Title: Age of Empires: Definitive Edition
Available on: PC
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Forgotten Empires
Genre: Real-time strategy (RTS),
Official Site: https://www.ageofempires.com/games/aoe/
Release Date: February 20th, 2018
I had launched the Age of the Empires: Definitive Edition beta for the first time, expecting my opponents to be relatively difficult but nothing I couldn’t handle. Fast forward to my first match–and I use the term “fast forward” because of the long, excruciating process of finding an appropriate lobby, one that could cater to my skill level. It had been a while since I last played any Age of Empires title. I played Age of Empires II a lot back when I was younger, and I still have the PC disc stowed somewhere for safe keeping. You know, just in case I ever have a computer with a CD drive again. But that first match in multiplayer with real people… Dear God, what a strategical mess.
I used the cheat codes that allowed me to gain resources at a much quicker rate when I played Age of Empires II. A lot of copying and pasting the code “cheese steak jimmy’s”, from what I remember. I think playing the Age of the Empires: Definitive Edition beta was one of the only times I didn’t use cheats, and, let me tell you, I suffered because of it. There’s no one else to blame but myself. Because of my preteen laziness, I didn’t know how to effectively manage my villagers, my resources, or anything else for that matter. I was stuck playing catch-up the entire match while my opponents rolled around in the spoils of their lavish empires.
So, in my first match, I was doing my own thing without a care in the world for what could be going on around me: send some villagers over to the forests to get some wood, send a few to find some food, yadda yadda. I was a puddle, waiting to be smashed on. It should come as no surprise then that when an army of Iron Age War Galleys (I was still on the Tool Age at this point), fully equipped foot soldiers, and more than fifteen catapults came crashing onto my beach… Well, let’s just say I was thrown into panic mode; trying to get more catapults in the short time I had left, only for the Siege Workshop to be destroyed. I was left wondering: How did my opponent get to the Iron Age so quickly? The more relevant question I was asking though, while my empire was being laid to waste, was how the heck did they get the resources to build such a huge army in so little time? No cheats were allowed, so I was honestly dumbfounded.
And this brings me to what I think will make Age of the Empires: Definitive Edition so great. Besides working with your other teammate(s) in an effective manner, you have to be able to manage your villagers and resources just right, otherwise you’ll fall incredibly behind your opponents. I was reminded of the intricate nature of real-time strategy, and how much the genre can take out of you, mentally, if you’re not accustomed to playing the game how its meant to be played. By my seventh match or so, I began to implement the strategy essential to achieving victory; building granaries around farms and storage pits around forests, while researching specific areas depending on the situation I had put myself in. Yet, no matter how much better I thought I was getting, all of my empire’s would end up in ashes by the 40-minute mark.
The multiplayer aspect of Age of the Empires: Definitive Edition is what will make this version of the title so awesome. Microsoft has taken what they’ve learned from having Age of Empires III in multiplayer for the past 12 years to help implement the concept into the original. Besides the long waits–which were mainly due to language barriers, hosts/other players not knowing what they were doing, the relatively small amount of people who received the beta, and players with high ping–the multiplayer was relatively smooth. Those with high ping would make the game very laggy at times, so it was usually best to not allow them in the lobby (as harsh as that sounds). My only issue, though, was that everyone had a ping of at least 150, which caused a lot of FPS drops and freezes in-game. Considering it was just the beta, I hope that the final version of the game brings the ping down to a normal number.
Another issue I kept having had to do with an error message popping up at random points before I could get into a match. It was an internal error that stated “Received connection request reply from invalid sender,” forcing me to restart the game every time it popped up. This message appeared a lot at first, but then stopped as the beta neared its end. I think Microsoft and/or Forgotten Empires realized that it was happening and fixed the issue (the first build of the beta, 4793, was different from the one it ended on, 4838), which is a good sign as the game nears its final release.
I thought of the outdated graphics from the original Age of Empires a lot whenever the subject had come up in past conversations. But with the Definitive Edition of the title, the graphics were updated and turned into something almost unrecognizable from their original source back in 1997. Playing the beta brought back a lot of memories, and the slick graphics helped immerse me more than any of the originals I’m used to playing could’ve. Granted, there have been Age of Empires titles that have used similarly designed, updated graphics as well (i.e. Age of Empires II HD) but I firmly believe that the Definitive Edition is a big step up in comparison to the original. Other aspects that were noticeably changed from the original, like zoom levels and the newly recorded soundtrack, also helped in bringing this version to life.
Real-time strategy games aren’t for everyone, unfortunately. It’s a tough genre to get to get the hang of, especially when you’re playing against people that can build an army, navy, and a Wonder in less than 30 minutes, then destroy your empire for the heck of it. But this was only the multiplayer beta, so no single player (you against the computer) was allowed. For those of you who prefer playing against the computer with the cheats on, then I suggest getting the full version when it releases on February 20th. Not me, though. I’m a changed man and will only play without cheats after my experience with the online multiplayer in Age of the Empires: Definitive Edition. Because I know that, when I do eventually win, I’ll feel as satisfied as when I beat Dark Souls for the first time.
Age of Empires IV, will be coming to PC at some point in the near future as well. Remastered versions of Age of Empires II and Age of Empires III will also hit the shelves later in 2018 or in 2019. Check back at The Nerd Stash for more information on these title’s release dates as the year progresses.
Verdict: The beta for Age of Empires: Definitive Edition shows promise for the final release while bringing back a lot of good memories. The online multiplayer forced me to adapt to playing without the cheats, and I think that was the best part of the experience: truly learning the strategy behind the game and accepting the lesson in crushing defeat. The updated graphics, newly recorded soundtrack, and improved zoom levels helped in immersing me in the gameplay. There were some issues with matchmaking, high ping, and an internal error (which was eventually fixed), but, considering this is just the beta, I hope that Microsoft and Forgotten Empires will get these problems resolved as the game nears its release date.
Most of the time he spends writing, reading (anything from comics to classic literature), playing video games, and wondering when the next Elder Scrolls title will be released. Hopefully soon…