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 not-so bright side, 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, but no access to elephants or decent 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.
    • 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. Triremes suffer from the same issue, but their advantages over 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.
  • 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 - for instance, you can only build one unit at the time (though some things are fixed in Rise of Rome).
  • 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!
  • Final Death: Some unique units trigger your defeat when destroyed.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • The basic Horse Archer unit starts as this, although a maxed-out Heavy Horse Archer is almost as tough as a knight.
  • 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. Elephants are expensive Mighty Glaciers, chariots are Fragile Speedsters, and horses are Glass Cannons.
  • 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 / Have a Nice Death: 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.
  • 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.
  • No Arc in Archery: Arrows and Ballista Bolts will fly perfectly straight through their entire flight.
  • Shoot The Priest First: And with good reason - 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 three campaigns have issues with this.
  • 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.