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Video Game / Age Of Empires I


The first game of the Age of Empires series, simply called Age of Empires, was released in 1997. It offered 12 ancient civilizations (Assyria, Babylonia, Choson, Egypt, Greece, Hittites, Minoa, Persia, Phoenicia, Shang, Sumer and Yamato) and was set between the Stone and Iron Ages. The campaigns were set in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Babylon, and Yamato (ancient Japan).

An expansion pack, Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome, added the Roman Empire and 4 related civilizations (Rome, Carthage, Palmyra and Macedonia). The campaigns were set in Ancient Rome, where the player, depending on the campaign, will side with Rome itself or with their enemies.

Age of Empires I (and its expansion) features examples of:

  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit:
    • The population limit was capped at a rather restrictive 50 units. You can break the cap by converting enemy units, however.
    • On the bright side, having such a low unit count means the highest tier units (Legions, Cataphracts, Centurions) move out of Awesome, yet Impractical territory; yes, the final upgrade costs a fortune, but since you can't field many units, they need to be as good as possible.
    • On the other hand, the AI can and will fill the map with Catapults and Ballista Towers to compensate for the strict population limit by the time you have access to those high-tier units. If you didn't have anything that can outrange those towers (most civs in this game don't) you should rush early-game or might as well restart.
  • Arrows on Fire: Alchemy, which gives a damage bonus to all ranged attacks (including the fire ships) except for the slingers and changes the relevant projectile sprites to burning equivalents.
  • Artificial Stupidity: One of the greatest threats your army will face is your own catapults; since they avert Friendly Fireproof, a badly-aimed rock will kill your men just as dead as the enemy, and the damn things will launch at anything they see. Some players even forgo them entirely in favor of ballistas, which lack the splash damage but at least don't kill your own units.
    • Also, the unit's pathfind AI suffers alot of problems. They can even kill themselves because they chose to go to the worst path possible.
  • Artistic License History: Zig-zagged. The civilizations are designed to fight the same way their historical counterparts did. The Egyptians, for example, are good at farming and have powerful chariots and elephants, but no access to decent siege weapons and infantry. The campaigns follow historical events closely, and there's a decent amount of history which can be learned from the games. Being an RTS game, it doesn't strive to emulate the actual scenarios perfectly, however.
  • Awesome, yet Impractical:
    • In Rise of Rome, sacrificing priests with Martyrdom to instantly convert enemy units. The strict population limit is what makes it very impractical.
    • Zigzagged with Ballista Towers. No matter how cool they look, the upgrade costs a small fortune and the ballista bolts they fire move much slower than arrows; even with Ballistics, there's a good chance whatever they're firing at will move before the bolt hits. When they're massed however their bolts are enough to even slice Armored Elephants like butter, compounded by the fact that buildings are easily massed while units can't due to the 50 population limit.
    • Triremes suffer from the same issue, but their huge power spike compared to War Galleys outweigh the downsides.
    • Catapults. People just simply avoid them because they can do more harm to you rather than the enemy. Thanks to its dumbness, he will be happy to try to launch a boulder on a single villager and hit your entire army.
  • Badass Preacher: Priests. A good player can beat a match by just using an army of them. Egyptian Priests are even more dangerous, because they get a +3 range bonus. This stacks with Afterlife (Which also gives +3 range).
  • Carry a Big Stick: If you are desperate enough to send villagers out to fight in the Stone or Tool Age, you will find them wielding what looks like a giant bone.
  • Cast from Lifespan / Cast from Hit Points: Priests in the expansion get the Martyrdom technology, which allows a conversion to be automatically successful provided you sacrifice the priest. This is mostly Awesome, yet Impractical, though.
  • Classic Cheat Code: E=mc2 Trooper.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Your AI allies in the random map. The diplomacy mechanic back then is so flawed that they demand resources from you every few minutes. If you don't, they will declare a war against you and joined the enemies' side. Sometimes they even do this out of nowhere if the game stretched too long. And no, extorting resources from them is ignored at best. Later games fixed this with the "Lock Teams" function and giving resources are made optional.
  • Crutch Character: Tool Age units (Axemen, Bowmen, Scouts, Slingers) are useful in said age, but loses power quickly when Bronze Age is reached and they cannot be upgraded
  • Damage Is Fire: When buildings take enough damage, they are set aflame, even when they aren't being attacked by weapons that would allow that to happen. Being on fire doesn't cause additional damage, though - it is simply a visual indicator that significant damage has been dealt. Early release pictures of the game showed stone walls on fire. This was changed in the final release to show gradual degradation instead.
  • Digitized Sprites: Every unit and building sprite was rendered from CGI models.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: It lacks many of the gameplay refinements of the sequels, though some things are fixed in Rise of Rome.
    • You cannot queue unit production prior to the expansion.
    • Town Centers don't have the ability to defend themselves.
    • Units cannot walk over farms. This consumes a lot of unneccessary space since players are expected to mass them for food production.
    • All human soldiers and technologies have a food cost. Later games have human soldiers that don't cost food, usually archers.
    • Lack of an in-game tech tree and civilization description. Those information can only be found in the manual.
    • Granaries are not only drop-off sites for food, but also used to research fortifications. Markets are used for researching economy bonuses instead of buying and selling resources. In the case of markets, both features are used for Age of Empires III.
  • Easy Level Trick: In one scenario of the Yamato campaign, the goal is to destroy an enemy Government Center guarded by a large number of siege engines. The quickest way to do this is to send a few villagers to draw fire near the building in question. Thanks to the catapults' Artificial Stupidity, they will fire shots that hit their own Government Center while being easy for your villagers to dodge, and will win the scenario for you.
  • Edutainment Game: The first purpose of the game is entertainment, but there's plenty of historical information available: the campaigns in the first game dealt with the history of four civilizations - Egypt (the tutorial), Greece, Babylon, and Yamato. While the missions themselves certainly sacrificed historical accuracy for gameplay, the mission intros gave decent background information. Rise of Rome's campaigns covered the history of Rome from both Rome itself and their enemies.
  • Enemy Exchange Program: The priests can convert your enemies' units. And their priests can convert yours too!
  • Firewood Resources: Wood and Stone, the eventual series' staples.
  • Foregone Conclusion: One mission in the expansion has you playing as Hannibal, bringing the elephants over the Alps. You know how it's going to end, even if you win, and the victory text basically says, "Well, you'll be remembered as a genius for this tactic, at least."
  • Friendly Fireproof: Catapults and Catapult Triremes avert this; they'll damage anything in the area of effect radius.
  • Gaia's Revenge: The "Gaia" cheat lets you play as the neutral animals and gives you vision around every tree. Very limited, however, since you're put in control of units designed to be killed by villagers.
  • Gladiator Revolt: There's a mission where you have to defend an Italian region from Spartacus revolts. The Slave Army is on Post-Iron Age, while you're in Bronze Age.
  • Glass Cannon: Siege weapons, which can be devastating if used correctly, but require constant support from skirmishing units and priests to heal them.
  • Guide Dang It:
    • Want to know about the civilization tech tree and bonuses? Don't have an external guide or expect such information to be in the game? Good luck.
    • This also applies to the requirements for the final upgrades on some units. Some of them can be inferred (Chain Mail for Archers opens up the Heavy Horse Archer upgrade) but how does Fanaticism (a Temple tech benefiting Priests' rejuvenation rate) open up the final upgrade for a Barracks unit?
  • <Hero> Must Survive: Some unique units trigger your defeat when destroyed.
  • Historical In-Joke: One mission in the expansion involving Archimedes includes a one-time appearance from a unit called the "Mirror Tower," which fires lasers at enemy units. Archimedes supposedly found a way to harness the sun's energy in a similar manner. Sadly, the only way you can ever get a hold of a Mirror Tower is by using the Scenario Builder.
  • Horse Archer: Come in horse, elephant and chariot varieties.
  • Instant-Win Condition: Possessing all artifacts or ruins, or having a Wonder survive, for "2000 years" - about 20 minutes in Real Time.
  • Isometric Projection: The map is diamond-shaped, unlike many contemporary games. The practice was carried on in the sequels.
  • It's a Wonderful Failure: If you lose or quit a campaign scenario in The Rise of Rome, a short description of the consequences of your failure will be displayed - including a Bond One-Liner ("report to Catapult Unit XIV where you'll get another chance to have an impact on the Carthaginians").
  • Lead the Target: The "Ballistics" upgrade.
  • Made of Explodium: Birds. It's...weird.note 
  • Marathon Level: A few, but The Great Hunt is probably the most notable.
  • Mighty Glacier: War elephants and the Hoplite line are durable and deal lots of damage but moves very slowly. The Persian and Greek civilizations, respectively, get bonuses that makes those units Lightning Bruisers.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: These particular installments in the series are very bad at this, featuring American bald eagles and alligators despite being set entirely in the Old World (though a relative of the latter could have been seen by the Shang, and people frequently confuse crocodiles for alligators) and while lions, gazelles and elephants fit in the Ancient Middle East they are a very weird vision when you are playing a campaign set in Europe or Japan. They are a carryover from early game development, when the game was entirely set in the Middle East and Greece, before ES/Microsoft realized they could make more money in East Asia if they used local civilizations.
    • Crocodile or Alligator, neither reptile has any business being in the Alps.
    • The Egypt campaign features whales in the Nile.
  • No Arc in Archery: Arrows and Ballista Bolts will fly perfectly straight through their entire flight.
  • Painfully Slow Projectile: Ballista Bolts fly so slowly that one unit under constant micromanagement can never get hit by them. The AI knows this, and will cheerfully dance its units around all projecties including arrows.
  • Power Up Letdown: It's hard for some players to tell if the Ballista Tower is actually a good upgrade since its projectiles are stronger but slower than the Guard Tower's arrows.
  • Shoot the Medic First: Even if you can out-damage the healing you don't want them to convert your units.
  • Schizophrenic Difficulty: The Yamato campaign is probably the worst, but all four campaigns have issues with this, even the tutorial campaign.
  • Scratch Damage: The buildings have enough armour that this is all the average unit can do.
  • Shout-Out: "I'll be back" and "I shall return".
  • Siege Engines: Catapults and ballistae, as well as their fancier upgrades.
  • Speaking Simlish:
  • Spiked Wheels: Scythe Chariots in Rise of Rome. They cause splash damage around the Chariot when it attacks.
  • Suffer the Slings: In the expansion, Slingers are available from the Tool Age and onward. They receive bonuses against archers and base defences, the latter making them mildly successful at raiding, but become obsolete almost immediately since they receive very little in the way of useful upgrades once the Bronze Age is reached.
  • Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: Infantry > Cavalry > Archers > Infantry.
  • Technology Levels: Stone Age (Paleolithic/Mesolithic era), Tool Age (Neolithic era), Bronze Age and Iron Age, in that order.
  • Units Not to Scale:
    • When putting units inside Transport Ships.
    • Non-Wonder buildings are a lot shorter than units.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Food, Wood, Stone and Gold. Food and Wood are required from the get-go, Stone is used for walls, watch towers and slingers starting in the Tool Age and Gold starts becoming important in the Bronze Age.