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Preview: Age Of Empires 3: Definitive Edition

While 2020 hasn’t been a great year for much, it’s been outstanding for the Real-Time Strategy genre.

Sega revamped their beloved Total War series with a new Trojan War-themed epic. And Microsoft Game Studios introduced a generation of players to the Crusader Kings with a brand new entry to the franchise available on Game Pass.

And Microsoft is about to do that again — but this time with an HD port of a true RTS classic: Age of Empires 3.

A strong mustering of content

The promise for the final package is a truly grand offering, aside from all of the content that has come to Age Of Empires 3 since its initial launch in 2005. But they’ve also announced a brand new expansion that will add two new civilizations — The Inca and the Swedes. Additionally, a challenge map system called Art of War that will challenge your building and battling chops joins a historical Historical Battles campaign where you turn the tide in real-life skirmishes from across the game’s histories and cultures.

Fog of war

Graphically, Age Of Empires 3: Definitive Edition is a major step up from its origin. For starters, 4K is now supported with a full range of aspect ratios for all monitors. There’s also new lighting and shadow depth and particle effect that really does bring the world and its people to life.

While these models and systems are still very much past generation technology, Age Of Empires 3: Definitive Edition shoots for the top of the visibility field.

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However, I will tell you that in the four hours I’ve spent playing, it takes a while to get used to looking at the battlefield. This is because while graphics have improved, locomotion seems similar to how it was back in 2005. People move like they are in black and white movies — it’s especially worse during cutscenes.

There are also a handful of new visual controls that will help improve life. Extended zoom levels and visual range will help keep you feeling like you’re a part of the battle. Building and training become more fluid thanks to a brand new HUD system and progress indicators over buildings, units and naval formations allow you to see how you’re progressing. And if you want to see where you are going, there are several improved trees to help you plan!

Deadly mistakes

In my time spent with Age Of Empires 3: Definitive Edition on PC, there have been some performance issues I’ve come across. Perhaps the worst is the lack of a strategic pause. In the current RTS landscape — at least while playing single player — I want the ability to pause the action and build or get to something happening on the map. So I’m a little disappointed that there isn’t one here.


I’m also a little worried by the fact that Microsoft Game Studio is promising fully enhanced sound, music and voice acting. But in my time playing the demo, music is notably sparse and the voice acting in cutscenes skips more than just a little. But I am willing to chalk this up to the fact that this is not yet a complete build.

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Age Of Empires 3: Definitive Edition is the latest example of how Microsoft Game Studios is providing exceptional value — especially with Game Pass. The game will be available to try on Game Pass, but the full package will also only cost a total of $24.99. PC players who already own a copy of the original Age Of Empires 3 will also receive a coupon for $4.99 off. Additionally, Microsoft Game Studios is bundling all of their current definitive editions for $51.72.

[This preview was conducted with a code provided by Microsoft for preview purposes.]