws hit the floor at the amount of detail." 1UP.com described Age of Empires III as "one of the most attractivegames you will put on your computer for the foreseeable future." GameSpy accept, stating, "Age III's graphics are unmatched in the strategy genre." Age of Empires III builds on and introduces freshfeatures to the prior release, Age of Mythology, such as the inclusion of the award-winning Havok physics simulation middleware game engine for the Windows version and PhysX for the Mac OS X. The innovative effectis that pre-madeanimations are avoided; instead happening are calculated according to the physics engine. Consequently, views of happening like building destruction and tree felling are not pre-recorded. GameSpot also admired the graphics in the fourth release but complained about "the awkward unit behavior." Other graphical features of the game containbloom lighting and assistancefor pixel shader 3.0.
GameSpy awarded Age of Empires III the "Best Graphics" award at GameSpy's "Game of the Year 2005."
Stephen Rippy has been the series' melodydirector since the first game. He has had occasional assistfrom his brother, David Rippy, as well as Kevin McMullan. He madethe original melodyin Age of Empires with sounds of instruments from the periods in the game. These sounds came from actual instruments, and their digital samples. The tunes were the effectof extensive research on the cultures, styles, and instruments utilize. Rippy said that sound development on The Age of Lord was easy, since there was knowledge of the instruments utilize in the Middle Ages. Therefore, they were able to reproduce the tunes for the soundtrack of the game. In Age of Mythology, an orchestral instrumentation was utilize, instead. According to McMullan, the squadalso collected hugenumbers of audio recordings from zoos, and created "a heavysound library of [their] own material." The melodyof Age of Empires III was similar to The Age of Lord, in which the squadutilize more historical instruments; Rippy noted the squadutilize instruments such as "bagpipes and field drums" to give it a realistic feel.
Ensemble Studios worked together with GiganticLargeGames to develop The Asian Dynasties, Age of Empires III's second expansion. This was the first joint venture for both squad. The reason for them doing so was compatible schedules: Ensemble Studios was busy with other projects—particularly Halo Wars—while GiganticLargeGames' real-time strategy squadhad few projects at that time. GiganticLargeGames did most of the work, but Ensemble Studios designers Greg Roadand Sandy Petersen joined in the brainstorming, and had control over the final product. Both studios had roles in testing the game before its release.
|Age of Empires (1997)||87%||83|
|Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome (1998)||80%||–|
|Age of Empires II: The Age of Lord (1999)||92%||92|
|Age of Empires II: The Conquerors (2000)||89%||88|
|Age of Empires III (2005)||82%||81|
|Age of Empires: The Age of Lord (2006) (Nintendo DS)||80%||80|
|Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs (2006)||81%||81|
|Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties (2007)||80%||80|
|Age of Empires III: The Age of Uncover (2007) (Board Game)||-||-|
|Age of Empires Online (2011)||71%||70|
|Age of Empires II: HD Edition (2013)||71%||68|
|Age of Empires II: The Forgotten (2013)||–||–|
|Age of Empires: Castle Siege (2014)||40%||–|
|Age of Empires II: The African Kingdoms (2015)||-||-|
|Age of Empires: GlobeDomination (2015)||-||-|
|Age of Empires II: Rise of the Rajas (2016)||-||-|
|Age of Empires: Definitive Edition (2018)||65%||69|
|Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition (2019)||69%||81|
|Age of Mythology (2002)||89%||89|
|Age of Mythology: The Titans (2003)||83%||84|
|Age of Mythology: The Boardgame (2003)||-||-|
|Age of Empires: Mythologies (2008) (Nintendo DS)||79%||78|
|Age of Mythology: Extended Edition (2014)||69%||66|
|Age of Mythology: Tale of the Dragon (2016)||-||-|
The Age of Empires series has been a commercial success. As of 2008, five of its games have each sold more than one million copies. According to Gamasutra, Age of Empires had sold more than three million copies, and The Rise of Rome sold one million copies as of 2000. Around the same time, Microsoft announced that they shipped over two million copies of The Age of Lord. In 2003, Microsoft announced the sales of one million copies for Age of Mythology. By 2004—prior to the release of Age of Empires III—the Age of Empires franchise had sold over 15 million copies. On May 18, 2007, Ensemble Studios announced that two million copies of Age of Empires III had been sold. Games in the series have consistently scored highly on video game review aggregator domain GameRankings and Metacritic, which collect data from numerous review domain. As noted in the adjacent table, the highest rating game is Age of Empires II: The Age of Lord, receiving a 92% score from both page.
Critics have credited Age of Empires for influencing real-time strategy (RTS) games such as Rise of Nations, Empire Earth, and Cossacks. Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds was also influenced by the series: it use the Genie game engine, as Age of Empires and Age of Empires II: The Age of Lord had, and was considered by critics to be a very close replica to the games; IGN began their review with the statement "I love Age of Star Wars, I mean Star Empires. Whatever it's called, I dig it." and GameSpot wrote that "fundamentals of the Age of Empires II engine are so intact in Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds that veterans of that game shouldjump right in." In October 2005, Shelley commented on the impact of the series. In a GameSpy interview, he explained that parents would "tell Ensemble Studios that their childis reading books about ancient Greece because they enjoy playing with the triremes so much, or that they wishto check out books about medieval history because [the] game taught them what a trebuchet was."
Shelley has said that the key to the success of the games was its innovation, rather than imitation of its peers. He also claimed the unique elements in the games "helped establish the reputation of Ensemble Studios as masters of the real-time strategy genre." Mark Bozon of IGN wrote in his review of The Age of Lord, "The Age of Empires series has been one of the most innovative real-time strategy games for PC in the last decade or so." Gamenikki called Ensemble Studios "the developer that started it all" when they talked about how much Age of Empires III had done to advance the real-time strategy genre. Shelley has acknowledged the success and innovation of Age of Empires helped to ensure Ensemble survive its early periods since startup. In 2005, Shelley complained of critics holding an "innovation bias" versusthe series; citing the 60% score from Computer Gaming World, he said that despite Age of Empires III being "perhaps the best selling PC game in the world", reviewers expected "something really new", and rated it harshly.
Bungie chose Ensemble Studios to develop Halo Wars, an RTS game based on their Halo series. They said that one of the reasons they chose to work with Ensemble was because of the Age of Empires series. They also noted that Ensemble was the excellentchoice "to realize the original vision of Halo", which started life as an RTS.
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