Before playing Age of Empires Online I had the opinion that purchasing additional content for a free game is like selling your soul to the devil. Unfortunately I had to succumb to the fiery pit of hell as my addictive personality trait kicked in and I purchased the Age of Empires Online: All in Wonder Bundle.
As a fan of the originals I was at first a little weary of the idea of turning a classic game into a cheap, money making, free online, MMORPG gaming experience. It is with great delight, as I shield my face from the dirty glares I may receive, that Age of Empires Online is a fairly enjoyable experience.
The cartoon-y style will divide many but drew me in immediately and reflects that of the Asterix & Obelix comic books. I managed to last a whole 7 hours of free gameplay time until those blue loots sitting in my bag were getting too much and I needed to pay to equip them. Don’t stress there is a lot more that comes with paying than being able to equip blue and purple items.
Choose your Empire
To start the game, you choose to rule one of the four possible civilizations; Greeks, Egyptians, Persians or Celts. You then create your city and it is this city in which you level up. Quests are strewn at you and it is here where the RTS element is not lost. Quests consist of building up a force and defeating barbarians or other enemies. There are also escort quests, wave quests where you must defend cities and survive for X amount of waves, and rescue mission quests.
A majority of these quests can be done in co-op mode with a friend which makes them considerably faster to get through.
Like most MMO’s there are crafts to be learnt, such as Metalworking, Religion or Engineering. Loot and craftable gear are equipped to your town in a way that units and buildings receive the upgrades. There is also a tech tree to strengthen these components further.
It’s Free! (ish)
The limited amount that can be done for free in this game becomes prominent around level 10 when you feel like trying your hand at something other than grinding through repetitive quests. This is where spending $17 through Steam (note this was via a sale) is definitely worth it. There are a number of DLC packs from purchasing premium civilization packs to packs that unlock skirmishes and PVP.
Once everything is unlocked it makes it feel much more meaty. The skirmishes are great and playing against the computer and with a friend is very enjoyable. The PvP games are not bad if you can handle the long queue times. The wave mode is also another great addition giving players one more way of gaining XP and finding lots of loots.
It’s not all smooth sailing though and probably the biggest complaint and issue is awaiting the player immediately after downloading the game. Being a free game, it is strange it requires a product key via the piece of junk that is the Games for Windows Live platform. It takes a lot of trawling through forums to check just how to get around this. Considering it is a free game, all gamers need is a quick hindrance to turn them off it immediately.
If you were scoring this game as a free-to-play game it would perform poorly. Gameplay is in balanced between the paying and non-paying players. However, if you wish to invest some money into the DLC then it’s a half decent game and worth a play. It’s the opposite of revolutionary but may strike a nerve with old Age of Empire veterans and is at least worth a shot.