When Age of Empires Online first opened its doors for beta testing, we were there. When it launched, we were there. But it didn’t take long before we were done with the game due to the lack of traditional Age of Empires feel, and no true free-to-play features. Things are looking up for AoEO now that the game has received a major patch, and in a way it feels like a relaunch. What’s new, what’s different, and why should you care about AoEO?
Microsoft points, Steam wallets, gold, empire points… it was really too convoluted. Now you only have to worry about two currencies. Empire Points are what you use to buy booster packs, civilizations, and other goodies from the cash shop. EP can also be used to buy customizations that I’ll touch on later. Gold is used for buying in-game things from in-game merchants, and really isn’t much of a big deal.
Okay, why is the game actually F2P now? You earn EP when you level up, and once your level is high enough you can start doing quests to earn EP. You even earn EP from the new Alliance Wars. Bottom line, you can actually play long enough and earn EP instead of being forced to buy. After playing extensively, I’ve come to the conclusion that in order to get the most out of AoEO you’re going to need to get your hands on a premium civ, and you’re going to spend a very long time earning enough EP by simply playing in order to get that civ. Follow @AgeofEmpires on twitter and you might get lucky and score a code if you missed our giveaway last week.
They make you work for those points early on. Freeloaders expecting to walk in and have it all are going to be disappointed. At first I thought it was way too slow, but the more you level the faster the points come in — and don’t forget, Alliance Wars (below) will give you lots of points. Put in the time, play a free civ for a while and maybe upgrade it when you’ve played long enough, and you’ll be just fine.
Customize with Vanity Gear
In most RTS games, there isn’t much if any customization; In fact, you only know your units from the enemy by color. One new feature I really love is vanity gear. You can visit vanity island and purchase cosmetic gear for your units. Rainbow shields, vegetables for weapons, voodoo masks, and dozens upon dozens of items to express yourself and your civilization in battle. They’re affordable, can be assigned to units in a brand new tab that doesn’t take the place of other gear, and look great.
Quite possibly the biggest addition to the game is an actual end-game. When you reach level 40 you can join one of three alliances and earn Alliance Points through quests, PvP, Skirmish, Defense of Crete, Legendaries, or donating materials. Alliance points help determine your rank within your alliance, which in turn helps to determine how many Empire Points you can earn after each daily, weekly, or monthly contest. Sabotage the other alliances, buy gear and items from your alliance, and receive passive bonuses to help you in the rest of your game.
Alliance Wars get the players involved with the game, with each other, and create a community. Alliance Wars are the reason to keep playing and push to the end.
New Talent Trees and Balance
A lot of balance changes have been made, and AI continues to be an ongoing balancing act. In the last two weeks alone I think we’ve seen the AI changed three times. Players have complained it was too easy, too hard, and I can’t go a play-session without seeing someone screaming in general chat that they just lost. The game is indeed more difficult, but I enjoy the challenge over simply plowing down the computer.
The new tech trees are also a big improvement. They’ve received an overhaul and they actually make sense now. Units are automatically awarded to you when you reach a new tier, and you buy upgrades that can be researched during a match or a quest like you would in a game of StarCraft. Each of the civs have premium abilities that can be unlocked when you buy the civ — you’ll see them as stars on the talent trees, and each of the civs have unique trees.
Definitely. Age of Empires Online has come a long way, and I find myself wanting to log in and progress my civ so that I can join in on the Alliance Wars. I love the vanity gear and the balance changes. I should also mention that if you enjoy playing a more traditional game of Age of Empires, the champion mode of the arena allows you to simply play against friends and have all tech unlocked and available to you during that match.
To those who have never played Age of Empires Online, this is a game that offers you a persistent city to decorate, quests and challenges to complete, multiple modes to play with and against friends or other people, and an end-game struggle for dominance against other Alliances — and now it’s actually worth playing!