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Microsoft have just announced Age of Empires Online at Gamescom. It's a PC exclusive - an RTS played in your browser that looks to be a cross between your Evony-type strategy games and the traditional RTS format that made Age of Empires great. Trailer below:
There’s no arguing that Farmville and friends cast a long shadow over the free-to-play world, with their micro-transactions and the need to drag friends and family kicking and screaming into the game to keep progressing. Well, don’t worry. Age of Empires Online is the other kind of free-toplay game. It relies on heftier paid content, such as booster packs and unlocking new armies, not the usual nonsense of having to shell out £10 for 1000 magical funbucks to fritter away on building supplies.
“Let’s Reboot” takes a look back at a classic in need of a new outing or a beloved series gone stale and asks how it might be best redesigned or given a kick up the backside for today’s gaming audience. The Rules: Assume a free hand, and a decent budget, but realistic technology and expectations. This week’s sacred cow – not the whole of civilizstion, but a good chunk of its glorious gory bits. I never played much of the original Age of Empires, but I owned and adored Age of Empires 2, its second cousin Rise of Nations, and had an almost worryingly passionate fling with Age of Mythology. Age of Empires III I didn't really click with for a few reasons, some of which can be tied to its release date, others to the sheer headache that emerged with the realisation that the single player campaign involved evil cultists and the Fountain of Youth - presumably a result of someone at Ensemble dropping the print-outs from a couple of design documents and nobody realising until it was too late. A straight sequel, minus the weirdness, wouldn't go amiss, though looks unlikely at the moment. Ensemble Studios is gone, and while Gas Powered Games' free-to-play Age Of Empires Online continues to run, actual content development on it has been frozen. Still, just because there's no sequel on the horizon doesn't mean we can't have a bit of fun making one up, so... let's reboot!
In most online RPGs you play as a single hero. In free-toplay Age of Empires Online, you’re a city. You start out as either a Greek or Egyptian township, and must expand to become a sprawling metropolis capable of training the most powerful units your chosen civilisation has to offer. To do so, you accept missions from beardy quest-givers loitering under giant yellow exclamation marks on the streets of your capital. They’ll point out nearby enemy towns ripe for pillage. Stolen materials can be combined with blueprints to build more structures, which in turn can be upgraded to boost the strength of your units.
Free-to-play, massively multiplayer RTS Age of Empires Online has arrived on Steam. AoE lets you fight RTS battles with colourful Celt, Egyptian, Persian and Greek forces. Victories will let you expand your capital city, unlocking bonuses for your troops and unlocking new units to be recruited in future fights. All that is explained in more detail and in a deeper voice in the new overview trailer above. In Age of Empires Online, you pay to unlock new factions and game modes, rather than putting money into small XP boosts. All of the civilisation packs are half price on Steam now, and you can buy all of them, and the skirmish mode, for £19.50. Alternatively, jump in and check out AoE's cheerful, sunny cities. It's free, after all. Find out more in our Age of Empires Online review.
In a shocking twist for Age of Empires Online, original developer Robot Entertainment is out, and Chris Taylor and his Gas Powered Games crew (of Supreme Commander Fame) are in. GPG has picked up where Robot left off, and will carry Microsoft's free-to-play real-time strategy game to completion. What exactly happened to prompt this switcharoo is unclear, and Microsoft probably isn't too eager to share, but we'll be poking around for details at today's Microsoft Showcase event. We're all big fans of GPG's work, and Taylor is a known fan of Ensemble's classic Age of Empires II, so this seems like a good fit. In fact, Taylor cited AoEII as one of his all-time favorite RTS games when I talked to him about GPG's now-on-hold fantasy RTS Kings & Castles last year - I suppose this explains why Taylor'd be willing to set that project aside to work on an AOE game. Update: Robot Entertainment President Patrick Hudson called to clear up the mystery. Read on for his side of the story. Click here to see the trailer for Robot's original project, Orcs Must Die!
Too ruggedly professional to die, 2008 sleeper hit Sins of a Solar Empire has returned. Titled Rebellion, this third expansion comes in a new, expandalone format, and adds just about everything except actual rebellion. Silly developers!
Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion's new Titan-class capital ships can single-handedly tilt the balance of war. I learned this when attacking an enemy's forward base with a near invincible trio of veteran capital ships and a powerful attendant fleet of cruisers and frigates. My Kol Battleship, Sova Carrier, and Dunov Battlecruiser were sweeping the TEC Rebels toward their defenses when the enormous dark shape of the new Ragnarov Titan appeared beside its foundry. Foolishly, I directed my fleet to engage it.
The first stand-alone expansion to Sins of a Solar Empire has just been announced at GDC. Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion will add new ships, visuals, and multiplayer features to the game. Click more for the details.
We mentioned this in yesterday's news roundup, but it's worth another mention. Age of Empires Online is now freely available to download today and tomorrow. You can download the game now from Games For Windows Marketplace. Once it's installed, you'll be able to try out the game for free for as long as the beta lasts. You'll find more details about the free-to-play, massively multiplayer RTS here. Supreme Commander 2 devs Gas Powered Games took over development a couple of months ago. We had a chat with Gas Powered Games boss Chris Taylor about the transition, and the new dawn for Age of Empires.
Now that Stardock has sold its digital distribution business to GameStop, it was only a matter of time before we saw games like the stellar space war strategy Sins of a Solar Empire pop up on Steam, where it'll find a whole new universe of customers who might never even have heard of Impulse. According to a Stardock press release, Sins is the first of several Stardock games that will be making their way to Steam in the near future, though the specific list of games has yet to be confirmed or denied by Stardock PR.
We've been keeping close tabs on Gaslamp's upcoming Dwarf Fortress-like steampunk colonization odyssey, Clockwork Empires, and are delighted to announce that it only seems to be growing more insane by the day. In a fresh off the assembly line blog post, the devs have revealed some tidbits on everything from a bird that will push you into a factory's machinery and eat what comes out, to the amazing clockwork wonders you'll be able to build that do... absolutely nothing.
Gaslamp Games continues to enlighten us about how its steampunk city-builder will work. This week, the Vancouver-based indie is shedding light how it plans to integrate combat into its Dwarf Fortress-style game. The martial matters divulged in the today's dev diary include details on how the personalities of soldiers and officers will affect combat and the consequences we will endure in defeat.
To celebrate the free to play MMORTS's one year anniversary, Gas Powered Games has revealed the identity of its fifth playable civilization to Eurogamer. The economically-focused Babylonians will be joining the Celts, Greeks, Persians, and Egyptians. The devs told Eurogamer that the focus is "their ability to build a strong economy, and quickly."
I'm going to be reinstalling Age of Empires Online after the next update. If you know me, you probably just rolled your eyes and said, "They must have added vikings." You would be right! And also, I'm going to hit you in the face with an axe for rolling your eyes at me, whelp! The Norse are joining the existing roster of Greek, Egyptian, Celtic, Persian, and Babylonian civs, and bringing some new tricks and Northern fury to the game.
The dataminers at steamdb.info have made a potentially exciting discovery for classic RTS fans: the unreleased entity currently known only as "ValveTestApp221380" is probably Age of Empires II.
Well, this is a pleasant surprise: Age of Empires II: HD Edition is live on Steam for anyone who pre-ordered—apparently it has been as of the 5th. The store page still says it won't unlock for about another 17 hours, but the game launches fine, and all modes seem to be available. Since buying it now is still technically a pre-order, you should just be able to hand over your e-cash and get immediate access. It's essentially a soft release.
Yesterday we learned that Robot Entertainment are handing development for Age of Empires Online over to Total Annihilation and Supreme Commander creators Gas Powered Games. We had a chat with CEO of Gas Powered Games, Chris Taylor about the challenges of taking the reins on a series as revered as Age of Empires.
My half-naked Woad Raiders leap into a formation of Roman archers with axes whirling around them. Meanwhile, in a serene forest far from battle, my Augur sacrifices a sacred fawn to Andrasta, goddess of war. Lightning crashes and my army glows with magical energy as the goddess’ boon charges their devastation of the Roman outpost. The Celts, the newest civilization added to Age of Empires Online’s free-to-play roster, is the best one released yet, adding several new mechanics that advance the game’s complexity and will appeal to RTS gamers who crave more micromanagement. The first major addition is activated abilities on individual units, like the four different animal sacrifices available to the Augur to buff your army in various ways, that raise the skill ceiling for managing troops in battle.