The Casualization of a Classic - An Opinion on Age Of Empires Online

The Age of Empires series is taking the fight online and introducing a slew of new elements, most of which we've touched on in our recent preview.  A persistent city, a talent system that enables or disables certain units or upgrades, and a whole bunch of elements resembling other recent online offerings such as League of Legends have been introduced and what’s the end result?<

The Age of

series is taking the fight online and introducing a slew of new
elements, most of which we've touched on in our recent href=""
persistent city, a talent system that
enables or disables certain units or upgrades, and a whole bunch of
elements resembling
other recent online offerings such as style="font-style: italic;">League of Legends
have been
and what’s the end result?

An RTS that you’ll have to play 20
hours or more in order to
actually unlock enough to be competitve or even diverse.

is this a badly designed game from a casual perspective?

Let’s first talk about what you start
out with.  After
doing a few basic missions you can use
basic economy units and structures, and one ground unit, the Spearman. style="">  Slowly you’ll unlock units
as your main city
levels up with progressively more difficult quests. 
I say progressively more difficult, but the
actual difficulty is absolutely negligible. 
I am a veteran to AoE and RTS games in general, so I
expect a breeze,
but the computer doesn’t attack, responds to scouts with villagers
units across the map to melee them, and is pretty much broken. style="">  When your objective is to
harvest 1000 gold
or whatever, that’s great…  if
you enjoy
playing SimCity
with your empire. 
I don’t’
even remember feeling remotely threatened until City Level 20 or so,
and that’s
a long ways away for new players!

style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: right; width: 325px;"

href=""> src=""
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 300px; height: 300px;">

Main City resembles little more than a Facebook game.  Hell if
you're not killing deer and building Hoplites on the battlefield, the
whole game feels like it should be on Facebook.

But what’s the fun in playing SimCity
when you don’t even
have all of the available zones to place in your town?  
You’ll build research buildings and not even
have critical research upgrades available to you in-game unless you
points in
your City Tech Tree.  This
'unlocking' carries over to your entire empire. 
from economic
upgrades to unit
upgrades to the damn units themselves has to be rationed and purchased
in the
tech tree.  To make matters worse, if you want to specialize
at all, it begins to cost even more. 
So early on you'll be extremely limited, and that will
carry on for some time.  Your first 5-10 hours of gameplay
will be a super
simplistic economy
fest of just making villagers and producing enough resources to a)
finish the
mission outright or b) mass produce enough basic units to steamroll the

Even the objectives are downright
silly.  “Defend your
Ally” amounts to just building a
few towers and walls and going for a walk while the enemy fruitlessly
units at them, until you’re well into your teens and start using/coming
against siege units.  Hell,
you can even
tower rush your opponent to death before they can pose a threat to you
or your
ally.  A lot of the
economic missions are
seemingly random maps with numeric goals. 
There’s no incentive to go out of your way to find
treasure camps
either, since you can do it after the mission is completed at your
before you exit to the world map.

And why
won’t the
serious RTS player care for it?

Balancing an RTS is incredibly
difficult.  Take
say, a marine from Starcraft, that has
40 HP and shoots for 6 damage.  Now
can expect a certain level of offense and durability from said unit
with these
numbers.  Since AoE
Online has an
equipment/item system that enables you to modify units greatly, how can
expect to balance a unit when anyone at max level can equip them with
gear that
can increase their overall effectiveness 200% if they so desire? style="">  Add in the fact that you
can’t see your
opponent’s gear or tech tree choices before the match and you’ll see a
lot of
all-in style strategies revolving around decked out units that are
powerful to
the point of defeating their counters unless they are similarly geared. style="">    This
is no fun to play with, nor is it fun
to play against, and having this random element of items is going to
kill the
competitive spirit of the game.  While rushing and various
other types of 'cheese' strategies have been around since the dawn of
the genre, there are counters.  

The unlocking aspect is also
downright poisonous to a
competitive community.  While
has announced that a ‘pro premium civilization’ can be purchased with
near full
to anything, why should anyone have to slog through the single player
aspect if they just want to kick some ass?  Not having access
to crucial units or upgrades to said units can cost you a match if an
enemy is using a strategy you're unprepared for, and I don't mean in
game.  You have to prepare for this stuff before you see it,
and it's depressing until you're level 40 which is the maximum. style="">

As E-Sports continues to gain
momentum, this game will be
left in the dust for one simple reason—It’s boring to watch. style="">   Since you start
with a super-tower in your
Town Center (even with no garrison!) rushing is a fool’s errand and you
have to
wait until at least the second age in order to make a worthwhile attack. style="">  With the graphical
elements of gear being
very slight, it’ll also be hard for the viewer to tell how the
situation or
battle will actually play out.  Spectators
will have a hard time knowing when to cheer for a comeback when they
don't know if it's possible!

Perhaps I’m giving too harsh of a
take on a game
that the NDA was just
lifted on, but there’s little to get excited about in the new style="font-style: italic;"> Age of
Empires.  Nothing
does is remotely
interesting or new to the series, and the graphics are arguably a step
back.  Could this
game turn it around and
gain a worthy single player, while losing the grind to actually being
able to
fight strategically in multiplayer? 

I’ll be keeping my eye on this one,
but you should be wary
that you might be disappointed.  This
a franchise reboot to introduce new players , that might totally turn
off those
of us that have followed Age of Empires
since the 90’s.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Age of Empires Online Game Page.

Last Updated:

About The Author

Around the Web