Review by drakor180
As of 7/6/2012, this game is great.
The reason I specify the date, is because things have changed. It used to be incredibly pay to win, but now it isn't. You used to have to buy a ton of things, and believe me, I hate DLC. It's even worse when you should already have the content, or at least be able to unlock that content for free. I support things like bonuses that you have the opportunity to pay for, (like the hats in tf2) so that you can customize yourself and be more unique. The reason I support those, is that it's a cool extra, but it doesn't affect the gameplay. Anyway, back to this game.
There is a currency in-game called Empire Points. You used to have to buy these, but now you can earn them as well. You earn them by leveling up, completing certain quests, and competing in the Alliance Wars. The Alliance Wars are a new form of PvP where three factions compete for complete supremacy. This will be how you mainly get Empire Points. They can be used to buy the premium version of your chosen civilization, vanity items, powerful weapons, and the brand new Skirmish mode. The Skirmish mode is what most veteran players probably will look forward to, as it works just like any other skirmish mode. You customize the match completely by choosing your civ, your opponents civ, and if you want any teammates. You can also pick the map.
Your capital city is a persistent city where you will be taken to any time the game starts, and will be your main quest hub. You can also give your units weapons and armor in order to power up your units. You can equip these from your equipment building in your fully customizable capital city.
So, the game is now completely free, if you're ready to work for it. Alright, now for the breakdown (deep breath)
Also, you must always be connected to the internet. Which is annoying.
While I really like the cartoon art style, it's not for everyone. The colors are extremely vibrant and beautiful, and the buildings look really great. The units... not so much. They are pretty blocky, but they have fairly good animations. Put simply, if you like Team Fortress 2's graphics, then you'll like this game's graphics.
The game runs smooth for the most part, which is pretty important for the gameplay of an RTS game. Most of the normal controls are there, ctrl + # to make squads, shift click to add units to groups, etc. None of that has been dumbed down. The servers can be stressed a bit for one reason or another, and the game can get a bit laggy, making scolling annoying. But it's not too important, since it doesn't happen often. I haven't played any PvP yet, because I'm not that interested in it. (Weird, when most people play RTS for the PvP, huh?)
The biggest problem with the game is that, as I'm writing this, I can't recall one piece of music. Music is fairly important to me. It can get the mood set for huge battles, or it can be great ambiance when you are building your base. Actually, I do recall one: When you complete a quest, a piece of music plays and it's actually pretty good. That's it, though, for memorable music. (Maybe I was just spoiled by Mass Effect or Civilization at this point, but that's beside the point.) Anyway, for sound that isn't music: The battle sounds are pretty good when it comes to the weapons. Swords and bows sound pretty satisfying, especially when you have a lot of them. The attacking sounds are cartoony, so it fits the game. The units are mute for the most part, but when you click on them they speak something that isn't english. I haven't studied up on my Greek, Egyptian, Celtic, or Persian, so I'm not sure if it's the real language or not.
Well, it's an RTS. 90% of the game is replaying the same thing over and over.
It's free. F-R-E-E. Completely. 100%. There's really no reason not to at least check it out. It's a really solid game now, so give it a try. You owe yourself that.
Rating: 4.0 - Great
Product Release: Age of Empires Online (US, 03/27/12)
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