If you are of a certain age then you may remember the Age of Empires. Some may say it is one of the most important strategy games of all time. There is a word for those people…correct. The Age of… series helped add new levels to strategy games, compelling players to make decisions about where to focus their resources and whether to defend a base or go on the offensive. Many elements from it can be seen in modern strategy titles such as Starcraft.
History of the series
Straight from the off Age of Empires hit the right note. The tech advancement was a game changer. This coupled with trying to strike the balance between spending on workers to gain more resources or strengthening your army made for an immersive sim. Years later when the sequel was released we were blown out of the water. It took everything from the first game and did it better.
The series then took an unexpected turn with the launch of Age of Mythology. This took the existing blueprint and overlaid it onto Greek, Norse and Egyptian Mythology. It also threw in giant Titan units and massive mythical units for good measure adding a new and exciting mechanic. Microsoft doubled down on the graphics for the third main instalment of the series, set in the colonial US it debuted a “home town” mechanic, which became popular in many modern games.
It followed this up with an ambitious MMORPG. The game had a cartoony graphical style and borrowed heavily from the approach that you might see in a mobile game. However the missions all used traditional “age of” game mechanics, it was a clever gambit but because it was free to play it relied on in-game purchases to make any money and clearly it wasn’t making enough as the game became defunct.
Rise of the eSport
Despite being a game that is over two decades old it’s popularity hasn’t waned. A lot of people go back to it, partially due to nostalgia but also because no game has really been like it since. It is a very different animal to the likes of the civilisation series and the economic element sets it apart from Starcraft and the Command and Conquer series.
Believe it or not, there have been unofficial tournaments running for the game for years now. If your definition of an eSport is one where there is a financial reward for competing then Age of Empires became official last year when Microsoft sank 60k into the prize fund for one of the aforementioned tournaments.
That might seem like a modest amount and compared to the cash included in tournaments for the likes of Dota 2 and Fortnite it’s pittance really. But consider first the fact that it isn’t a well-known title with younger generations. Also, think about the humble beginnings of the likes of League of Legends.
The future of the Age of… series
There have been several remastered efforts released and they have all proved pretty popular by all accounts. However, the title that fans of the series are most excited about is the fourth incarnation of the game. It is in development but very little is known about the title. Fans have speculated about what ages the game will span but so far we know very little. If it takes the signature gameplay and elevates it and brings the graphics into the modern world it could be a sleeper hit and take the eSports world by storm. As a fan of the series I really hope this comes to fruition. Because as much as I look back fondly on LAN parties on Age Of Mythology, I’m dying for a new game.