Retrospective: Age of Empires III

Posted By | On 26th, Feb. 2012 Under Editorials | Follow This Author @KartikMdgl

Age of Empires 3 was sort of a mixed bag for me, especially after coming from the highs of Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings. I cannot deny the fact that I played AoE 3 online for almost three years, making countless smurf accounts and participating in numerous tournaments.  It was a game that I loved and also a game that I disliked, due to the numerous design choices that didn’t make sense to me at all.

The complete collection for AoE 3 was released on Steam recently, including all the expansion packs, which prompted me to write about the game again, due to a sudden rush of nostalgia.

It’s a little unfortunate what happened to Ensemble Studios, as I truly felt that AoE3 was an extremely underrated game, and Microsoft should have given them one more chance. It was definitely considered as a competitive sport, when you consider its inclusion in the World Cyber Games. With AoE3, there were a lot of new concepts like “Home City,” where you get supplies as you age up, or earn enough cards to summon resources or units.

You could also decide what bonuses you wanted by creating a deck. It’s like a loadout which you normally see in the Call of Duty games. This really brought a tactical element to the gameplay, and you could possibly snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Like any RTS game, AoE 3 heavily relied on micro-management and macro-management, which deals with the art of maneuvering units and building an economy respectively. It was certainly deep and quite complicated compared to the previous AoE games, and had a lot of character as well. The visuals were heavily upgraded, with spectacular art design, and all the civilizations were represented well by Ensemble.

It’s a little criminal that many people I knew those days didn’t touch the campaign mode at all, and to an extent I can understand, because it was pretty unremarkable. I could say that the campaign mode was pretty weak, which resulted in many players overlooking this marvelous game, whose strengths obviously lay somewhere else – the competitive online gameplay.

Yes, there were a lot of Korean players – and if you ever got in a game with them, then you know what to expect; that’s right – total destruction. They way they had memorized all the hotkeys was simply unbelievable. The online XP and ranking system was quite interesting with military type ranks, with the maximum being Field Marshall, again held by a Korean.

I wasn’t that skilled, but good enough to reach Lvl. 38 Brigadier, and could easily smoke players. I remember when the game was at its peak, the most preferred civilization was Spanish – mainly due to the fact that you could rush an enemy so fast before he even had any sort of units or proper defences. Rushing was one of the most common tactic employed, although once players became experienced, they could counter it easily. The abusing of these tactics in almost every game was common to see.

The campaign surprisingly gives you enough practice to be competent online, and the rank filter did a good job of finding rooms with similarly ranked players like you. Although, smurfing, which basically means a high level player using a low level account to do some “noob-bashing,” was inarguably one of the most vexatious things about the game, especially if you were on the receiving end of some and ended up screaming “laaaag,” or  “hax0r!”

AoE 3 did not have a challenging or memorable campaign like the previous games in the series, nor did it have a priest to convert units – which was a big shocker to me. I know, I know, it’s not the Roman era anymore, etc., but the priests were awesome.

While playing online recently via Steam, I noticed that the community had dwindled a lot, which reminds me of the days when there were a lot of players, and the chatrooms were bustling with activity. Most of the people I had added in 2007-08 were all offline, which brought a tear to my eye, considering all the good times we had.

The developer is no more, the community is dead, but one thing is for certain – this is one of the best competitive RTS games that I’ve ever played. Whenever I think back at the good times I had playing this game online, it makes me so nostalgic, and that, for me, is the true hallmark of a great game.

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  • charles2029

    Poor forgotten AoE. Seems only the diehard fans are left.

  • Pingback: Age of Empires II HD Review « Video Game News, Reviews, Previews and Blog()

  • Kirk Apolo

    I used to love this game, but the enemy AI in skirmishes was pretty
    bad. I understand that there are AI scripts to download, but they all
    seem so focused on one type of landscape or another. I think I actually
    enjoyed the AI in AOE: Rise of Rome better, as strange as that may seem.

    This is still a great game, though, and multiplayer is pretty incredible.
    There are so many more options available to the players than in most
    strategy games I’ve tried. Gratis Games

  • Without question, Age of Empires III stands as one of the finest examples of the traditional RTS that has ever been made. StarCraft II fans are always quick to challenge this statement, but a marriage between Blizzard and the eSports scene saps too much fun out of their genre mainstay. Rather than require an obscene action-per-minute count and rote memorization of build sequences, Ensemble’s PC swan song gives players the choice to game on their own terms. Through customization of a home city, troops can be sent early to aid an aggressive rush, resources can be sent to upgrade a town center faster than otherwise possible, or technologies can be sent to help an economy boom towards the endgame.

    Consider that this freedom is tied to the classic Age of Empires gameplay that people know and love, the graphics still look beautiful to this day, and the whole package is wrapped up in the 18th and 19th century history that is typically ignored by most developers, and it is easy to see why there is a loyal fan base eagerly awaiting Age of Empires IV.

    For a full review, check out:


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