|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 history based real-time strategy computer game set in antiquity. The game was developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft. It was first released in North America on 15 October 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 12 June 2017, and released on 20 February 2018.
Age of Empires requires the player to develop a civilization from a handful of hunter-gatherers to an expansive Iron Age empire. 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: 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 follow the history of the Egyptian, Greek, Babylonian and Yamato civilizations; there's also a complete campaign specially made for the demo version that takes place in the Hittite empire. Aside from the campaigns, there is a game mode called "Random map", in which a different map is generated for each new game. Variations of random map, 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 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.
- Main article: Civilizations (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.
|Group||Greek style||Egyptian style||Babylonian style||East Asian style|
- 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: Units (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 naval vessels, 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. Mounted 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.
Nautical 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).
- Main article: Buildings (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 sea 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.
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.
- 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).