Friday, August 19, 2011

Age of Empires Online Impressions

For Age of Empires Online general information, look here at my previous post.
I've been playing Age of Empires Online for a while now and my experience has been mostly pleasant. First off, let me say that if you do not like Age of Empires 1, 2 or 3, then you will not like AoE:O. The gameplay is incredibly familiar for anyone who has touched the RTS genre; build, produce units, kill your enemies, but AoE:O add's a few interesting aspects to the game. The best parts of the game involve loot, leveling and unlocking new units through the tech tree. You have a capital city that houses all kind of upgrades and cosmetic buildings. You can customize your city however you wish and it all looks different depending on what country you choose. The persistent online elements of the game all involve the capital city in some way and building/customizing your city is a lot of fun. The tech tree that you use to unlock new units and upgrades is fairly typical, but it's well done and has a lot of depth to it. It branches out between the military, naval and civilian trees, offering a large variety of choices.
The normal RTS is very typical, but it is well done and polished. Units react pretty well to area attack commands, self defense, choosing what units to hit and are generally pretty responsive to your commands. Your main capital city offers quests and the quests are pretty varied; they can be pvp, rescue, defense, assault quests and various other types. The quests feel pretty dynamic, most of them are pretty fun (some are slow, simple and boring), and they are the main source of experience in the game. They did a really solid job creating the mechanics of the game, but unfortunately I cannot say the same about the online elements. Servers frequently disconnect and disrupt your progress. When you do a quest, it takes you to a new area outside of your capital city, as if it were a mission in a singleplayer game, and if your thirty minutes into a quest and the server hiccups then you lose all progress. The servers have disconnect problems to the point where it almost ruins the game for me. There is also a matchmaking service for cooperative and pvp modes, but they don't seem to do a solid job of finding people close to your level; they also tend to take a long time to find one person to play with or against.
There are a lot of enjoyable RPG elements mixed into this RTS, like crafting, loot, soldier and building customization, leveling and the tech tree. This game has a pretty charming art style as well, making this free MMO easy on the eyes. While it may be a MMO, you can easily play a large portion of the game singleplayer, but wheres the fun in that. There are forty levels and two civilization to play at the moment, so a lot of content, plus a bunch of premium content if you care to pay for that kind of stuff. The premium content isn't jammed down your throat and for that I applaud the developers and producers.

Age of Empires Online is a pretty fun and interesting MMO RTS/RPG mix, but I cannot recommend the game until they fix the server stability. One possibly obnoxious issue for some people out there, is that it forces you to use Games for Windows Live. I was just hoping the other day that GFWL was dead and gone from this world, but it seems I was mistaken. Nevertheless, the game is free and it's easy to download, so give it a try if it sounds interesting at all. It offers a lot for free, so you could always play this and save your money for the onslaught of games between Septemeber and December. Thanks for reading.
To download and learn more:

Age of Empires Online Official Gamescom Trailer

-Written by Sean Cargle


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