Age of Empires Series Wiki
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This article is about the game Age of Empires. For the gameplay mechanic used throughout the series, see Area of Effect.

Age of Empires is the original real-time strategy computer game set in historical antiquity. The game was developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft. It was first released in North America on October 15, 1997.

Age of Empires was later updated with the The Rise of Rome expansion pack, which added several new units and civilizations as well as additional features that enhanced gameplay efficiency and aesthetics.

A remastered version was announced on June 12, 2017 and released on February 20, 2018.

On October 25, 2022, on its 25th Anniversary, Age of Empires was announced to be ported to the Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition engine as the Return of Rome expansion. It was released on May 16, 2023 with one new civilization, and many quality of life features and units, such as Trade Carts and gates.


Age of Empires requires the player to develop a civilization from a handful of hunter-gatherers to an expansive Iron Age empire. The span of time represented by the game is roughly 12,000 BC to 500 AD. To ensure victory, the player must gather resources in order to pay for new units, buildings and more advanced technologies. Resources must also be preserved, as no new resources become available as the game progresses, meaning if you cut a tree down, the tree will not grow back. Twelve civilizations are available, each with individual sets of attributes, including a varying number of available technologies and units. Each civilization has technologies unique to them, so that no civilization possesses all the technologies possible within the game. A major component of the game is the advancement through four ages. These are the Stone Age (Mesolithic/Paleolithic), Tool Age (Neolithic/Chalcolithic), Bronze Age and Iron Age. Advancement between ages is researched at the Town Center and each advancement brings the player new technologies, weapons, and units.


Main article: Civilization (Age of Empires)

Players choose to play as one of 12 civilizations. The civilizations are sorted into four distinct architectural styles, based on East Asian, Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Greek architecture, which determines their in-game appearance.

Architecture set Civilizations
Greek style Greeks AoE Greeks
Minoans AoE Minoans
Phoenicians AoE Phoenicians
Egyptian style Assyrians AoE Assyrians
Egyptians AoE Egyptians
Sumerians AoE Sumerians
Mesopotamian style Babylonians AoE Babylonians
Hittites AoE Hittites
Persians AoE Persians
East Asian style Choson AoE Choson
Shang AoE Shang
Yamato AoE Yamato


Main article: Technology (Age of Empires)

Technologies are researched at specific buildings, to which they are generally related; for example, religious research is done in temples and improved armor is researched at the Storage Pit. Technological advances come in many categories, such as military upgrades (better arms and armor for units), economic upgrades (increasing the efficiency of resource gathering), religious upgrades (faster conversion rates and more abilities for Priests) and infrastructure upgrades (stronger fortifications and more resilient buildings). As basic technology research is completed, more advanced technologies may become available. Some technologies are not available to certain civilizations.

Technology plays a very important role in the strategy of the game. As a civilization progresses through the ages, technology becomes more and more expensive, which makes collecting the necessary resources to research them difficult. As a consequence, balancing the workforce of villagers across the various resources can make the difference between victory and defeat.


Main article: Unit (Age of Empires)

Players control a variety of civilian and military units. Most units can be upgraded through research (e.g. faster gathering for villagers, stronger armor for military units, and longer range for archers).

Land-based units are the most prevalent in gameplay. Villagers are the most basic units in Age of Empires. Their primary function is to collect resources; cutting down trees for wood, mining for stone and gold, and hunting, foraging, farming, or fishing to acquire food. Villagers can also construct buildings and repair both buildings and ships, and are capable of engaging in hand-to-hand combat when necessary. Priests are non-combat units which can heal allied units or "convert" enemy units (in which case the target unit changes allegiance). Infantry units, such as Clubmen, swordsmen, and Hoplites use melee combat to attack at short range. Cavalry units include Chariots, cavalry, and War Elephants. Archers, mounted or on foot, attack at range. Siege units are of two types: Catapults and Ballistae. Catapults hurl stones which generate blast damage, affecting all units in a small area, and are especially effective against buildings and groups of units. The Ballista is less damaging against buildings and units, but it fires faster and is cheaper than the catapult.

Naval units often play a secondary role, but can be essential to victory. Fishing Boats are similar to villagers in that they can gather fish. Trade Boats trade resources from the stockpile and exchange it for gold at another player's dock, with the amount of gold earned being relative to the distance between both docks. Transport ships carry land units from one area of land to another. As well as attacking enemy ships, warships can be very effective in attacking land-based units close to the shoreline (because melee units cannot fight back). Warships come either as Galleys which fire arrows or Triremes which launch bolts or boulders (very effective against buildings near the shoreline).

Unit types are identical, regardless of civilization (though certain civilizations may have improved variations of these units). Unlike the sequels, the units do not speak in any historical language, but neologisms that the designers themselves made up by means such as spelling people's names backwards; they did not have the money or other resources to even think about anything else back then.


Main article: Building (Age of Empires)

The Town Center is one of the most important buildings in the game. Here Villagers are created, and Age advancement is researched. Most scenarios have each player begin with a single Town Center; the ability to build multiple Town Centers is unlocked by the construction of the Government Center during the Bronze Age. The Town Center provides population support for four units. In order to build more units, houses must be constructed. Each house supports four units, and although any number of houses can be built (a concept which was not maintained in later games like Age of Mythology), they can only support a maximum of fifty units.

Military units are produced at specific buildings relevant to their area. All naval units are created at the Docks. Walls and towers are defensive fortifications (Age of Empires was one of the first real-time strategy games to include walls strong enough to form a feasible means of defense). Farms produce food. Granaries, Storage Pits, and the Town Center are used to store resources deposited by the Villagers.

Wonders are enormous monuments representing the architectural achievements of the time, such as the Egyptian Pyramids. They require huge amounts of resources to build and are constructed very slowly. Wonders can neither produce units nor conduct research. In scenarios with Standard Victory conditions, a player can win by constructing a wonder and keeping it from being destroyed for 2,000 years (about 10 minutes in the real world). Building a wonder also greatly increases a player's score, which is beneficial in "score" games. Players typically make it their top priority to destroy enemy wonders, especially under Standard Victory conditions. For this reason and because a wonder is relatively easy to destroy, a wonder must be well-guarded at all times.



Main article: Campaign

The game features four single-player campaigns in which the player is required to complete specific objectives. Campaigns are a collection of scenarios which are completed in a linear fashion. The campaigns are:

Campaign Civilization No. of
Ascent of Egypt Learning Campaign Egyptians AoE Egyptians 12
Voices of Babylon Babylonians AoE Babylonians 8
Glory of Greece Greeks AoE Greeks 8
Yamato Empire of the Rising Sun Yamato AoE Yamato 8

The demo version also includes the Reign of the Hittites (Hittites) campaign, which was later included in Definitive Edition, as well as the Bronze Age Art of War scenario.

The beta version included Dawn of Civilization, which is similar to the Egyptian campaign in the final version.

Random map[]

There is a single-player game mode called "random map", in which a different map is generated for each new game. Victory can be achieved by the following conditions:

  • Build and defend a Wonder for 2,000 years (5 minutes).
  • Military conquest
  • Acquire and hold all Ruins on the map for 2,000 years.
  • Obtain and hold all Artifacts on the map for 2,000 years.

Variations of random maps, such as the resource-heavy "Deathmatch", are also available.


Age of Empires also facilitated online and network play with up to 8 people simultaneously. Until 19 June 2006, multiplayer gameplay was supported by the Microsoft Gaming Zone. At that point, the Zone abandoned support of most CD-ROM games, including Age of Empires and Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings.

The multiplayer community is no longer supported by MSN Zone or IGZones. However, the game can still be played on online gaming services like GameRanger, Voobly, Garena, CGA, and QQ BattleZone.


The creation of user-made scenarios or series of scenarios (campaigns) for the game was made possible using the Scenario Builder. This tool is simpler and easier to learn than comparable editors used in more modern games, but it has fewer capabilities as a result. Ensemble Studios used the Scenario Builder to make the single-player campaigns which shipped with the retail game. Various unofficial sites exist where custom scenarios can be submitted and downloaded. In late 2005, it was discovered that by modifying various data files, units present in the beta versions of the game could be made available in the editor. Some obscure units include a spaceship and a hero that changes ownership when units move near it. Through data editing, the rules of unit placement can also be modified. This allows units to be placed on any terrain and on top of other units, which creates new possibilities for design. Other significant discoveries include new terrain templates, a mode to treble each unit's hit points, and a tool to edit map sizes.


  • Some of the sound effects are taken from the Bugs, Horses, and Underwater themes that come with Microsoft Plus! for Kids.
  • Age of Empires is the game with the most cheat units in the series, with 10 in total (12 with those added in The Rise of Rome).
  • Despite being now the least popular title of the series, Age of Empires is, by far, the game with the largest number of followers in the competitive scene, though all are in Vietnam, and play the original game with The Rise of Rome.


See also[]

External links[]

Age of Empires
Main series
ReturnRome-AoEIcon Age of EmpiresRomeIcon The Rise of Rome
Age of Empires Definitive Edition icon Definitive Edition
AoE2Icon-ReturnRome Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition - Return of Rome
AoE2-DLCicon-0 Age of Empires IIAoE2-DLCicon-1 The Conquerors
Aoe2 hb HD Edition: AoE2-DLCicon-2 The Forgotten · AoE2-DLCicon-3 The African Kingdoms · AoE2-DLCicon-4 Rise of the Rajas
AoEIIDE icon Definitive Edition (AoE2-DLCicon-5 The Last Khans) : AoE2Icon-LordsWest Lords of the West · Dawn of the Dukes icon Dawn of the Dukes · AoE2Icon-DynastiesIndia Dynasties of India · AoE2Icon-ReturnRome Return of Rome · AoE2Icon-MountainRoyals The Mountain Royals · Aoe2 hb Victors and Vanquished
Aom original icon Age of MythologyAoM The Titans icon The Titans
AoM Extended icon Extended Edition: AoM Extended icon Tale of the Dragon
AoMIcon-Retold Retold
3Icon48px Age of Empires III3WCIcon48px The WarChiefs · 3ADIcon48px The Asian Dynasties
Age3DE Icon Definitive Edition: AoE3 USA DLC USA DLC · Age3DE Icon The African Royals · AoE3 Mexico DLC Mexican DLC · Age3DE Icon Knights of the Mediterranean
GameIcon-AoE4 Age of Empires IVAnniversary Edition · The Sultans Ascend
Other games
Age of Empires Online Age of Empires Online · Age of Empires Castle Siege logo Age of Empires: Castle Siege
HandheldAoe2DSicon Age of Empires: The Age of Kings · AoMDSicon Age of Empires: Mythologies
MobileAge of Empires II Mobile (Deluxe) · Age of Empires III Mobile · Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties Mobile · Age of Empires - World Domination logo Age of Empires: World Domination · AoE Mobile new icon Age of Empires Mobile
TabletopAge of Empires: Expandable Card Game · Age of Mythology: The Boardgame · Glenn Drover's Empires: The Age of Discovery