Age of Empires I Review

Age of Empires I is the first game of the eponymous real time strategy-based video game franchise created by Ensemble Studios for Microsoft. The game was released in October, 1997 in North America and on February 2, in the United Kingdom for both Microsoft Windows and Macintosh personal computers. It uses the Genie engine for graphics, a 2D graphic engine.

Age of Empires I revolves around the history of the ancient world, allowing thus the player to control one of the 12 civilisations existing in the game, comprising distinct architectural types as follows: East Asian, Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Greek.

Age of Empires I: 'An Epic Game of Empire-Building and Conquest', as captioned on its frontal cover. Image source: www.ign.com

Age of Empires I: ‘An Epic Game of Empire-Building and Conquest’, as captioned on its frontal cover. Image source: www.ign.com

The player’s main tasks consist in advancing through the four development stages for the desired civilisation (the Stone, Bronze and finally Iron ages), as well as opting for expanding his ancient empire by conquering neighbouring cultures, trading with them, or maintaining good diplomatic and political ties with your allies. By each age advanced, the player has access to new technologies and units in order to expand his settlement.

The 12 playable civilisations are (in order of the architectural type that determines their in-game visual appearance) the following ones: Greeks, Minoans and Phoenicians (sharing the common Greek architectural style); Egyptians, Assyrians and Sumerians (sharing the common Egyptian architectural style); Babylonians, Assyrians and Hittites (sharing the common Mesopotamian architectural type); Shang, Choson and Yamato (sharing the common East Asian architectural type).

Screenshot from the game: a peaceful Egyptian village. Image source: www.ageofempires.co.nz

Screenshot from the game: a peaceful Egyptian village. Image source: www.ageofempires.co.nz

By the gaming standards of the late 1990s, Age of Empires I was a major success in the real time strategy genre, although some critics stated that the game was a mix of Sid Meier’s ‘Civilization’ and Blizzard’s ‘Warcraft’ that didn’t actually live up to the expectations.

Both the graphics, storyline, interface design, the sound effects and its soundtrack were quite innovative for its time. Additionally, the game featured, aside from the single-player oriented game modes (i.e. campaign, random map, deathmatch or custom scenario), the multiplayer option, a relatively rare find for 1997 and 1998 (not only for strategy games).

The four special buildings, the wonders, are used for a time limit supremacy win from the point when their construction is finished. These are the four wonders according to each major architectural type in the game. Image source: www.gaming.wikia.com

The four special buildings, the wonders, are used for a time limit supremacy win from the point when their construction is finished. These are the four wonders according to each major architectural type in the game. Image source: www.gaming.wikia.com

The first game of the Age of Empires series also boasted of other noteworthy additions such as the scenario editor (where the player can design his very own scenarios and independently create his very own campaigns), a help section, technology trees for all available civilisations in the manual booklets of the deluxe editions, as well as some interesting hidden units from the data files which were subsequently discovered.

Roughly 8 years from the release of the game, it was discovered sometime in late 2005 that by modifying several files from the data directory, some units that were only present in the beta versions of the game could be available in the scenario editor.

Screenshot from the game: view of a Shang settlement. Image source: www.ageofempires.wikia.com

Screenshot from the game: view of a Shang settlement. Image source: www.ageofempires.wikia.com

Furthermore, various rather obscure units were revealed, including a spaceship and a special hero unit which changes ownership when units move in its proximity. New terrain templates were also discovered in the process, as well as a way of expanding or contracting the size of the random maps.

In regards to critic reception, Age of Empires I was fairly well received by many review aggregator website. It received scores of 87% on GameRankings and 83 on Metacritic. The game was also praised by significant other publications such as AllGame and Computer Gaming World, where it gained 4.5 stars out of 5.

It also won several important awards, most notably Gamecenter’s 1997 ‘Game of the Year’ as well as the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences’ 1998 ‘Strategy Game of the Year’. Following its major success, Ensemble Studios created an expansion pack for the game entitled ‘The Rise of Rome’ which was released in late 1998.

Screenshot from the game: a Greek town. Image source: www.gamespot.com

Screenshot from the game: a Greek town. Image source: www.gamespot.com

Below you can watch a 10 minute video review on Age of Empires I from Lazy Game Reviews’ channel on youtube:

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