Age of Empires (often abbreviated to AoE) is a history-based real-time strategy video game released in 1997. Developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft. Ensemble was still an independent company, later acquired by Microsoft. The game uses the Genie, a 2D sprite-based game engine. The game allows the user to act as the leader of an ancient civilization by advancing it through four ages (the Stone, Tool, Bronze, and Iron Ages), gaining access to new and improved units with each advance. It was later ported to Pocket PCs with Windows, resulting in a version very similar to the PC game.
Originally touted as Civilization meets Warcraft, some reviewers felt that the game failed to live up to these expectations when it was released. Despite this, it received generally good reviews, and the expansion pack Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome was released in 1998. Both the original Age of Empires and the expansion pack were later released as "The Gold Edition".
Age of Empires requires the player to develop a civilization from a handful of hunter-gatherers to an expansive Iron Age Empire. To assure victory, the player must gather resources in order to pay for new units, buildings and more advanced technology. Resources must also be preserved, as no new resources become available as the game progresses, for example, trees that are cut down will not grow back.
Twelve civilizations are available. Each with individual sets of attributes, including a varying number of available technologies and units. Each civilization has technologies unique to them, so that no civilization possesses all the technologies possible within the game.
A major component of the game is the advancement through four ages. These are the Stone Age (Mesolithic/Nomad/Paleolithic), the Tool Age (Neolithic/Chalcolithic), the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Advancement between ages is researched at the Town Center, and each advancement brings the player new technologies, weapons, and units.
The game features four single-player campaigns in which the player is required to complete specific objectives. Campaigns are a collection of scenarios which are completed in a linear fashion. The campaigns follow the history of the Egyptian, Greek, Babylonian and Yamato civilizations; there's also a complete campaign specially made for the demo version that takes place in the Hittite Empire. Aside from the campaigns, there is a game mode called "random map", in which a different map is generated for each new game. Variations of random map, such as the resource-heavy "death match", are also available.
Age of Empires also facilitated online and network play with up to 8 people simultaneously. Because the network play is less sophisticated than that of modern games, lag and disconnections often occur. Until 19 June 2006, multiplayer gameplay was supported by Microsoft Gaming Zone. At that point, the Zone abandoned support of most CD-ROM games, including Age of Empires and Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings.
Players choose to play as one of 12 civilizations. The civilizations are sorted into four distinct architectural styles, based on East Asian, Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Greek architecture, which determine their in-game appearance.
They are: Greeks, Minoans, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Sumerians, Babylonians, Persians, Hittites, Shang, Choson and Yamato