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Ensemble reveals Age of Empires III details

RTS series moves into a brave New World in the long awaited follow up to Age of Kings...

Legendary strategy game developer Ensemble Studios has revealed the first details of the next title in the Age of Empires series - with the much-loved franchise set to return to its historical roots after the fantasy diversion of Age of Mythology.

Speaking to US website IGN, the Dallas-based studio said that the new game - Age of Empires III - will follow on chronologically from the second title, Age of Kings, and will cover the expansion of the European empires into the Americas.

Set solely in the New World, the game will feature eight empires (with the British, Spanish and French revealed so far) and will run right through to the industrial age, covering the colonisation of the Americas and advancements in battle strategies caused by the widespread use of gunpowder and cannons.

The game is based on an almost entirely new engine, which boasts fantastic graphics (we especially like the look of the water effects, which have "proper Fresnel reflectance properties", whatever that means, and of the self-shadowing buildings and units) and a fully integrated physics model.

Ensemble is promising that sieges and battles will be more realistic-looking than ever, with ships and buildings being demolished using real physics rather than canned animations, and effects like cannon shots sending infantry flying with ragdoll physics modelling.

The studio also assures fans that the rich economic model of the previous games will be a core feature of AoE 3, but says that a new combat model means that "in some ways Age of Empires III will probably feel even fresher and more innovative than Age of Mythology".

No release date has been announced for the new game as yet, but according to the developer it is feature-complete - which means that even with plenty of time to polish the title, it should hopefully be on shelves within a matter of months.