The new Age of Empires arrived last week, and the good news, that it’s for free! I think a lot of us remember playing with the first Age of Empires episode in their teenage years. It’s a classic RTS game with lots of hours of great gameplay and practically an infinite number of possible outcomes (in the skirmish mode of course). Developing into a huge franchise over the years, the Age of Empires series let us see into ancient times, to mythological times, to the dark middle ages and to the age of discoveries.
And now we get to see the ancient Greeks and Egyptians back in combat, for free. After a few hours of gameplay you can clearly see that Age of Empires Online is a real treat for the fans, and for new players as well. The controls are usual and comfy, so the first few training quests were pretty boring for me – just simple gather and fight missions. The game is basically a combination of the past to Age of games – it picks out the best parts, so it is quite enjoyable to play with.
But there’s a problem for those who are a bit anti-social: there’s no skirmish mode against an AI. So we are forced into the light and into the community – we have to socialize! So if you are not a people person this game can easily get boring. So, in harmony with the name, the major point of this game is that it’s online: you have to have an internet connection, or the game won’t even start. And you can get help from your friends while doing missions in the game and you can fight against your friends (but the PvP mode is only available from level 6).
You can get missions in your capital, and other parts of the map: you can travel around the world, asking missions from Crete, Egypt and elsewhere. While continuosly upgrading you can gather ornaments and buildings in your capital making it look beautiful.
This all sounds good and well, but there’s a huge problem. I had a suspicion that this is way too good to be true. If you want to unlock the most of the game you’ll have to pay for it. First in the main menu you can see that there’s an upgrade possibility for your greek or egyptian civilization… for money. And after a few levels you get some stuff in your inventory that needs an upgrade to be used. And of course that is for money as well. As I played more and more with the game it became obvious that without paying at least for some of the stuff I won’t get anywhere.
Now this shoudn’t be a problem: to get a great new game for your PC you usually have to pay, and this method is a really clever marketing from Microsoft to get more money from their customers than usual. A complete half year pack is $99, and this is where I see a problem. A normal PC game is about $50-$70 if bought brand new, but if you are a fan you can surely get it for less with various pre-order packs and you can buy a used version for less as well (I quickly searched amazon.com and you can buy Age of Empires for $20 – of course it’s and old game and used, but still that’s a pretty good price on a game like that).
With Age of Empires III you get around 10 civilizations, great campaigns with the possibility of multiplayer games and skirmish mode against an AI – where you can set the difficulty.
And what does AoE Online offer for 5 times the price? We don’t know yet unfortunately… And this is a problem. If the new game doesn’t offer 10 new civilizations in the next 6 months I don’t think the game’s worth the price. But I’m not finished unfortunately. There’s one more huge setback… When I tried the multiplayer mode I failed miserably. I thought I was a good player back when I played the series, and I was good with the multiplayer mode as well, but most of the time I played against an AI. But now my first two attempts were just bad. It lasted for 5 minutes, the enemy came with 20 soldiers and completely destroyed my city, my villagers and everything.
First I thought: okay, it’s like the multiplayer of GTA IV – the first few days were chaotic there, killing was the only goal, and option if you wanted to stay alive. There was no cooporation or anything. So on my second PvP game I immediately started to make soldiers and gathered up like 15-20 when the enemy came (again after 5 minutes) with 20-25 soldiers, so I thought we were even and I had the better chance because I had my buildings right there to support my army. Even our points were roughly the same at this time.
And here came the surprise: in moments all of my soldiers died and I only managed to kill 2 or 3 soldiers. How comes? I asked. Then I noticed a very interesting thing that made this game useless for me: the enemy had golden swords, the buildings and the army had an HP much higher than mine. Because I was a level 6 and thought I can win against online players who are playing the game since last week non-stop and are at level 30-40, who knows…
You can’t get further in this game only if you play the campaign mode non stop to reach a high level – because you can’t choose your PvP enemies. And it’s also a good idea to upgrade, for money. The only usable PvP option is the multiplayer against your friends, which was available previously – just not within the Windows Live system.
In my opinion AoE Online doesn’t offer much more then its predecessors, but it offers it for twice as much. It only made me to remenice about AoE III and II, and I want to get those games from the shelf and play them again.
Comment! What are your experiences with this new, beautiful, but somewhat fallacious game?