I love Age of Empires. It’s a great series, and one I felt reached a high point with Age of Empires Online. Unfortunately, with the announcement of the closure of Games For Windows Live, AoEO had a premature death. I had hoped it would be saved by the re-announcement that GFWL would stay, but those hopes were quickly crushed when AoEO was closed down anyway.
I love Age of Empires Online and always hope it will make a return in some form. Age of Empires I and II just doesn’t feel as fun as it did a decade ago, and Age of Empires III was downright horrible. While AoEO didn’t have the best launch, with time it improved to become one of my favourite MMO-RTS hybrids. I was sure lessons were learned with it’s development that would be reflected in future titles in the series.
Fast forward to now, and apparently a new Age of Empires has come out. This would normally be a cause for celebration, but I’m here completely dumbfounded by what is presented to me.
First up, it isn’t really presented to me.
Due to the style of game (Which I’ll get to in a minute), the game is only available on two systems. The first is Windows 8.1, and the second is Windows Phone 8. I am surprised and yet at the same time not surprised by this decision. It makes sense that Microsoft would want to push their own products so restricting mobile device, while possibly crippling to overall in-game sales, could be a good decision.
However, I have no idea why they believe restricting the game to a specific operating system is a good idea. So many people still use Windows 7 that restricting to Windows 8 is just mental. I own Windows 8, but due to several problems my hardware has with it, I’ve had to stick with it’s previous incarnation.
As such, I’m apparently unable to play a computer game, purely because of arbitrary restrictions. This really pisses me off as a fan of the franchise.
I am looking for a way to play this on my current set up, but so far it’s been fruitless. As such, everything I write from here on out is based on videos, reviews and discussion from other people rather than my own experiences. Take it with a grain of salt.
Clash of Empires, or Age of Clans?
Perhaps the biggest shock is that they have done away with the traditional gameplay of Real Time Strategy games to go with the Tower Defense style of game familiar to those who have played Clash of Clans or the ill-fated mobile version of Dungeon Keeper. You have a static private map, in which you build a base full of resource-generating buildings, armies and defenses. Resources build up and you click (or tap) on that building to collect said resources.
To fight other players, you choose to fight, and get taken to a random player’s base. From there, you deploy troops you have trained and attempt to penetrate their defenses and turn everything to rubble. The opponent is not actually present, and cannot retaliate, having to hope that his defenses will be enough to hold you off.
It becomes a purely single player experience. Compared to all other Age of Empires and how they handle PVP, it’s different and arguably worse. In previous games, you would be on the same map as your enemy (Games were matches, rather than persistent online worlds). It would be a race of efficiency to build your base, gather resources and build your army. When you felt ready, you would send your army to fight your enemy and try to stop them. The winner was the person who destroyed the other, and it could be a lot of fun, especially if you were playing with multiple people. Alliances would be formed, along with a sharing of resources to help each other out as you attempt to band together to defeat the other players.
It was crazy good fun, and something that is lost with the static gameplay present in Castle Siege.
Isn’t there more?
Really the biggest gripe I have is that it’s an Age of Empires game in name only. If you ignore the brand, I’m sure it is a decent Clash of Clans clone. The graphics and art style look nice, and it is cross platform between Windows 8.1 and the phone version, so while you’re on the bus, you can log in, and collect resources for when you get home and jump on your computer. As a game, it definitely looks polished.
But as an Age of Empires game, it feels like a butchering of the series, especially since it seems like a mobile game with a PC port, rather than the other way around.
I will keep trying to see if I can get this working on my computer so I can form a proper opinion, but I’m going to guess no-one sees it worth cracking.