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A quick look back at Age of Empires Online, including the current fan-run revival

age of empires online

Microsoft had a huge hit in the late 1990s and early to mid-2000s with its Age of Empires historical RTS series. Created and developed by Ensemble Studios, which Microsoft acquired in 2001, the game franchise became a huge part of that time period's real-time strategy game boom that also included Westwood's Command and Conquer franchise and Blizzard's Warcraft and Starcraft games.

Ensemble ended up making three main games in the series, along with a number of expansion packs, and a spin-off title in Age of Mythology. Despite that success, Microsoft put the Age of Empires franchise on hold when it decided to shut down Ensemble in 2009, after it made its only non-Age game in Halo Wars for the Xbox 360 console.

However, it wasn't long before Microsoft decided to revive the franchise again, but in an all-new way. The company decided to launch a free-to-play RTS game in the series called Age of Empires Online. It was a bold new direction that ultimately didn't pay off.

Rumors of a new game in the series began hitting the internet in 2010 when Kotaku reported that a number of ex-Age of Empires developers had formed a new studio called Robot Entertainment. The team was reportedly working on a new Microsoft Games Studios title with the code name "Project S." During a Gamescom reveal in August 2010, the game emerged as Age of Empires Online.

age of empires online

The title would retain the RTS gameplay of the franchise, but the decision was made to switch over to an art style that many would describe as "cartoony," perhaps as a way to appeal to a broader audience. There was some massively multiplayer gameplay aspect, as gamers could customize their online capital city. There were also crafting elements in the game, and players could fight in both AI and PvP online battles.

In February 2011, it was announced that Robot Entertainment was no longer going to be developing Age of Empires Online. Instead, Gas Powered Games, the creators of the Dungeon Siege and Supreme Commander games, would take over. In an interview with PC Gamer with Robot Entertainment President Patrick Hudson, he explained that the developer had always planned to switch over to Gas Powered Games, which had already been working on content and content packs for the title.

After a long beta period, Age of Empires Online officially launched on August 10, 2011, with its first two civilizations (Greek and Egyptian). Microsoft planned to make money off this free-to-play game with content packs, ranging from cosmetic items to a Season 1 Pass for $99.99 that would add, among other things, two future civilizations to the game.

In June 2012, an update to the game allowed players to use their in-game generated Empire Points to purchase content packs, making it a true free-to-play game. However, Age of Empires Online failed to reach a high number of players. In 2013, Microsoft said it would no longer add any new content to the game. The title officially shut down in July 2014.

Even before the closure of Age of Empires Online, Microsoft decided to re-release Age of Empires II with an HD remaster in 2013. That led to all three games in the series getting Definitive Edition remakes, and finally, Microsoft published the all-new Age of Empires IV from developer Relic Entertainment in 2021.

age of empires online celeste

However, there are still some fans of Age of Empires Online. In fact, a few years ago, some of them decided to revive the game on their own under the Project Celeste name. The game is completely free to play (no content packs) and is being run under Microsoft's Game Content Usage Rules but without any involvement or endorsements from Microsoft.

The team has even added new content to the game and run special seasonal events. It even added a new civilization, the Romans, that was planned for the original game before its shutdown. The team is working on adding an all-new civilization, the Indians, to the title.

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