Age of Empires III has always been a strategy favorite of mine and I have fond memories playing it late into the night over a decade ago. So of course I am going to be interested in an updated version of that game, especially one that adds new content at the same time.
So let’s get right into what really matters here: what has changed. Right off the bat, I gotta hand it to the devs for really upping the visual quality of the game across the board. Everything from the textures, to the models, to even stuff like animations are all much better than what we had with the original. The UI can now be scaled too, so you can actually see what is going on without it taking up a good third of the screen. And of course, this is all while running at 1440p and 144fps, I had no issues with frame drops or stuttering of any kind.
Then you’ve got the remastered sound effects and music on top of that. The soundtrack was already solid in the original, so its nice to see it receive the same treatment along with the visuals. Really, the game just looks and feels like a modern-day strategy game and I know that sounds like the bare minimum we should expect, but lately we’ve gotten a few “remasters” that don’t even do that (looking at you Kingdoms of Amalur). Sure, it’s not the best-looking strategy game I’ve played, but it’s up there and a solid tribute to the classic I love.
The visuals and audio were not all that was changed here though, the game received a bunch of technical improvements as well. For example, modding support is now built directly into the game and you don’t even need to mess around outside of it to install new mods. The multiplayer has been revamped too, now including cross-network play and a built-in server browser. I personally never played too much multiplayer in the original, but it’s nice to see it made easier here for those that want to.
What interested me even more were the changes to AI and difficulty. There’s now an “extreme’ difficulty mode and it is not to be taken lightly. Within just a few minutes trying out this mode, I was getting steamrolled by the AI, AI which now uses less cheats than in the original. It still has its issues – like the random suicidal advancements – but the AI as a whole felt more well-rounded, especially on the higher difficulties.
That’s all for changes, but the Definitive Edition also straight-up adds some new content as well, including new maps, new game modes, and two brand new civilizations: The Inca and the Swedes. I played as both and quite liked their play styles. The Inca, for example, have a unique house building that not only ups the population, but generates food as well, leaving you room to assign villagers elsewhere. I generally play more defensive, resource-oriented, so the Inca were a perfect fit.
And this is all before you consider the solid core gameplay that is Age of Empires III. As it was back in 2005, the gameplay is an excellent blend of combat and resource management, with each civilization offering up a unique twist on that gameplay to keep things interesting. Pair that with the variety offered by the maps and you get a pretty good combo, one I can see myself returning to from time to time, just as I did with the original game.
I should also mention the campaign, as that was something I hardly touched in the original, but have been having a great time with in the Definitive Edition. It too expands on the variety already offered by the core gameplay, with one level having you defend a fort from invaders, another having you take on a pirate stronghold, and one that quite literally has you blowing up the fountain of youth using a giant cannon. And that’s all just in the first act.
So yes, I would recommend Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition. It’s got some nice visuals, an actually decent UI, better AI, and some cool additions on top of that. It’s not perfect, but if you ever played the original and wanted to return to it, this is the way to go and it will definitely be serving as my go-to for the series until the release of 4 (assuming it does eventually come out…). For the time being though, this’ll work.
Quote: Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition is a nice overall upgrade. Much better visuals, an actually decent UI, new content – it’s not perfect, but if you liked the original, this is the way to go.
You can buy Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition on Steam here. The game is also available on the Microsoft Store.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.