Age of Empires: Definitive Edition

Game review by
Marc Saltzman, Common Sense Media
Age of Empires: Definitive Edition Game Poster Image
Updated historic strategy has great tactics, bloody combat.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Focuses on building an empire during various periods in history, such as the Iron Age, expanding across a map, defending bases, advancing civilization, but also focuses mainly on combat between cultures.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rather than take on a role of a specific character, you play a commander in charge of various civilizations. You advance your civilization, defend your bases, which is positive, but some missions require you to be aggressive.

 

Ease of Play

Simple controls, many tutorials to master controls, gameplay mechanics. Some missions more difficult than others to complete.

Violence

Bird's-eye view of action; play involves battling between civilizations on land, sea. Blood seen when soldiers are killed, plus you can hunt for animals, see blood and meat on ground after they're attacked. Battles usually accompanied by sights, sounds of weapon clashes, cries of pain.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Age of Empires: Definitive Edition is a remastered strategy game for Windows. A good portion of this game involves military battles from various periods in history -- mostly focusing on events in Europe, Africa, and Asia, spanning from the Stone Age to the Iron Age. With a bird's-eye top-down (and angled "isometric" view), you can drag and drop troops on a map to engage in battles, including scenes with blood and cries of pain from defeated enemies, as well as scenes with hunted and skinned animals. Otherwise, there's no inappropriate content.

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What's it about?

AGE OF EMPIRES: DEFINITIVE EDITION is a Windows 10 exclusive that includes multiple (and updated) campaigns in one download -- a real-time strategy game that helped define the genre. As with its predecessor, the game mostly focuses on the Stone Age to the Iron Age, tied to events in Europe, Africa, and Asia (and also houses the expansion pack Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome). After you choose your desired tribe, from an angled top-down perspective, you'll instruct your denizens to collect wood to build structures, hunt animals and fish for food, train soldiers and build bases, and explore a map to see who else is occupying the land around you. You'll eventually evolve to sea units, new technologies, and more advanced tactics to help evolve your civilization. New to the Definitive Edition are a handful of added features, an in-game tech tree, new control options, and an improved mini-map. There's also support for modern graphics cards and monitors, including 4K presentation; online play over Xbox Live (in addition to local area network support); a re-recorded soundtrack with a new orchestral score; and voice narration; as well as tweaks to the campaign and scenario editor, to allow you to create and share your own content (via AgeOfEmpires.com).

Is it any good?

It's not perfect, but this strategy game should gratify fans of the original and win over other players who might not have clicked their way through the original. Boasting graphics that offer four times the resolution of HD, the game enables you to see immediately the graphic overhaul of the units, but it's still not as detailed as it should be when you zoom in. The interface is clean and easy to navigate, and the enhanced features and production quality (including great-sounding music) really add to its immersion. The campaigns will be a delight for history buffs, letting you choose the desired civilization, work your way up its tech tree, and help guide the fate of these epic battles on land and sea. After you get your feet wet with the solo campaigns and various challenges, you can jump online in up to eight-player battles with new competitive modes.

But some problems that plagued the original haven't been ironed out, such as bad pathfinding artificial intelligence (AI), which means your villagers or soldiers will frustratingly take odd routes to get to where they're going (perhaps showing the enemy where your civilization is). Another issue is the general lack of diversity in the nearly 20 cultures you can play as, not to mention the missions get a little repetitive after a while, because there isn't too much depth to the gameplay (for example, don't expect trade or diplomacy, as you would find in Civilization games). Still, it's fun -- a hypnotic balance of resource gathering, building, and battling -- just don't expect too much replayability. For $20, you can't go wrong with Age of Empires: Definitive Edition -- especially if you have a nostalgic leaning toward the original game -- but here's to hoping the developers address some of the AI issues with a downloadable patch.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in games. Since Age of Empires: Definitive Edition is based on history, and the action isn't up close and realistic, should parents be OK with their kids playing this game? Or is it still violence, whether it really happened or not, and regardless of the faraway camera angles? Should kids be playing a game that makes entertainment out of war?

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