Look how far you've come, Age of Empires
Age of Empires was a historical real-time strategy game released on October 26, 1997. In this game, you are given the choice between 12 different civilizations that begin in the Stone Age, each of which develops into the Iron Age as you play. You build a civilization by controlling units, gathering resources, constructing buildings, and developing an army. Each civilization offers different units as you play, but even though the units have different names, they are all identical in power and ability. Age of Empires offers two game modes to play, the first being Campaign and the other being Random Map.
In the campaign you follow the Greek, Babylonian, Egyptian, and Yamato civilizations. Campaign mode places you in different scenarios and gives you a set of objectives to complete. The scenarios take place on a timeline, meaning each event takes place after the last as you work your way through the ages.
Random Maps mode really pulls everything together in this game. You start with a few basic villager units and a town center, and from that you need to build a civilization. The villagers gather resources for you by hunting and farming for food, mining for gold and stone, and chopping down trees for wood. They also construct all the buildings for you, so the more villagers you have on a building the faster it gets built. Once you gather enough resources, you can start to construct buildings that allow you to build your military units. There are many different types of units ranging from basic clubmen to archers, as well as more interesting units such as war elephants (if you get far enough) and siege units such as catapults and ballista. There are also water units, such as fishing boats and war ships, so that you can build yourself a navy as well. One thing to note is that you do have a unit cap, meaning you can only have so many units on the map at once. This cap can be increased by building different types of buildings. The main building type is the house, and there is no limit to the number of houses you can build. The most important thing in the Random Maps mode is the ability to upgrade your units through research. Once you gather enough supplies, you are able to research different things that will help you take on the other civilizations. These upgrades range from increasing the gathering speed of villagers to making your military units more powerful when they are fighting. This is also how you will advance through the ages, as there are milestones set in each age. Once you complete the objectives given to you and gather the right resources, you can advance to the next age. The main objective in the game is to defeat the opposing civilization.
Age of Empires ΙΙ: The Age of Kings was released in 1999. Age of Kings offers 13 nations to play as you advance from the Dark Age to the Imperial Age. This game, like its predecessor, offers campaign mode and random map mode, but now offers Deathmatch and Regicide mode as well. Age of Kings also offers five different campaigns to play: Genghis Khan’s invasion of Kurasia, Barbarossa’s Crusade, Saladin’s defense of the Holy Land, and Joan of Arc and William Wallace’s campaigns. Much like the old campaign, you are given different objectives to complete, and completing such objectives allows you to move from scenario to scenario. Random map mode is very much the same as in the last game; you gather you resources and attempt to force enemy civilizations to concede to you. However, they did add a few other ways to win the campaign if you don’t want to focus on building an army to attack enemies. Now you can construct a building known as a Wonder, and if it remains standing long enough, you win. Also, there are items known as relics on the map, and if you gather all of them and hold them for a long enough period of time you will also take the victory. In Deathmatch, you start with a large amount of resources, which allows you to advance and build your army much faster than when playing regular random map mode. In Regicide mode, all players are given a king, and you win by killing the king of each civilization. Though they did add more units, the concept is still very much the same.
The most recent game in the series is Age of Empires ΙΙΙ, which was released on October 18, 2005. In this Age of Empires, players advance from the Discovery Age through the Industrial Age. This game’s campaign is like the old games, but it is broken up into acts. One unique feature of this game compared to the others is the addition of a home city. The home city cannot be destroyed, and is there to help you as you play your games. The home city is made up of five buildings, including The New World Trade Center, the Military Academy, the Cathedral, the Manufacturing Plant, and the Harbor. From these buildings you can receive cards which allow you to send shipments to your nations when you are at war. There are three types of cards: Boom, which focus on economics, Rush, which is for military, and Turtle, which is for defenses. You can acquire the cards in your games by earning XP through constructing buildings/units, defeating enemies, and gathering resources. Though the units are more advanced, you still have the basic melee units, ranged units, siege units, and naval units. As you advance through the ages, you have to pick a politician. Each one gives you different units and buildings that you can build. They did take out Stone as a resource, so now there is only Gold, Food, and Wood that need to be gathered. You can play as eight different nations, and the game is won when the enemy concedes to you.
Age of Empires was one of the first historical real-time strategy games and has remained on top for many years. They have released expansions for the games and even released an HD version of Age of Kings in 2013, which shows that the games are still very relevant. Though a new game has not been added to the series in a while, we can only hope to see an Age of Empires IV soon.