New Age: Age of Empires Announced & Beta

No battle will ever be this organised in an RTS. Thus as it once was, and thus it will ever be.

And this is the second of Microsoft’s PC games, confirming the very Age-of-Empires-looking leak of “Spartan” is actually Age of Empires Online. It promises Co-op and player-versus-player multiplayer, plus persistent online empires, a jolly new look and will be due for 2011. The closed beta is already running, and you can sign up for future Beta stuff already, if you wish, here. There’s quite a lot of stuff on the site, so worth nosing, but one thing on the FAQ did catch my eye. “Will there be a retail product, or will Age of Empires Online be available as a download only?” “It will be digitally distributed.” Which strictly speaking doesn’t say it won’t be in shops, but by omission implies it’s download only. There’s a trailer on the site which doesn’t appear to be embeddable anywhere else, so you can go and have a look at it there for now, along with grabs and concept stuff.

The third PC Game is Fable 3, which we already know about. Anything else worth knowing? Well, all are on Games for Windows Live, obv.


  1. Kali says:

    I hope they just make a carbon-copy of AoEII, because I still believe that was the pinnicle of the series.

    GFWL can go die in a fire, though.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      The only way these will ever ‘fly’ is if we can disable GFWL.

    • airtekh says:


      Well I know that’s possible, at least on GTA IV it is, because I did just that when I played it on my PC. I just downloaded a modified DLL file and it disabled GFWL functionality completely.

      I think it’s game-specific though; it’s not a catch-all solution. You’d need a different file for each game.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if workarounds were created for these games too.

    • omicron says:

      I’m half happy, because Age is Back! … but also sad, because it seems like this and Flight demonstrate that Microsoft is not romancing the hardcore fans it dropped for the XBox, but is instead going after the causal Facebook crowd. That makes me very, very worried…

    • ScubaMonster says:

      @airtekh: Only problem is with AoE Online being a persistent social networking game, I’m not sure you could even play it with disabling GFWL. Unless GFWL is just used as basic DRM and not actually connecting you online. Can you play multiplayer in GTA 4 if you disable GFWL?

  2. Hannes says:

    Looking forward to this, but in some way it’s a franchise which should be put to rest. THe transition to 3D hasn’t done the series well and the way we play Age of Empires 1 and 2 will never come back.

  3. Thatidiot says:

    Wow, really?Thank you so much Microsoft for your PC “offensive”.A shitty sequel to a game that wasn’t even on PC (Fable 2), a flight sim that’s probably not gonna be a sim anymore, and most importantly the utter butchering of a much loved franchise.

    • mrmud says:

      How do you know Fable 3 is going to be shitty?
      Have you played it?

      A lot of people enjoyed Fable 2 and I for one welcome playing the sequel on my PC instead of my 360.
      As for removing the “simulator” from Flight Sim, I think its a good idea. There really are negative connotations in the word simulator for alot of people and frankly playing FSX on the easier settings, there is very much simulation going on and it is something that is accessible to alot of people.

    • omicron says:

      @mrmud: The problem is that it’s a sequel. It’s a sequel to a game that a lot of us have never played. Playing the Fable series on PC is going to be like reading (a highly simplified) Fellowship of the Ring and Return of the King, while skipping the Two Towers. You can’t do that to story-based franchises – it doesn’t work.

    • TCM says:

      Fable is not a story-based franchise, by virtue of the story being laughably trite.

      It’s good fun, though.

  4. negativedge says:

    What is with that aesthetic? It looks like a boardroom-bred combo of WoW and Civ IV made up in flash. It doesn’t look horrible, but I don’t see how it fits this series at all. Interesting concept with some decent footage, though.

    • Bru says:

      I think the graphics are targeting the usual set of people who enjoy bright, colorful games in their browsers. The same sort of people that enjoy flash games, or farmville. I’m -hoping- that’s the only major appeal for those types, though, and that there will still be the elements that made AoE great.

      Graphics won’t mean that much if the gameplay is crap.

  5. Sid says:

    Looks good to me.

  6. Choca says:

    I think they went a little far with the cartoon look but it could be fun nonetheless

  7. Mr Chug says:

    Beats the hell out of the Caesary trailer. I generally have a dislike for browser games after seeing non-gamer friends get hooked on something as low quality and grindy as Farmville, but between this and Civilization Network I have a little hope for it being a decent format for decent games.

  8. Mac says:

    Do MS really want to do games, or are they purely focussed on how to rip off customers?

    I can see Age of Empires online being even worse than EA’s so called Free to Play games … just look at Valve’s support of TF2 on the 360 for an example of MS’s behaviour – no free updates as MS wanted to charge for them as DLC.

  9. cliffski says:

    why don’t they just re-do AOE II, with updated graphics, but keeping it isometric? 3D doesn’t add much to an RTS of this type, and gameplay wise AOE II was the dogs bollocks.

  10. Sir Derpicus says:

    Man, we’re living in a post starcraft 2 world.
    Unless microsoft is very serious about this and pulls through an extremely solid game worth playing, it’ll scatter in the wind.

  11. xxx says:

    Just when you thought they can’t dumb down stuff any more…

  12. Tei says:

    AoC used to be big into the hardcore RTS’s player and the casual ones. I am talking Starcraft size (a littel less).

    Wen you can’t program shit, you have to relie in marketing tricks like “game exclusives” to sell a bad platform. But “game exclusives” is another bad practice, so it fuels more bad karma (like Microsoft need more bad karma).

    • Sir Derpicus says:

      Microsoft never cared about karma. I doubt they ever will.
      Not that they’re crashing and burning or anything – they just don’t care about customer relationships. Like how pokemon (the main franchise) doesn’t care about being realistic. They simply don’t see the need.

  13. Batmantis says:

    I don’t like that on the beta sign-up page, when it asks about games you have played before, it lists farmville and mafia wars before age of empires, rise of nations, starcraft, and warcraft. That’s not a good sign about what kind of game this is going to be.

  14. Out Reach says:

    At first I was like “OMG YES :D”

    and then I saw GFWL pop up and a was sick in my mouth :(

  15. pkt-zer0 says:

    You can now play a Farmville-esque thingy through GfWL! I see no reason how this could possibly fail.

  16. Nige111 says:

    In all honesty, I think GFWL is a godsend for pirates since it allows them to play multiplayer on any GFWL game with only a single valid CD key.

  17. Sid says:

    I would guess that the home city stuff is just a city-builder game, like a simplified sim city, with new buildings unlocking and population rising as you gain levels.
    But the rest of the game, judging by the video, is clearly a standard age of empires RTS with everything that entails. You just gain XP for completing ‘quests’ and defeating enemies… sort of like age of empires 3, except the home city doesn’t send shipments, it just sits there looking pretty as you build it.

  18. Rii says:

    Great, it’s Age of FarmVille via Fat Princess.

    I can’t believe they dumped Ensemble for this.

  19. frags says:

    When I heard about it, I went to their site to register for the beta. Until I saw it requires GFWLive. I closed the page.

  20. Aerozol says:

    Haha, this has that ‘made internally by Microsoft’ extraordinarily crap trailer feel to it.
    But I have to say, it looks like they know what they’re doing… A farmville/ Evony style game, but with AoE’s basic mechanics. Might not be too bad. And… KACHING!

    The graphics are quite off-putting, but some of the landscape looks very nice I think. It points to some simple gameplay mechanics too which is great! There’s X people saying “AoE and AoE II were the best”, and then X people saying “This looks dumbed down”, but newsflash, AoE I and II weren’t that complicated. Obviously you could get deep in multiplayer, but I don’t see why this couldn’t just be the case on a bigger scale.
    So I’m actually kind of optimistic about this. Surprising…

    • Aerozol says:

      I just read what I wrote, and it’s waay to positive for RPS. Not going to go down well I predict :o

  21. Sobric says:

    Erk GfWL. Well never mind, AoE II is still good to play now.

  22. MikeBiggs says:

    I know a lot of you are having fun bitching on Microsoft. But the way I see it this is only as much Microsoft as the other AOE’s where, Ensemble developed them, Robot Entertainment (Mostly made of Ex-Ensemble staff) developed this.

    The cartoony graphics were surprising but I’m confident I’ll enjoy it. After all, it’s not like it’s Age of Empires 4. If they killed that i’d be fetching my big gun!

    • Duoae says:

      Wait… so they’ve contracted the people they fired to make a ‘sequel’ to their franchise that MS didn’t see the worth in continuing?


      The mind boggles….

  23. Finn says:

    I kinda like the cartoony graphics and the colourful landscape; GFWL, not so much, no beta for me thanks.

  24. Derf says:

    Can’t we rather have AoE IV instead?

  25. Heliocentric says:

    I want to be angry at microsoft but if the game is quality its quality.

    I won’t be using ms points or gfwl store though. Microsoft are already a monopoly on the only real open platform. I would love google or vaule to pop up with an operating system and make microsoft quit the abusive spouse act.

    • Heliocentric says:

      Wtf is vaule? I meant valve, stupid sausage fingers.

    • cliffski says:

      anyone but google please. They already control online ads and search and video. I dread them controlling the O/S too. At least every key i hit doesn’t get logged by microsoft.

  26. Hmm says:

    Oh, come on… Where’s Age of Empires 4 ? PROPER AoE 4 ? Online-only game I couldn’t care less about.
    FLIGHT might not be a sim anymore.
    Fable 3 is delayed.
    The GFWL interface in that trailer is still atrocious, it takes so many clicks to get anywhere. When will they finally improve that?

    Microsoft have the guts to call it a PC offensive? Are they kidding? They’re so out of touch with PC gaming it isn’t even funny. :(

  27. Nisse says:

    It looks disgusting.

    I wish the series had just died after the terror that was AOE III, but this looks even worse.

    • Skinlo says:

      AOE3 was a very solid game, it just wasn’t as good as AOE or my personal favourite, AOM.

    • Gundrea says:

      I liked the way Rise of Nations and Age of Mythology took things myself. While the AoE series was solid it was only a jumping off point for the really good RTS

    • Wowza says:

      There’s not really anything wrong with it. It looks like the same AoE gameplay, except with a slightly different art style.

  28. Dee-G says:

    I love GwFL, so this is seriously welcome news. Never had a single problem with any title supporting it, Batman, Section 8, The Club, Lost Planet, the list goes on. I really do wish every game had it, as it’s a fantastic system. Hopefully Lost Planet 2 will be sporting it as well :D

    • Novotny says:

      I don’t understand; is this so cleverly sarcastic that I can’t detect it?

      Mind you, people think the Daily Mail is a good, reliable newspaper and loads buy it.

    • jon_hill987 says:

      Obvious troll is obvious.

    • Sarlix says:

      Is your love for it affecting your motor control? GwFL??

      Ah, maybe you meant GOLD WING FRËNN LËTZEBUERG? link to

    • Dee-G says:

      Apologies for the spelling error, but them’s the breaks. Regardless, think what you will, but I a) Like Games for Windows Live in every game it’s been in and b) Am not a troll. I fail to see where all the vitrol comes for from the service. It works flawlessly (in personal experience) in every game it’s been included in, provides a multi-title friends list which makes it easy to see what your buddies are up to and message them if needs be (via voice or text), and crucially does not rob the game of features, as GfWL games have supported dedicated servers, modding, LAN, and a laundry list of other features held in high regard.

      Again, think what you will, but I assume your negativity regarding the service either stems from a bad experience with it, in which case you shouldn’t assume one experience defines the rest or indeed if your experience is consistently bad, then maybe you should look elsewhere for fault, since many people are using and enjoying it without any problems. If indeed that you simply regard the service in a negative light for a purely arbitrary reason, I can’t really bring myself to consider your point. I mean, that’s worse than, for example, being bitten by a dog and then believing all dogs are somehow malicious via one experience, if you haven’t used the service and hate it for no reason other than you hate it, that’s like preemtively assuming all dogs are going to bite you and hate them forever, without giving them a chance to behave otherwise.

      Either way, I feel that the general attitue here is to hate on GfWL for basically, as I see in this comments thread, no reason other than it exists. Feel free to correct me however, I’m more than willing to look at this from another point of view if you can tell me why I should hate it. It’s only fair.

  29. DarkNoghri says:

    I saw this and went “Yay” and went to go sign up, only for it to mention GfwL. I also closed the page.


    Though, it looks like this is being made by the company that the shattered pieces of Ensemble formed, so that’s at least a decent sign. If they were going to make another AoE game, why bother killing Ensemble in the first place?

  30. rocketman71 says:

    Oh god oh god oh god. What a disaster.

    Fuck you, Microsoft. That’s all I got. And whoever was the friend that showed Farmville to the idiot suit that greenlighted this abortion. fuck you, too.

    NOW I might start to believe that PC gaming is dying. This POS might very well be the antichrist of PC games. Dedicated, LAN, that I could endure, having Valve and the indies. This?. This is too much.

  31. squareking says:

    This is essentially the PC game equivalent to Songsmith.

  32. ScubaMonster says:

    So, does this mean micro transactions in order to compete? The words “free to play” usually imply there’s a micro transaction option. And 9 times out of 10 that means “free, but good luck getting anywhere without buying something”.

  33. ScubaMonster says:

    I’m wondering why they chose the GFWL route? That seems like a bad idea (yeah I know it’s MS and they want to promote GFWL even if it’s crap). With Company of Heroes Online and other games being browser based, I see no reason why this couldn’t be done in a browser as well.

    Something about social network gaming compared to the likes of Farmville that requires GFWL sounds like a monstrosity.

  34. Jambe says:

    How delicious is it that Robot Entertainment (made up of many ex-Ensemble people) is creating AoE Online?

    “Hey, you lot, the ones we fired some time back. Care to work some more of that magic for us?”