Conquer the world any way you see fit
Growing up, one of my first computer games and my introduction into the real-time strategy genre was Age of Empires. Being a bit of a history buff, I loved the chance to play as the great cultures of the past and relive some of history’s most infamous battles that helped get those cultures to the status of “empire”. After a couple of sequels and dozens of different empires played as, the classic RTS has returned now in F2P MMO form with Age of Empires Online.
Starting with the Greek or Egyptian empires, you go about gathering resources, building up your army, and completing quests as you look to turn your empire into the world power it is known as historically. A few new wrinkles have been thrown in with the free-to-play MMO aspect though. The most obvious is the ability to have friends join in on many quests with their empire and help you complete the arduous task of wiping out foes to your throne. The more allies you have, the easier it becomes to conquer and grow as a nation, but just remember to return the favor or your friends may become your foes before you know it!
Besides quests, having friends can help for trading and good communication can help both your budding empires prosper as another new features is the ability to craft specific items and buildings after earning enough unique raw resources like animal pelts and iron spigots in various quests or via your friends.
The biggest prospect of having this franchise go online like this is that you could be dealing with threats or playing with friends easier than ever before, but the problem comes in that although the very basics are free-to-play, if you want to get your hands on a lot of the aspects that made the Age of Empires franchise great and really give yourself a fighting chance against a lot of foes, you need to purchase the premium content and most of them are not “micro-transactions” like in most other F2P MMO’s.
The premium content for Age of Empires Online is done on an empire by empire basis so instead of purchasing just an archer class or an upgrade, you have to get the premium version of the entire empire and each one of these packs costs $20 a pop, with the “Season One Pass”, including the already released Egyptian, Greek, and Defense of Crete packs, the announced Persian and Celtic empires, and some unannounced additions, costs $100 outright. This is clearly much more than any computer game on the market and is the most blatant attempt at trying to get you to pour money into a free-to-play I’ve ever seen. So if you’re strapped for cash, you are probably going to miss out on a lot of the things that make Age of Empires one of the premiere RTS franchises out there, or maybe you can just pick your favorite empire and go premium with them.
All in all, Age of Empires Online is a great, well-polished addition to this classic RTS franchise and fans of previous games should jump all over this, especially with the new friend quest interaction. The only problem comes in the pricing of its premium content as this will keep the game from reaching the widest audience possible as this “free-to-play” will cost you the same amount as a brand new game if you want to be able to have an Age of Empires experience worthy of the ones I grew up with and clearly knocks the game down a couple of pegs.
- THE GOOD: Classic Age of Empires game play in an MMO setting
- THE BAD: High priced premium content makes it free-to-play near pointless
- THE UGLY: Only two civilizations at launch