I'm surprised I've never even heard of this until now, and that noone has discussed it.
Last night I was feeling nostalgiac and decided to reminisce on good times--Age of Empires 2. As I searched around through videos, I came across this:
Now, let's quickly discuss the first thing you will all notice.
The graphics. The very first thing many of us say when you view it is:
Allow me to venture a bit on this. I'm not sure what their aim is with these. I guess the only real reason would be letting people with Windows 98 be able to play it, but do they really need the graphics to be cartoonish? You can have it be realistic, and still keep it from requiring nextgen computer specs. Low textures and polygons are fine. This is....NO.
But I don't think the graphics compensation alone would make it look as it is. It would still possess a semblance of realism. The character portraits are simply cartoons. I don't think it would make sense to attempt to appeal to younger audiences. How many children actually favor playing an RTS game, which requires a devotion of time, deep logic, and strategy? I don't know when all of you die-hard AoE fans like myself got into the game. I got into it when I was young, but it was well past the time where I clapped excitedly at unrealistically stylized caricatures.
This new design is completely alien to the Age of Empires franchise. It's unwelcoming because the design is simply too light-hearted and joy-filled. It feels like a toy. I don't feel like I'm building an empire, or sending legions of soldiers to conquer in my name. It feels like a game(In a bad sense).
You can say that graphics don't make or break a game. But in a sense that is wrong. Graphics with such an unwelcoming style and theme is what will separate this game from loving it and hating it.
I just ask why they feel they needed to make this an MMO. Being able to implement it into a persistent game would require changing and removing a lot of what paced the original games. The end piece would feel like half of the game that you think you should be playing. So why do it? I'll tell you why. Have any of you noticed the huge influx of online RTS browser games lately? That's because these games are cheap, easy to make, and almost guarantee drawing in a crowd of people new to the genre or hardcore RTS players looking for a game to conquer. There's your reason. Microsoft is trying to cash in on the MMO aspect of RTS games. It is with this reason that I can't help but feel this game is simply trying to cash in, and not TRY to be a great game. Time will tell for that, I suppose.
Now, this is where the people in the youtube comments rip on the game because the visuals are horrible. But I see no actual discussion on the gameplay itself. I want to delve a bit into that.
I am trying to get into beta, and there isn't a lot I know. But what I've been able to gather from the few videos on this is that this is basically a combination of campaign play and multiplayer, and they are blending RPG aspects into it.
The game isn't in a sandbox world, and your city isn't what you may think of it.
You have a "Capital City." This is basically your Avatar. For one, it's a hub for which you build units and structures, research, etc. etc. However, it will never come in danger of attack. It will exist as long as you do.
It also exists for cosmetics. From completing quests or researches, you're able to place "vanity items" to add to the design of your city to make it look better.
Also, your city levels up. Yep. Not like going from Feudal Age to Castle Age. I assume leveling grants you access to more researches, units, and quests as you progress. So when you just start out your city is going to be crap and you'll just have some militia to fight for you, but as you level up and quest you will gain access to more structures, researches, get units like archers and hoplites. I personally think this is a warm addition to the game, and feels a lot like the previous games. Your opinion may be different, though. I want to know what you think of this.
Another thing about units: Here is something I'm a bit worried about. You can give items like advanced shields and weapons that you "loot" from quests, and give it to your soldier type to make them better. That means gear will be an important part of the game, and that spells doom if you ask me.
Gear for core units has no place in an RTS. Especially one based on Age of Empires. The battle should come down to who has the better strategic placements of units, and who is using what. If I'm just starting out, and I'm fighting my level twenty-something friend, the battle should not come down to my archers getting beaten because his spearman had a "Shield of Leonidas" that completely protected him from my low level archers.
I realize technology differentiation between weak and strong kingdoms isn't an aspect that should be shied away from. An ill-equipped knight should not necessarily demolish a pack of well-trained, well-equipped archers. But by the looks of it its going by WoW's example of making it a huge factor in whether you will win or lose a fight, and thus low level players will be FODDER compared to the high level players until they're able to work their way to the top.
Now, these quests of which I speak are basically the campaign part of the game. You take part in fighting throughout Greece's history completing objectives, and your city and loot progresses as you do that. One thing I'm worried about is how easy things will be from the beginning to midway. You will obviously not have a large selection of troops for which you can use, and combine that with their attempt at being more friendly to people who don't know anything about RTS games, and chances are that they will try not to make things hard for you. I hope this isn't the case, but I blame the art style and convincing me otherwise.
And now we get to the cold hard truth: The multiplayer part of the game will be side-content. You can either PvP a match, or co-op a quest. The entirety of PvP seems to be confined to individual matches. Now, I've no problem with this since it's like any other multiplayer Empires game(SAVE FOR THE CUSTOM MAPS), but that's not the issue here.
This is not what I imagine when I think of an RTS MMO. A PERSISTANT WORLD hardly matters when the MULTIPLAYER aspect of the game does NOT factor into it.
You aren't building an empire for which you have rivals to fight for land, glory, and power. You're just going to an arena and playing a game without consequence of benefit. I may as well just dust off my AoK disc and play the multiplayer part. Because at least there I have more options on how I can play the game. I would hope there is more to PvP i nthis, but the fact that they've not even talked about this in their gameplay videos leads me to believe they've nothing to show.
Now, let's get into the actual fights. I saw a short video on it, and all in all it looks good. It appears to be faithful to the AoE franchise with how they've gathered mechanics from each game(Like Age of Mythology's being able to use abilities on the field.). Everything seems to be there. The monks, the soldiers, the layout, all behind the mask of godawful graphics. But it isn't bad.
Like I said. There hasn't been a lot of information released on AoE:O, and I'm not currently in Beta. So if there is anything I've misinterpreted or wish to add for yourself, please let me know. Overall I think if the game succeeds in its new content, the game itself may actually be good. Will it be the Age of Empires we've all grown up to know and love? I doubt it.