The new, free-to-play installment of the long running Age of Empires real-time strategy game series has been given a concrete release date. Age of Empires Online will be launching late this summer on August 16 in retail stores and on AgeOfEmpiresOnline.com.
The game is being developed by Gas Powered Games and Robot Entertainment, and in addition to the release date they’ve also unveiled a ton of images, a cinematic trailer, and shed light on the features that will come with the basic free version – as well as prices and features for the premium downloadable content.
Age of Empires Online seeks to bring all the depth and range of the previous games to an online persistent world. The basic game is free to download and includes many of the gameplay features we’ve come to expect from the series, albeit watered down to make the premium packs enticing. The developers have emphasized that the free game has well over 40 hours of gameplay.
The basic feature list includes:
- The Greek and Egyptian civilizations
- Constant updated content, including new civilizations
- Quest, battle, co-op, chat and trade with other players
- Participate in Player vs. Player games.
- Build and show off your own custom Capital City.
- Level up through the entire game, more than 40 hours of free gameplay
The game’s trailer showcases Spartans assaulting an Egyptian city in fantastic (goreless) fashion. Check out the Age of Empires Online trailer below!
As stated before, the game comes with plenty of features and promises to deliver every bit the experience that Age of Empires 3 did. However, AoEO stands apart from the rest by offering premium packs with content new to the series. The premium packs promise to add everything from new regions and quests to entire civilizations, deeper tech trees, and special exclusive features and items.
The packs come in 4 flavors (all prices USD):
- Premium Civilization Packs – $19.99
Greek and Egyptian packs available at launch. These packs upgrade basic civilizations giving you rare and powerful gear, the Advisor Hall (which lets you unlock Civilization Powers and Unique Units), upgraded tech tree, more PVP options, more inventory space, more workshops, more crafting halls, Empire points, and in-game stores.
- Pro Civilization Packs – $19.99
Provides the same bonuses as the Premium Packs, but let you jump into the game at level 20.
- Booster Packs – $9.99
Ads new storylines and game modes.
- Empire Extras – $4.99
Gives you more items with which to customize your Home city.
Age of Empires has never been one of the more challenging real-time strategy games, with an emphasis on fun and accessibility. The graphics have gotten slightly cartoony as the series progressed and this installment is probably the most cartoon-like of them all.
Take a look at the graphics in the screenshots below.
Graphics are important, but not as important as gameplay, so cartoony or not, what really matters is how this all comes together when there are thousands of players competing against each other starting this August.
Reading the feature list gives me some trepidation however. Age of Empires 3 made the game almost too easy by gifting the player with resources and troops from their Home city. It almost felt like the title was playing too nice. It didn’t break the game, but it did make it a less rewarding experience.
Now, in addition to Home cities, we have premium packs that give players things that would make the game much easier for anyone willing to pay for it. It’s almost as if the developers are saying, “Thanks for giving us money, in return we’ll make it easier for you to beat other people.” It’s a minor concern, as resources and fancy unlockables are no substitute for strategic skills – but it does raise an eyebrow.
How do you guys feel about the new features? How do the prices look? Will you try the game simply because it is free?
Age of Empires has been a staple of PC gaming, and seeing as the core game is free it really won’t hurt to try Age of Empires Online when it releases on August 16th for PC.