Back in my childhood, there was a game at the time that captivated, and entertained me more than anything in this world. Everyone says the game that changed their life was Mario, or something of those sorts. When I tell someone a game has changed my life, I speak of Age of Empires. I would come home from school every single day, and play online for hours, and at one point I ran a 1000+ member clan. The Age of Empires franchise is something I have always followed very closely, and when Ensemble Studios went under my virtual world had collapsed.
Then in 2010, I got wind of something in the works, an Age Of Empires Online made by Gas Powered Games. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed that Microsoft Games Studios would try to recapture the greatness that was the AOE franchise. However, I put all of my frustration aside and signed up for the beta; I went into it thinking “I hope they did not screw it up.” Shortly after signing up, I got an e-mail with my beta key, and I went and downloaded it.
When you first start up, you will be prompted to select a Realm in which you would like to be in. From my understanding these “realms” are just servers, and you can change them at any time if you find people annoying in a particular area.
After you select your realm you will see your little colony, which is used very heavily in AOEOnline. When I say “heavily” I really do mean it, it is used for upgrades, training, selecting new technology, procuring new items and a ton more. Mainly though, these “towns” are your source for quests; which you always know who is giving one out by an exclamation mark appearing over their head. Sometimes though, quests seem to be few and far between; at least the ones you actually want to do.
There is this particular quest that is just a giant pain, and I am sure a lot of the others are having the same exact issues that I have with it. It is this little quest entitled “Final Farm Down”; a 5 minute timed, quest where you have to build 10 farms in 5 minutes. It may sound like it is easy, but it really is not. In order to build a farm, you have to make it to Age II, which costs 200 food and wood. Now in order to make it to Age II it requires a ton of wood, and a lot more villagers to make those farms. Each farm costs around 100 wood, and that means 1000 wood total. Each villager gathers 10 wood in 3-5 seconds; again it may seem fast, but it takes ~1minute to get to Age II from the time you upgrade; and about 10-20seconds to build a farm depending on how many villagers you have working on it. You will be lucky to complete it within the time frame, but I have yet to do so.
A new feature to the AOE franchise is the addition of multiple quests. As you can see from the above picture, this is my current quest map. Now, also with the addition of quests there also comes the addition of timed missions. There are quite a few of them too; ranging from building farms, tower defense, and protecting your allies town centers.
Do not be fooled though; the AI in Age of Empires Online are insanely resourceful and incredibally smart. They get started quickly, by building up huge armies; but they seem to lack when building a naval service. The AI has what appears to be instant building when it comes to their armies and trust me when I say it does set you back quite a bit. It would be nice to see more balance when dealing with the final build. I would like my enemies to start as slow as I tend to; and when dealing with the AI Allies, please let me communicate with them somehow. When I fire a flare on the map, I hope for them to move into that position to give me a hand. This would be incredibly useful when dealing with the 30 minute timed missions where you have to protect ally town centers.
For the sake of spoilers, and not making this sound like a help page, I am going to end the preview here.
So overall, Age Of Empires Online is proving to be a new and fresh addition to the AOE franchise while sticking to what made it so awesome. I commend Gas Powered Games on the work they have done thus far, and I patiently await for the final build.