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Video Game / Age of Empires

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Age of Empires is a series of historical Real-Time Strategy games first made by the Microsoft-owned developer Ensemble Studios.

The franchise so far consists of the following games/series:

Main Series

  • Age of Empires I — 1997
    • Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome — 1998
    • Age of Empires: Definitive Edition — 2018
  • Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings — 1999
    • Age of Empires II: The Conquerors — 2000
    • Age of Empires II: HD Edition — 2013
      • Age of Empires II HD: The Forgotten — 2013
      • Age of Empires II HD: The African Kingdoms — 2015
      • Age of Empires II HD: The Rise of the Rajas — 2016
    • Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition — 2019
      • Age of Empires II Definitive Edition: Lords of the West — 2021
      • Age of Empires II Definitive Edition: Dawn of the Dukes — 2021
      • Age of Empires II Definitive Edition: Dynasties of India — 2022
      • Age of Empires II Definitive Edition: Return of Rome — 2023
      • Age of Empires II Definitive Edition: The Mountain Royals — 2023
      • Age of Empires II Definitive Edition: Victors and Vanquished — 2024
  • Age of Mythology — 2002 — A spin-off focusing on mythological figures and creatures.
    • Age Of Mythology: The Titans — 2003
    • Age of Mythology: Extended Edition — 2014
      • Age of Mythology: Tale of the Dragon — 2016
    • Age of Mythology Retold — 2024
  • Age of Empires III — 2005
    • Age of Empires III: The WarChiefs — 2006
    • Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties — 2008
    • Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition — 2020
      • Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition: The African Royals — 2021
      • Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition: Knights of the Mediterranean — 2022
  • Age of Empires IV — 2021
    • Age of Empires IV: The Sultans Ascend — 2023


  • Age of Empires: The Age of Kings — 2006 — A Turn-Based Strategy spin-off for Nintendo DS.
    • Age of Empires: Mythologies — 2008 — Same as above.
  • Age of Empires Online — 2011-2014 — A defunct free-to-play free-roaming RTS with RPG elements.
    • Age of Empires Online: Project Celeste — 2017 — An unofficial server that revives the game with all previously-released content included.
  • Age of Empires: Castle Siege — 2014-2019
  • Age of Empires Mobile — 2023

In addition, Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds is Age of Empires IN SPACE (LucasArts used the AOE II engine) and Ensemble developed an RTS based on the Halo series, Halo Wars, which was Ensemble Studios' swan song, as Microsoft closed them down on 1/29/09. There was also a spiritual successor in the form of Empire Earth, which was developed by the very same creator of Age of Empires and released on November 23, 2001. Another spiritual successor, 0 A.D., is being developed (it's still an alpha, though).

Age of Empires Online, however, turned out to be very much in production. The announcement broke the base almost immediately. The game, made by Gas Powered Games, is intended to enable players "to create a living, growing online world, shared with friends and friendly rivals around the globe, [while] players can develop their own persistent online civilization, which grows even when the player is offline and watch as it progresses from a village to an empire. They can embark on quests along the way, alone or with friends, and to "immerse themselves in epic tales, quirky characters, adventure, history and strategy." The game also includes Live Achievements. Initially released with just the Greek civilisation, the Egyptians, Persians, Celts, Babylonians and Norse have since been added. The free-to-play model has also been revamped, allowing persistent players to earn in-game currency to purchase paid content without paying a dime.

On January 3, 2013, it was announced on the official blog that Online would have no further content added, though support will be continued for the game. Online was shut down on July 1, 2014. Before that date, it was widely believed that Microsoft would shut down the Games for Windows — Live service (which Online relied upon) that same day, but the company later announced in June 2014 that only AoEO is shutting down that day, not the entire GFWL service. In between the closure and the announcement, no new players could join nor could the premium currency be purchased with real money, though it could still be earned in-game by players already present. However, in 2017, an independent group of developers, using Microsoft's publicly-released development kit under a non-commercial license from Microsoft, revived AoEO in the form of Project Celeste, a server emulator that features all the content and online features that was released in the game's official lifespan, with the team adding the unreleased Roman civilization based on what was provided before the shutdown on March 14, 2021. Project Celeste can be installed using either the old Steam installation for AoEO or a standalone version.

2014 also saw the series go mobile with Age of Empires: Castle Siege for both Windows Phone and Windows 8. Castle Siege went for a Clash of Clans-like Tower Defense approach while still retaining many series mainstays.

The series in general gives examples of:

  • Age of Titles: The whole series.
  • Alternate History: Some changes to the history are a bit boggling, deciding to be purely historical one campaign scenario and then changing history in the next, i.e. Scots winning Battle of Falkirk, Mongols overrunning Europe etc.
  • Anachronism Stew: In most of every game's campaign scenarios, certain liberties are taken with the depiction of cultural groups due to the limits of the preset civilizations in-game. For instance, in the "Ave Caesar" campaign from the Rise of Rome expansion of the original game, the Britons and Gauls are depicted using the Hellenic and Mesopotamian civilization, due to the lack of a Celtic civilization, and in The Age of Kings the Roman Empire is depicted as the Byzantines, who in turn use a Middle Eastern architectural style, until they were replaced by a medieval Italian one in the Definitive Edition.
  • Annoying Arrows: All the archery.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: There's a Population Limit.
  • Arbitrary Weapon Range: Most ranged siege weapons in the series, and towers before "siege holes" is researched.
  • Artifact Mook: In most strategy games, upgrading a unit will cause all units of that type to instantly improve. In Age of Empires, outposts not visited in thousands of in-game years can suddenly replace their clubs with swords and their loincloths for suits of plate armour.
  • Asset Actor: Both the first and the second installments would often feature enemies in campaigns that did not have civilizations in game. In these cases, the game would use a "close enough" civilization as a stand-in. This has become less common after Definitive Edition for II, as more civilizations are added, the need for stand-in decreases. As an example, one mission from the launch version of II featured the Hungarians as enemies, represented by the Teutons as there was no Hungarian Civilization. Following Definitive Edition, however, they are now represented by the more historically accurate Magyars.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Heavy Cavalry in nearly every game are fast, tough and hard hitting, but they're expensive to produce, making them detrimental to your economy in the long run. An absolute law that can make or break a multiplayer game.
  • Boring, but Practical: Sometimes the basic and inexpensive units are the best. Spearmen and Skirmishers are the prime examples of this.
  • Cap Raiser: Building Houses, Manors, and Villages increases the total amount of units that you can build. Each game also has their own techs and mechanics that increase certain caps.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Optional in most of the games; if you want, you can configure the game as to have your enemies being red, your allies yellow and yourself blue.
  • Construct Additional Pylons:
    "You need to build more houses!"
  • Classic Cheat Code: "How do you turn this on"
  • Critical Existence Failure: Any unit/building can be saved as long as it has one HP and you have a priest/builder to heal/repair it (and, for buildings, the necessary resources). But as soon as a flimsy arrow or a villager's punch hits it, it's gone for good.
  • Damage Is Fire: Buildings will start burning up to indicate heavy structural damage even when the building in question is mostly made of stone. Walls avert this somewhat by looking like they're gradually disintegrating.
  • Defenseless Transports: Transport ships, except for Norse longships in Age of Mythology, have no attacks.
  • Digitized Sprites: The first two games used CGI Rendering before 3D technology became practical in performance and cost.
  • Easy Logistics: Played straight most of the time, the units don't need to restock on ammunition and in some games villagers can repair any boats, siege weapons or buildings that you might have, whether they're near a (wood) storage or not.
  • Expansion Pack:
    • The games have one or two official expansion packs, which usually rebalance units and come with new civilizations to play.
    • Online has Booster Packs, which must be purchased with the premium currency. They add new features and content, much like a regular expansion pack.
  • Flavor Text: Each of the games (except Online) has a description of their unit, their origin and their use in war (for real ones).
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Age of Empires: The Age of Kings for the Nintendo DS is notorious for its amount of bugs. A major bug can lead to the bricking of the game cartridge, if the player's profile name has less that four letters, or if they save the game after turn 40.
  • Game Mod: The games come with a built in world builder which can be used to create entirely original campaigns for download, which are often more in depth and complex then the original single player. Quality is usually measured in the effort put into aesthetics and the number of 'triggers' in place. The best ones are regarded to be +1000 triggers.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: The information the game can provide shows the developers did their research, but only a few of those aspects and tactics show up in the actual gameplay.
  • Guilt-Based Gaming: If you quit in the middle of the game, your side loses and you get scolded. It doesn't help that in the first Age of Empires there's creepy music and a creepy knight skeleton in the background.
  • I Shall Taunt You: The first two quotes are among the pre-recorded taunts from the series.
  • Last Lousy Point: Whenever only one well-hidden enemy unit or building is all that stands before completing the mission.
  • Lethal Joke Character: "Useless Villager" may be pretty useless, but he is fast and does reveal large chunks of the map.
  • MacGuffin: The War Wagons, Ruins, Relics, etc items to collect/control. They're typically one way to win the game — although exterminating every other civilization is pretty effective, too.
  • Money for Nothing: At times a resource can get to ludicrous levels without the player having much to spend it on.
  • No Fair Cheating: If you cheat, some of the benefits are given to the computer as well.
  • No Such Thing as Dehydration: You need to build houses and obtain food to get more people, but don't need wells or other water sources.
  • Press X to Die: Pressing the Delete key while you have one of your own units selected kills that unit instantly. This can actually be useful when you reach the Arbitrary Headcount Limit and want to replace unneeded units.
  • Public Domain Artifact: Lots of them, everywhere. Given that the entire series has a strong emphasis on the history side.
  • Real-Time with Pause: Though the first one didn't allow for scrolling or giving commands while paused.
  • Reinventing the Wheel: You have redevelop every known technology in most of the games.
    • Some technologies in Age of Empires II, such as archery, cavalry and ballistics, are developed as you go through the ages, even though civilizations in antiquity had good or even excellent grasps of them. While partly for gameplay reasons, there is a nugget of truth there, as shown in the in-game encyclopedia. A lot of knowledge was lost during the European dark ages, and archery and cavalry became marginal (largely because a couple of guys with sharp or blunt weapons was Boring, but Practical, but training archers and owning horses was expensive).
  • Regional Riff: When you start a game, you hear something vaguely appropriate to the nation you chose to play.
  • Running Gag: Wololo (the priest conversion sound from the first game) and Roggan (the villagers' sound when selected in the same game) have appeared as taunts in the second and third Empires games.
  • Savage Setpiece: Normal Elephants.
  • Schizo Tech: Several Cheat Code units are intentionally anachronistic, ranging from cars to Space Marines.
  • Separate, but Identical: Although in the first two games you can choose to have all the civilizations the same techs and units, save for the unique units in II, it's averted most of the time, with different civilizations having access to different upgrades and not having access to some units — even having a unique unit or two for themselves. They also possess unique bonuses depending on the civilization.
  • Silliness Switch: Some cheat codes unlock everything from cars to laser-shooting bears to gun toting infants on tricycles.
  • Speaking Simlish: All civilizations in the first game speak the same fictional language, leading to the famous Wololo and Roggan memes. In subsequent games, all the civilizations speak their own regional languages, although they are not always historically accurate.
  • Tech Tree: All civilizations in the first two games shared the same tech tree with some research options locked out depending on the chosen civilization, though an option to unlock the whole tree is available (see Separate, but Identical above). The other games in the series had separate tech trees for every civilization.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Masterfully averted by the second game, where the AI is not reliant on any perks the players don't have unless you play on the highest difficulty.
    • Also inverted: if you play on any difficulty below "Hard", the AI is handicapped. On "Standard" and "Easiest" difficulties, the AI won't attack villagers, making it practically impossible for the player to lose.
  • Vague Hit Points: In Mythologies, the upgrade "Mother of Deceit", obtained from worshiping Nyx, has the HP of your units be hidden from enemy units unless there is an enemy unit directly adjacent to them, with it appearing as "???/???". The enemy units in the Greek campaign automatically have this upgrade in addition to Nyx's other upgrades whether or not they have Hades as their Major God.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential
  • War Elephants: All the games have these, give or take an expansion or two. Several factions can use them in the original game, they are unique units for the Persians and Indians and regular units for Southeast Asians in the second game, the Egyptians use them in Mythology, and the Indians have them in The Asian Dynasties.
  • War for Fun and Profit
  • Worker Unit: Villagers and all their variants.
  • You Have Researched Breathing: Some technologies fall under this. For instance the "Ballistics" technology is researched in the Iron Age (the fourth and final age of the game) and allows units and towers firing arrows or ballista bolts to Lead the Target instead of firing at where the unit is right now. This is despite the fact that arrows start coming into play in the Tool Age (Neolithic) and in real life even the earliest pre-Bronze Age archers would have understood that they need to lead the target.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: The first two games and Online feature four resource types to manage, Food, Wood, Gold and Stone. Age of Mythology adds Favor, while The Asian Dynasties' adds Export for the Asian civilizations. Castle Siege also has enemy pennants.


Video Example(s):


The Death of Sargon of Akkad

Unwilling to stand by and watch his king continue his mad quest of conquest, Ushar, who had once spared Sargon's life, finally ends it.

How well does it match the trope?

3.75 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheKingslayer

Media sources: