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Review

Hardly any strategy game series is as popular as Age of Empires. After Microsoft successfully relaunched Parts 1 and 2 as Definitive Editions, it is now Age of Empires III's turn. Released in 2007, the spin-off enjoyed positive reviews but was unable to match the success of its predecessors in terms of media response and popularity. This made u...

Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition

  • Greg Burn
  • Jun 09, 2021

Hardly any strategy game series is as popular as Age of Empires. After Microsoft successfully relaunched Parts 1 and 2 as Definitive Editions, it is now Age of Empires III's turn. Released in 2007, the spin-off enjoyed positive reviews but was unable to match the success of its predecessors in terms of media response and popularity. This made us all the more excited to see what the developers had brought out of Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition.

Like its predecessor, Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition includes the base game and its expansions. Buyers will receive the expansions "The WarChiefs" and "The Asian Dynasties" in a bundle with the main game. What already sounds like a lot is enhanced by the two new civilizations, Sweden and Inca. They don't get their campaigns, but that doesn't hurt given the scope. The historical battles and the art of war missions are also new.

The historical battles are a series of single-player scenarios in which players can experience historical battlefields. These represent fundamentally different scenarios and are a welcome addition to the already lush single-player experience.

The Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition shines in new splendor. Textures have been reworked, details have been added, environment masking has been added for sharp edge transitions, and water has been boosted and given pretty reflections. In addition, the exaggerated bloom effect has been reduced. In short: The game looked fancy in 2007, and it looks fancy again today. However, this is only partially true for the units; some figures seem rather clumsy in their presentation, especially because of the pretty scenery. The clear blurring effect of the edge smoothing is also disturbing. It makes the picture look washed out overall, which can be quite exhausting due to the partly lacking contrast ratios.

The "Art of War" should prepare you for the multiplayer mode. The game mode, known from Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, contains a series of tutorials on the basic mechanics of the game. Among other things, new players will learn what the scout is all about, how the economy works in Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition, and how to defend or attack. Compared to the predecessor, however, the tactical depth is limited. In Part 2, "The Art of War" offers significantly more strategic hints. However, this can still change over time with updates. However, all the art of war doesn't help when artificial intelligence fails. This happens quite often. Units run unnecessary detours, guns are not switched in mode or enemies behave irrationally. There are still a few things that need to be tweaked.

To improve accessibility to multiplayer, all deck cards are available to the civilizations right at the beginning. The decks are an important strategic component in the Age of Empires III. Among other things, they provide access to resource supplies, unique units, improvements, and buildings. Thanks to hundreds of different cards, they are customizable and adaptable to one's play style. While in 2007 it was still necessary to unlock maps, which gave veterans, in particular, an advantage, this hurdle is eliminated in the Definitive Edition. The leveling up of the hometown in multiplayer is therefore only symbolic. An option to choose the old unlock system would be nice at this point, but from a balance standpoint, the decision makes perfect sense.

Conclusion:
Age of Empires III is undoubtedly a good game, but not the best Age of Empires. Even the Definitive Edition doesn't change that. This is not least because the changes to the multiplayer and the accessibility for strategy game beginners leave a lot to be desired. The modernized visuals bring the game into the year 2020, but the gameplay just doesn't measure up to its predecessors. Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition feels like a single-player strategy game with a multiplayer add-on. The fact that two civilizations and two game modes have been added is a nice bonus. 

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