The review of Age of Empires 3 Definitive Edition, a remastered re-edition of the famous Microsoft strategy game.
The Age of Kings it is still considered a milestone in real-time strategy, a title that symbolizes not only a renowned saga with a shining blazon, but also an acclaimed, played and appreciated sequel, perhaps more than any other chapter in the Age of Empires catalog. Whether for the charm of the Middle Ages, or for an accessible and effective game formula, the second chapter of the series born from the mind of Bruce Shelley is considered a leading exponent of the franchise, which however has always been able to leave its mark. With Age of Discovery, Microsoft and Ensembled’s strategy opens up to the era of colonialism, discovery and conquest of the New World, as well as futurism on the technical and playful front.
That’s why, although it is perhaps not remembered with the same force and nostalgia as the direct sequel to the first, historic chapter (recover the review of Age of Empires Definitive Edition), Age of Empires III is still an important piece of the RTS puzzle, a title capable of increasing the substance and the playful-content volume of an encyclopedic brand. Today Tantalus Media and Forgotten Empires re-propose this third chapter with a makeover in the name of aesthetic modernization and stylistic fidelity, also offering some interesting content news on the side of game modes. 15 years after the debut, therefore, we rejected without delay in the epic story of the Black family, in the skirmish, in the ascent to the Japanese throne of the Tokugawa dynasty with a single, irreducible goal: to recall, once again, the jubilation of victory.
A generous offer
On closer inspection, the package of this third Definitive Edition – which closes the circle on the revival of the saga – presents a substantial fidelity to the original offer and style. We find unchanged the game modes that made the entire franchise famous, such as the Campaign that traces the events of Morgan Black and his lineage, through an alternation of animated sequences and games with more or less articulated objectives.
The package also includes the two posthumous expansions, The WarChiefs and The Asian Dynasties; here, therefore, we also find the portion of history destined to Japanese environments, to the Indian uprisings of 1857 which frame the three mother civilizations of the Asian continent, China, Japan and India. Also present is the campaign for Nathaniel Black, introduced in the first post-launch content released in 2006.
The historian Skirmish, also known as Skirmish, a symbol mode that in the forms of Supremacy or Deathmatch allows up to eight players to face each other in a challenge based on the combination of construction, progress and battle that is the playful matrix of the entire saga. Unpublished maps are added to this mode, also studied with the help of the community and modders, as well as the new civilizations of Swedes and Aztecs that represent the absolute novelty on the army front.
The reconstruction and composition of the latter is extremely accurate and coherent, like all the others, and represents a discreet stimulus even for the veterans of the series, who will not fail to study the automatisms and the balance, going to expand the already excellent roster which now reaches 16 units. To mention, at this juncture, also a renewed editor of the game maps, which now forges itself with more possibilities to give free rein to the creativity of the player and the community, and to create scenarios that are always unique and varied. Online Multiplayer closes the calculation of contents – already abundant in terms of hours of play – of the original offer, with the possibility of playing ranked games, joining existing public lobbies or creating from scratch. Net of a more than discreet stability of the game servers, we must point out that we made a certain effort in finding colleagues with whom to perform the test, managing after more than a handful of searches for about ten minutes to find a single game.
We hope that with the launch of the game the servers will populate quickly and matchmaking will be invested with a little more panache. We report the presence of cross play between Microsoft Store and Steam, aimed at unifying and facilitating the return of a sumptuous community, as well as the presence of an interesting Spectator Mode that allows you to observe other games in detail, perhaps to study new strategies or become familiar with the peculiarities of the multiple armies.
The news, in terms of content, can be found in the items Historical Battles and the Art of War. The first mode allows the player to relive some of the conflicts that characterized the sixteenth century, relegating the outcome of the story and the destinies of the factions to the same. Here we find new scenarios which, in addition to expanding an already excellent content package, adding several hours of unpublished gameplay, recreate a pleasant historical breath, which can be appreciated without reservations. Arte della Guerra, on the other hand, offers a series of challenges that are useful to familiarize yourself with the game mechanics, or to satisfy the hunger for competition of the most accustomed.
Among these game segments we find some objectives to be completed within a specific time, or specific conditions to be met in order to obtain a medal. It goes from the collection of resources to the growth of one’s civilization, from the discovery of treasures to exploration, up to real attack, assault or defense sections that will require even a few minutes of planning and playing. Here, too, we are faced with an addition on which we can object very little. There is indeed variety, substance, competition and fun.
A solid modernization
In addition to the additions on the content side, Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition brings, of course, a remarkable aesthetic modernization and square. Moreover, the 15 years on the identity card of the original production are felt, and the work done on resolution and effects is commendable. The title now fully supports Ultra HD, and the texture finishing work gives the adventure a breath of notable modernization.
The greatest efforts were made in the management of physics and effects, which thanks to a renewed effectiveness of the Havok engine now allow more full-bodied, effective and pleasant impact animations (for example, the destructibility of buildings in Age of Empires 3 DE). Even in terms of lighting, the improvements are perspicuous, with particle effects and details of shadows and reflections that combine to bring the technical sector of production closer to the standards of modernity.
The restyle has also invested some elements in the management of the User Interface, which now offers two alternative arrangements compared to the classic one. The works have focused with equal attention on the sampling of sounds and on the soundtrack in general, enriched with new songs and compositions also unpublished for some specific sections. Each of the 16 civilizations features new and distinctive musical themes that are always pleasing and distinctive.
Old formula, new fun
From a more exquisitely playful profile, however, this re-edition settles more on the levels of a filing work, which does not propose substantial and structural changes. The game formula is the same that has characterized the franchise and a large slice of the genre more generally in the past.
The playful triptych is composed of build, progress and battle, a certainly archaic formula and which can be modernized, for example, through less and less rare hybridizations with other videogame branches (survival and RPG above all). However, the system still works today, managing to entertain and stimulate despite the age of the playful framework. The third chapter also introduced some not insignificant changes in the economy of the game experience and approach to games. For example, the renewed automatic management of the resources produced by the settlers, which now do not have to be conducted at specific bases to be collected. The automatism streamlines the construction of the game from a managerial point of view. Furthermore, we cannot fail to mention the perhaps greatest structural novelty of Age of Discovery, namely the introduction of the Mother Cities and the cadenced contribution of resources that the allied armies offer to the player during the games, following the scheme outlined by a set of card decks.
In this Definitive Edition, in this regard, some new presets for decks, together with a renewed freedom in the creation of the decks themselves, with all the cards of the various civilizations unlocked. The playful implementations are also found in a more sparkling and fluid artificial intelligence, which now engages the player with greater decision.
Not that the original was a permissive title on higher difficulty levels, yet in this Definitive Edition we had the feeling of having to resort to more rigid and almost academic strategies to face enemies, especially at the Hard degree, while in the Easy one the attention has dropped drastically, focusing mostly on the military aspect. All this is accompanied by a system of medals which serves as a reward for the player, who, depending on the difficulty level of completing each mission, will be able to show off a bronze, silver or gold heirloom.
Age of Empires 3 Definitive EditionPC Analyzed VersionAge of Empires III: Definitive Edition is a package with clear and eloquent perspectives. This is a generous re-proposal, in which functional filings intersect in the management of playful mechanics and an important aesthetic modernization. The solidity of the operation is crowned by significant content additions, which expand an already powerful offer. Art of War and Historical Battles also wink at veterans, as does the addition of the two new civilizations, Swedish and Aztec. Novices, on the other hand, will find the essence of the original chapter in its entirety, an important episode in the economy not only of the saga, but of the RTS landscape in general. One could argue about the possibilities of rejuvenating a game formula that is so amusing, yet repeated and with the inexorable weight of time looming. Still, that’s fine. Because looking at all costs for some mole on operations of this caliber would be fussy, especially in the face of passion and effort, even in offering the experience at a significantly lower price (19.99 euros) than that of many other works on the same wavelength. Don’t hesitate, intrepid explorers: America from Ensembled, Tantalus Media and Microsoft awaits you once again.