Age of Empires 4 has been officially announced with Homeworld and Company of Heroes developer Relic Entertainment making it, while IP-owner Microsoft Studios will publish.
The third entry in Microsoft's PC strategy series was "a huge mistake", according to a key member of the development team.
Microsoft has unearthed a new expansion for Age of Empires III, which is due for release this autumn.
Age of Empires maker Ensemble Studios has "done a Blizzard" and banned "a batch" of players from playing its real-time strategy game online due to cheating.
There's something rather childish, cynical even, about Age of Empires III. Playing it I'm reminded of a girl at school that started giving me presents (chocolate mainly) on a daily basis. She was, I guess, trying to win my affection. Being confused (it was the first time I'd ever been actively pursued) and being greedy I took the bars for a couple of weeks before guiltily asking her to stop. Right now I feel like I want to say to AoE3 "Stop with the gifts! To win my heart you don't need to sprinkle every map with silly treasure troves. You don't need to let me flick to a 'home city' screen every few minutes so that I can select a free unit or resource windfall. I'm not some spoilt toddler that needs to be bribed with endless sweeties."
Somewhere along the line Ensemble seem to have lost sight of what's important in a real-time strategy game. AoE3 looks and sounds fantastic yet its economics are dull, its factions are bland, and its combat is crude and fiddly. Without the addition of that novel home city concept (more on which in a second) this would be a startlingly unoriginal creation.
Before I flesh-out those comments, pushing the critical bowie knife even deeper, here's some background and some basics. This is the fourth episode of one of the biggest strategy franchises around. Taking-up where Age of Kings - the second episode - left-off and ending where AoE4 will one day doubtless begin, it plunders the period between 1500 and 1850 for it's unit type and tech inspirations. The stage is the New World, the playable powers - eight squabbling European states supported by various indigenous tribes. Skirmish and multiplay fit the traditional 'gather, build, battle' pattern to a tee while the twenty-four episode sequential campaign, though well-written and imaginatively framed, offers exactly the same kind of challenges that RTS campaigns have been offering for years. Destroy that town, hit that resource threshold, hold-out for this many minutes... perhaps if there was a choice of hoops occasionally or they were little less obvious, then jumping through them would be more fun.
Previews like this one always contain a certain sense of inevitability. Those who know the Age Of series already know, in terms of general quality and quantity, what to expect. Likewise, the developers, Ensemble Studios, knows exactly what to do, and it's not about to turn its legendary RTS games into an ill-conceived bout of monkey tennis. In fact it's unlikely to put a foot wrong at all - a misplaced toe is about the worst we can expect.
The E3 trailer for Ensemble Studios' PC real-time strategy sequel Age of Empires III is now available for download.
The trailer gives you the chance to see AoE 3 in action, offering a minute and a half of both cinematic and in-game footage.
AoE III is set between 1500 and 1850 and sees you managing a European power struggling to explore, colonise and eventually conquer the Americas.