The quiet success of Age of Empires II HD was a reminder that while they’ve fallen out of vogue somewhat, there’s an audience hungry for the twitchy-yet-cerebral thrills of the classic RTS genre. A revamp of the first game was due to follow that last year until it hit a last-minute delay, but now I’m happy to say that Age of Empires: Definitive Edition has both a release date and price tag, and both seem quite reasonable.
The only concerning element of this news is the mention that the game will be coming to ‘Windows 10 PCs’, implying that this will be yet another title exiled to exclusivity on Microsoft’s OS-tied storefront.
February 20th is the official release date for the Definitive Edition, and it’s priced at a reasonable enough $20, although it remains to be seen if the slew of enhancements brought to this version of Age of Empires (zoomable camera, narrated campaign, smoothly animated 4k sprites, etc) will give it the edge over the graphically-simpler but content-heavy Age of Empires 2 HD. It’s a tough sell, considering AoE2 HD is available on Steam, along with several new expansions and full Steam Workshop-supported modding.
I can’t help but be reminded of the fate of Halo Wars 2 on PC, with players reporting the PC multiplayer scene dead on arrival thanks to its Windows 10 exclusivity. Meanwhile, the original Halo Wars still has a small but active community thanks to its placement on Steam and discount-buoyed price point.
An additional note that may raise some hackles is that Age of Empires: Definitive Edition will handle its online multiplayer through the Xbox Live network. While no subscription is required for PC users to play with each other, it’s an infamously clunky system that never quite gelled with PC multiplayer standards. That said, the game does at least offer traditional LAN play, so other options are available. It’s not the best of signs when an otherwise good-looking game has so many warning flags posted around its launch, but Microsoft do seem insistent on drawing people to their Windows 10 store somehow.