Age of Empires Online


Key events

Games for Windows Live is ending next July

UPDATE: Microsoft says it still believes in PC/Windows gaming, has plans to grow support.

UPDATE: Microsoft has responded to our inquiry about Games for Windows Live's impending closure with a cryptic message about believing in PC gaming and having a long-term plan to grow.

Age of Empires Online

Age of Empires Online

Homer nods.

It's a grand name, isn't it? You can almost imagine the baritone voice and the Baz Luhrmann camera pullback: "This... was an AGE OF EMPIRES." And Age of Empires is a grand series. Since its earliest days, it's been a real-time strategy game with familiar mechanics but its own way of playing: I vividly remember playing AOE II after being weaned on Command & Conquer and having to learn the alien concept of defence.

Microsoft, being an evil corporation etc., shuttered AOE's original developers Ensemble after the so-so Halo Wars, leading to fears the series had been canned - or worse, farmed out to a jobber. And Age of Empires Online is certainly a departure for the series. In this free-to-play RTS with MMO-lite elements, story-driven campaigns are out, while questing and crafting are in.

We'll come to the structure, but the game itself is like bumping into an old friend you actually want to see: hardly surprising, given a hefty chunk of development is down to Robot Studios, formed from Ensemble's ashes, before AOE Online was taken to release by the excellent Gas Powered Games. Berry-gathering? Check. Rock-paper-scissor unit types? Check. Brown pants when you see a catapult? One second... check.

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Out This Week - 19/08/11

Xenoblade! Age of Empires! Soldiers!

The warm and fuzzy till-ringing sound of capitalism returns to shops this week, as the games industry escapes the annual drought of summer.

Age of Empires Online release date

Age of Empires Online release date

Plus, launch content packs detailed.

Age of Empires Online goes live worldwide on 16th August, publisher Microsoft Game Studios has announced.

There are two ways to get involved with Gas Powered Games' free-to-play strategy MMO. First up, you can jump right in via the game's website and then purchase extra content at your leisure. There's an estimated 40 hours of gameplay available without the need for opening your wallet.

Secondly, there's also a retail version on shelves for your local equivalent of $19.99 which includes:

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Chris Taylor "done dropping $50 on games"

Age of Empires Online "the future" of PC gaming.

Gas Powered Games boss Chris Taylor refuses to spend $50 on a video game. For him, free-to-play games such as Age of Empires Online represent the "future" of PC gaming and herald a new era for the industry.

Age of Empires Online beta open to all

Age of Empires Online beta open to all

You've got until Saturday to sign up.

An Age of Empires Online beta is open to all for the next 48 hours or so, developer Gas Powered Games has announced.

You've got until 9.00am on Saturday to download the beta from Games For Windows, though play continues past that date.

The system requirements are reasonably modest:

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Age of Empires Online

Free to slay.

There are no idle questions in game design. That's why off-handedly asking one of the developers of Age of Empires Online whether FarmVille has influenced the team at all is not a good idea. In fact, in answer to the query, the developer simply starts to look like he's suffering three separate strokes at once.

Age of Empires Online revealed

Microsoft Flight in development too.

Microsoft has pulled back the curtain on Age of Empires Online for PC. The game, an MMO, will have free-to-play "experiences" and blend strategy with RPG.