Age of Empires: Definitive Edition is out now

Age of Empires: Definitive Edition

In another time and place, Age of Empires: Definitive Edition would be the easiest game to recommend. A lovingly crafted, highly polished update of a truly classic RTS, putting Blizzard’s recent efforts to polish up Starcraft to shame. Boasting proper 4k art, a smoothly zoomable camera and major interface enhancements, it looks like an excellent upgrade.

Unfortunately, this just seems an ill-timed and ill-positioned launch. For die-hard fans of the Age of Empires series who need to have the most polished version of each game in the series, Age of Empires: Definitive Edition is out now and available to buy, assuming you have Windows 10. As for the rest of you, there may be better options.

Unfortunately for the (undoubtedly hard-working) team behind this Definitive Edition, they’ve got an uphill struggle selling the game. Not only does its Windows 10 store exclusivity greatly limit its potential audience on PC, but it stands in direct competition to its own sequel, Age of Empires 2 HD on Steam, which is not only a larger game, but is backed up by three meaty single-player campaign expansions and has an enormous online player-base, ensuring multiplayer is always an option no matter where you live or when you want to play.

There’s no denying that the visual improvements on AoE: Definitive Edition are lovely indeed. The pin-sharp spritework makes me wish that I had a 4k monitor, and it’s always nice to see old classics given a fresh lick of paint, but with this remaster plus the sequel’s HD update both sharing a £15/$20 price-point, there’s really not much going for it other than the cleaner, more open UI style. Either way, I wish the developer’s luck and a following wind. Looking at the enormous success of AoE2: HD, this may yet find its niche.

Age of Empires: Definitive Edition is available now for £15/$20 via the Microsoft store, and is a Windows 10 exclusive.

57 Comments

  1. AT LAST...HISTORY BLAST says:

    The lack of the original soundtrack is actually a pretty significant deal-breaker for me.

    • Grizzly says:

      The original soundtrack is in there, but only if you select the 1997 data set (which turns everything to it’s original form).

    • IronPirate says:

      You might be able to overwrite the old music files for the new ones.

      Or you could just play the files in a music player in the background and turn off the music in-game.

  2. peterako1989 says:

    “its Windows 10 store exclusivity greatly limit its potential audience on PC”

    Yup. Wouldn’t buy even if I had windows 10.

    • melerski says:

      I wish people would have been this way when Steam was a baby.

      • ludde says:

        Why? Some people were indeed that way when Steam was young. Just not enough to change anything.

  3. tenochtitlan says:

    Hmm, with these 4K graphics the janky animations really stand out negatively, I get why they wanted to keep them on fixed angles and with slow movement speeds, but this just looks odd. Also Windows 10, so back to AoE2HD it is.

  4. Cederic says:

    Being Windows 10 only is reasonable if you’re releasing an updated game to make it run properly on the latest OS. It makes it available for a few years to come without the overhead of supporting legacy operating systems that the original mostly ran on anyway.

    Windows Store only is however inexcusable and a vicious kick in the teeth to the dev team.

    • peterako1989 says:

      Well, I can still play the original on win7 just fine, minor resolution issues notwithstanding. That’s like 6 windows iterations later. Windows 10 exclusivity, I believe, is arbitrary

      • pekingduckman says:

        But you certainly have no problem with MS cutting off support from Windows 95 to Vista, but Windows 7 is where you draw the line? Hypocrisy much? Windows 7 is 8 years old and no longer support the latest gaming techs, get over it.

        • peterako1989 says:

          Do some research before you type the nonsense you just did.

      • MajorLag says:

        Meanwhile in Linux Desktop land you often can’t run programs compiled for one distro on another, even if they’re the same distro two years apart. And they wonder why more games don’t get developed for it…

      • ludde says:

        Microsoft has always done this – pushing OS upgrades through their games. For example, Age of Empires 3 required Windows XP when Windows 2000 was still in use. And they had that whole Games for Windows Live thing.

        Now it’s Windows 10 and the Windows Store instead.

  5. Knurek says:

    I thought you guys were talking about PC games only?
    Why are you writing about XBox One now? Let other, console focused publications handle it.

    • Viral Frog says:

      … what?

      “Age of Empires: Definitive Edition is available now for £15/$20 via the Microsoft store, and is a Windows 10 exclusive.”

      From the article.

  6. kud13 says:

    It’s actually same developer as AoK HD. M$oft pulled them from (hopefully) making another expansion for HD to remake the original AoE.

    Basically, this is a first move in M$oft’s attempt to pull the AoE fans from Steam and onto the M$oft marketplace (the DE version of Age of Kings is supposedly the next project).

    I have over a thousand hours put into the HD version of Age of Kings (mostly messing around with the HUNDREDS of custom campaigns),but I have no intention of looking into these DE versions. I still remember the horror that was GaFWL

    • criskywalker says:

      We’ll never forget Games for Windows Live!

    • treat says:

      Not to mention AoE2:HD is already competing with the *original* AoE2 via Voobly. Active users for each seem to be roughly comparable, but the original release maintains the more active multiplayer scene, competitive players, and community staples due to features and stability Voobly confers.

      • kud13 says:

        not to mention UserPatch continues to offer more flexibility then the “officially supported” HD version.

      • pekingduckman says:

        Voobly is pure poop and pales in comparison to the original MSN Zone version. It says a lot when Voobly needs to employ people to spread propaganda on other gaming forums.

    • pekingduckman says:

      You’re full of it. I guess you missed the giant post in the Steam forums which asked for a remaster of AOE1. It’s MS’s game, they’re free to publish on whatever platforms they want. Windows 10 Marketplace is completely different from GFWL, it offers cross platform purchases and multiplayer to begin with, and the Marketplace version of Rise of Nations and Killer Instinct have cross platform play with the Steam versions. If you’re going to prejudge a platform you never used, then it’s only fair for me to blame AOE2 HD’s issues with disconnects on Steam.

      • kud13 says:

        I saw that forum page. I also see a much bigger discussion page about a new AoK expansion.

        I’m “pre-judging” the new platform based on my track record with their old one. I’m not interested in upgrading to Win 10 to try out if they’ve gotten better or not.

        I’m not sure why you think I love steam. If it were up to me, all games would be available on GOG.

  7. Spuzzell says:

    I’ll never understand the hatred poured onto any games company daring to sell their own games without handing 30% of their income to Valve.

    It’s just a shop, guys.

    You have to click a different coloured icon once when you install it. Oh, the humanity.

    • draknahr says:

      As much as I would prefer that it was on Steam, I completely agree. In some ways it’s actually better since you don’t need any extra apps running.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      I absolutely want to see Steam either take a smaller cut or for other storefronts to thrive, but this is Microsoft trying to create their own entirely walled garden, hemmed in to a single OS, a single multiplayer framework and almost entirely devoid of decent discounts.

      Have you even seen the prices on the Microsoft Store? It’s a joke.

      • Spuzzell says:

        And that’s fine, it’s your choice to buy or not.

        But it’s their game, pouring opprobrium on them for selling their game from their own shop so they keep their own money is decidedly odd.

        • Viral Frog says:

          Well, they won’t be keeping nearly as much money as if they just shut up and let Valve take their money like the rest of us do. Where is the sense in gating your product off from the vast majority of people who, even if they use Windows 10, will still likely never resort to purchasing the item from the Windows Store?

          Sure, they don’t want Valve to take a cut. But they’re going to be the ones losing out, not Valve.

          • bonuswavepilot says:

            The sense in gating things off this way is, I presume, twofold. First – to make it a bit more likely fans of the series will move over to Windows 10, and secondly, to try to get someone to use the Windows store for stuff once they have Windows 10.

            I think there are good reasons to avoid both of those scenarios, but I can see why Microsoft would want to push people in that direction.

        • MajorLag says:

          > And that’s fine, it’s your choice to buy or not.

          It sure is, and it is also our choice to express why we aren’t buying.

    • Useful Dave says:

      It’s the same ol’ issue as Halo 2 Vista I think, the game being arbitrarily locked to their latest OS for no reason at all, more than just being sold elsewhere than STEAM.

      • Spuzzell says:

        REALLY not looking to be a MS apologist or anything, but the strategy to move towards Windows as a service is a strong and sensible one.

        It means encouraging people to leave their legacy comfort zones by making new shinies unavailable to them, which again makes all the sense in the world.

        The savings from only having to support one OS (the perfect world situation) rather than having to maintain teams of expensive engineers to handle 5 different legacy platforms are astronomical.

        I think MS are doing the right thing, and if you disagree then I respect that.. but honestly, don’t complain when MS games are sold on MS stores and exclusive to the MS products that MS want people to migrate to.

        • kud13 says:

          I’ve had a horrendous experience with the 4 GaFWL games I ever tried to play (Bioshock 2, Arkam Asylum, Arkham City and Dawn of War 2) to the point where an broken update loop would leave me unable to play a game I bought for hours. Looking for assistance would unhelpfully lead me to broken links on “xbox.com” which I found insulting, because I don’t want anything to do M$oft’s console gaming, I never owned a console in my life, and I exclusively play single-player in all my games.

          I use GOG all the time to purchase and download games. I also use GamersGate and Origin, and when I finally get to them in my backlog, I will most likely be using UPlay as well. I don’t care about using a proprietory storefront. I was perfectly happy with Blizzard using Battle.net until they adopted the always-online model for everything.

          It’s not about “having to use another store front”. It’s about having to use a storefront from a company whose previous storefront repeatedly frustrated me and made me waste hours of my life while not offering me anything even close to the incentives that other store fronts it was competing with did. GaFWL was a useless, perpetually broken piece of bloatware that accomplished nothing, which is why it was eventually put out of its misery and majority of games that came with it had it patched out.

          Frankly, I don’t trust M$oft. At all. I don’t like their tablet-centric UIs, I don’t use the Aero theme on my 3 Win 7 machines because I like the classic look, and I resent them trying to force me to upgrade. Because every time they try to make things “more convenient” it ends up making things worse for me as an end-user.

          • pekingduckman says:

            Spoken like a true Steam fanboy, and it’s your own damn fault if getting tech support from a Xbox website triggers you so much. I can easily tell you about Steam’s borked HL2 launch, or the fact that it lacked basic features like ability to uninstall DLC or change installation directories or proper controller support until few years ago. GFWL at least had all those out of the gate, and having owned all of the GFWL games you mentioned before, I had no problems with them running whatsoever. I suspect most whiners are those who buy GFWL games on Steam, knowingly doubling their DRM, and complain that GFWL wants you to register a MS account for achievements.

          • Great Cthulhu says:

            pekingduckman> kud13 is perfectly happy to use gog, Origin, and UPlay. That doesn’t sound like a Steam fanboy to me.

            I’m glad GfWL was apparently useful to you. My own experience is more like kud13’s, so I’m glad to see it gone.

          • ludde says:

            pekingduckman, do you start off all your replies with an insult? It may sound great in your head and make you feel superior, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t for anyone else.

          • kud13 says:

            Funny story: this discussion inspired me to finally reset my Origin password.

            Lo and behold, ridiculous sales on ME: Catalyst and DA Inquisition GOTY

            I am not a Steam fanboy; I’m a GOG fanboy-its the one store where I will pay full price for pre-orders, and when a game I own on Steam shows up on GOG, I tend t re-buy them, just so that I can have a DRM-free copy.

            I just happen to not give a damn about the concept of Multiplayer. And I was finally enticed onto Steam with a sale (of course) sometime in the early 2010s, when it finally got a functional offline mode. And for my money, Steam is certainly the lesser of 2 evils by a mile (but GOG reigns supreme over all)

            Yes, I bought all 4 of those games on Steam – because of its sales. But the problem was not related to steam- it was a GaFWL issue, because the program would not. Stop. Updating itself (since I barely use it, I can understand the need for updates in theory, but when they are broken and require a 3rd party site re-install every time? Then we are getting ridiculous)

        • Ericusson says:

          All these companies dream in long sweaty nights of the iOS ecosystem model.

          Having experienced it a couple years, I now do not buy anything at all from the locked down in app purchase heaven shitty dragging down the barrel of any production pushed there that is iOS ; however happy I still am with my 6+ after almost 3 something years of usage.

          Such a thing coming to pc would be the end of it and all non console (rare) quality gaming.

    • treat says:

      This digital distribution war has slathered every potential purchase with impermanence. Whatever digital shit you buy and wherever you buy it, it might as well come printed with an expiration date. Therefore it’s safest to bet on the platform everybody else is using and hope people don’t start jumping ship. Microsoft would be a solid bet on this front if they weren’t so god damn terrible with continued support for their software and a history of skeevy consumer practices–this is why I suspect so many people are hesitant to buy even a handful of Win10 exclusives.

      These days I buy whatever I can through GOG because they provide the closest thing to physical control of the things I supposedly “own” in the digital age. I’m not a fan of consumerism or the concept of ownership, but I think people *are* entitled permanent access to whatever they’ve been driven, tricked, or coerced into trading their limited time and effort for in a binding financial contract. To that end, I think the public view on the ethics of piracy is going to shift massively once many of these publishers and their popup stores start to collapse.

      • Blastaz says:

        Whereas every physical game you buy will never ever get scratched and unusable within five years…

        • MajorLag says:

          At least it is under your control. A digital storefront going down and taking the game with it isn’t.

        • ludde says:

          Uhm, no? I have 20 year old CDs here that all work just fine.

    • pekingduckman says:

      That’s Steam fanboys for you. They’ll spend ages defending their favorite company and argue why Steam isn’t really a monopoly or DRM, and lootboxes in Dota 2 and CSGO “aren’t that bad”, but when MS does the same things it’s suddenly the end of the world. Remember Valve’s failed ventures like SteamOS, Steam Machines, their failed prediction that Linux is the future of gaming, or even Power Play, its early 2000s initiative to reduce online lag? Valve simply got lucky that Steam, initially a downloader for HL2, got lucky and was simply in the right place right time.

      • edwardoka says:

        Ironically, if you wish to continue tilting at windmills, you will need to install AoE2, which, I understand, is not available on the Windows 10 Store.

      • ludde says:

        The biggest issue with the Windows Store is that it’s operating system dependent and that Microsoft would have incentive to keep changing those restrictions around to force OS upgrades. Steam on the other hand is incentivized to run on as many things as possible to reach as large an audience as possible. There’s no overlapping business there.

        Perhaps there could also be antitrust concerns, as with Internet Explorer back in the day. I don’t think very highly of Steam either, for the record, but I could certainly see the Windows Store being a lot worse.

    • Carra says:

      I prefer having my games in one place. I already use gog.com, steam and, only because there’s no bloody alternative, Origin. I don’t want to add windows store and whatever you come up with.

      AoE not being on steam is a serious downside for me.

    • Czrly says:

      The Windows Store is *not* just a shop. It is, in fact, a platform and anything coded for it lives in a sandbox that is locked to that platform. Have you ever wondered why your Windows 10 settings pages now contains an option for “Developer Mode”? Let me enlighten you…

      Once apon a time, there was DOS. DOS was an operating system. DOS did one thing and only one thing: it ran programs. You could spin them up from some sort of storage — probably a floppy drive — and they ran. They were governed by the operating system — a kind of referee — who would routinely hand out red cards whenever they tried to access memory that they were not entitled to access — which was all the time, back in those days.

      Along came Windows. Windows was a shell. It drew pretty pictures for programs and made the mouse suck less. Eventually, these two merged into one thing and Windows NT was born. Fundamentally, however, Windows NT was still an operating system: it still ran programs, whether they were GUI based or command-line based, they were still “portable executable files” that were executed and they could do whatever they liked.

      Up to and including Windows 7, Windows ran programs. As a user, this was a bit of a concern because some programs were malicious but there were precautions that would prevent one from running those. As a developer, particularly an independent one, this was truly grand. You could write whatever you wanted and distribute it however you wanted — floppy, CD, HTTP download, it didn’t matter. If someone could gain a copy of your executable, they could run your program. Sometimes, these users paid you for that chance.

      Even today, on Windows 10, you can still run programs. Steam is a channel for distributing those programs (sometimes with DRM but that’s another debate), as is GOG and as are all the rest. Itch.io, GOG, Humble, Steam, all of them, exist because Windows runs programs. Pay-what-you-want, pay-if-you-want, Patreon, Kickstarter, tip jar models, “buy me a coffee if you like my code”… all of that exists because Windows runs programs.

      However. A new threat has appeared. It appeared with Windows 8 and it is called the Windows Store. It is a new platform. It is not about programs. It is about “apps.”

      You see, if one writes for the Windows Store, one is no longer writing a program. They are writing an “app” and “apps” cannot be distributed freely. “Apps” can *only* be distributed via the Windows Store or via Android-like side-loading that requires special toggles: the aforementioned developer mode. “Apps” run in a sandbox and do not have unfettered file access, network access, hardware access or anything else that may or may not be a requirement to realise a given idea.

      Every time you acquiesce to Microsoft’s demands that you use their Store, you are relinquishing a vote against this model. You are enabling them to pursue this shift from programs to “apps”, with their limits and their belittling double-quotes.

      If you do this, the time will soon come when Microsoft will use the power that you have handed them. They *will* limit Developer Mode and the privilege of side-loading will certainly become an Enterprise feature, unavailable to home users. Ultimately, programs will no longer be a supported software model on Windows.

      What then?

      • Thankmar says:

        Thank you for this. The transition from traditional OS to foundation-with-store-on-top is very often mentioned (the ‘walled garden’ came up in this comment section), but the difference in the usage is seldom explained well. This is the reason why I do my day-to-day things in Linux foe a couple of Years now. Unfortunately, gaming is a bit tricky on Linux still for the average user like me. And lets not forget which company invented the marriage between OS and monopoly store (for security reasons ofc) for their damn fone (was it on Macs the same before?), and which other company adopted this model with gusto, and even got the open source coders do some of the their work for them. Microsoft is just late for the party, and in retrospect, you wonder what took them so long.

      • Kamestos says:

        Amen brother, you explained all that better than I ever would haven been able to.
        The Windows Store is not inherently evil, it is the UWP that it hides that is.

      • ZXDunny says:

        Not to mention that one of the justifications for this type of “app” model is that there are so many naughty people out there that want to damage your PC, steal your personal info etc that this is the only viable way to prevent it – sandbox all programs, and make sure the user can only get it from a “trusted” source…

        Of course, that’s their justification and each time a major breach of a windows-based network occurs they’ll argue that they need to implement tighter control in order to lessen the impact – neglecting to fix the underlying reason these breaches of security occur under windows…

  8. Shadow says:

    I’m surprised Microsoft isn’t in a wheelchair by now, after shooting itself in the foot so many damn times.

    At this point it seems just archaic to me to keep insisting on building walled gardens and desperately trying to stuff them with every bit of random crap they manage to sign on.

    One might argue Steam does something similar (on a lesser scale), and Google as well, but they’re just far smarter about it, and they don’t attempt to reach some all-encompassing level of control over the crap they let or don’t let you use, unlike Microsoft or Apple, old, crusty, grumpy rivals.

    Instead of opening doors, those dinosaurs seem to enjoy closing them. Feels terribly antiquated for this day and age.

    • Ericusson says:

      Giant war chest from the past and financial placements pit this grotesque tumor-full monster of a company pretty much in a perpetual god mode.

      • MajorLag says:

        If the past is any indication, what appears to be an unstoppable corporate juggernaut can fall to near irrelevance in a surprisingly short amount of time. IBM was once the 800lb gorilla of the PC, and a little company called Microsoft is one of the reasons it isn’t anymore.

        • ludde says:

          I’m not sure whether those times are over though. The entry requirements are a lot higher today and the markets so entrenched.

    • Nice2Bee says:

      Yeah, I really want to buy this game, but I don’t want to buy it with an account that is linked to my workplace.
      Microsoft should just be what it is, a trustworthy operating system company and let its games section be independent.

  9. DatonKallandor says:

    One of the reasons people don’t like the Windows 10 store (besides the MASSIVE issues with it being walled off from the rest of your PC usage) is that we KNOW how fickle Microsoft is. We remember Vista. We remember GFWL. We remember all the shit microsoft has pulled. We remember that the moment a new console shaped shiny object comes along, support for anything pc related gets dropped in an instant. We know this because we’ve seen it before.

    Microsoft is the boy who cried “we care about PC games” and they never did. We will never listen to them if they ever mean it for real because they’ve lied too many times.

    • Hypocee says:

      I mean, maybe they haven’t for a while but ‘they never did’… a bit too far. I suspect you might be young. Like DirectX? DirectSound? DirectInput? Not installing different EXEs/downloading different patches depending on what card you had? Not telling every new game that your sound card is A220 I5 D1? Not calibrating your pad’s axes in every different underfeatured screen? Microsoft, or to be fair a few determined teams at Microsoft, made all that. It cost a lot of money. It wasn’t predetermined that it would make money for them. People fought to push on against attempts to kill it and to stop them providing it for free to all software developers. And it’s the reason RPS would more accurately be described as 99% a ‘Windows’ gaming site.

      Also they funded and released a bunch of masterpieces in the late ’90s – early ’00s.