UPDATE — POSTED 4/26, 4:26 P.M.
The official Steam page has been released for Return of Rome, bringing confirmation of many new features that will come with the downloadable content.
It has been confirmed that the expansion pack features not only the return of the 16 main ancient civilizations from the first game, as well as a new addition — the Lac Viet of Southeast Asia, in honor of the original’s unexpected fanbase in Vietnam.
This surge of popularity overseas has also given rise to a new set of rules that can be played with in the official game. Known as D3, the new game mode features mechanics designed to keep players alert and focused on the economy- with limited army creation and a ban on walls and towers being the most notable rules.
The DLC will also include three all-new campaigns made exclusively for the first game, featuring full voice-acted cutscenes and a variety of missions. Players will be able to experience the history of the Sumerians, Macedonians, and Romans as some of their greatest leaders and generals (Sargon of Akkad, Pyrrhus of Epirus, and Trajan, respectively).
Other, smaller changes to the original Age of Empires include the following:
- Visual and User Interface Improvements
- Implementation of mechanics from Age of Empires II (including Gates, Army Formations, and Trade Carts)
- Spectator Mode (allowing players to watch games instead of playing them)
- Enhanced Artificial Intelligence for CPU-controlled opponents
More updates are promised, but have not been listed.
The first game will not be the only section receiving additional support, though. The Roman civilization has been confirmed to be playable in the main Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition title, and will bring two of their fan-favorite units — the Legionary (a mighty infantry unit) and the mounted Centurion (who boosts the strength of Militia, Men-At-Arms, Long Swordsmen, Two-Handed Swordsmen, and Legionaries) to the newer game. The new Romans will also presumably replace any civilizations that stood in for them in missions correlating to the Roman Empire (who were previously represented by the Byzantines), and will be available in both single-player and multiplayer matches.
Pre-orders for Return of Rome are now available on Steam at this page. Bear in mind that this is only for the DLC, and that players will need the full version of Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition (available here) to play.
ORIGINAL STORY — POSTED 4/23, 4:29 P.M.
(KXNET) — In any type of video game, there will always be a few products that can be pointed to as the ‘icons’ of the genre: games that are so universally beloved that they are seen as the greatest examples of it ever created. Some examples of this would be Super Mario‘s many escapades in terms of platforming games, The Legend of Zelda franchise in regards to adventure, or the likes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill when discussing horror. While people do often debate the best entries into these franchises, if one were to discuss the genre of real-time strategy games, there is widely accepted to be one universal champion of the genre that has stood the test of time — Age of Empires 2. The game was originally released in 1999, but is still alive and well, with a thriving community, a 2019 rerelease that is being updated to this day, plenty of downloadable add-on content, and even a professional tournament scene.
While the Age of Empires franchise rose to true fame with its second installment, the first entry in the series has not attained the same fame. Originally released in 1997, Age of Empires placed players in the roles of one of the leaders of some of the world’s first civilizations as they worked to collect resources, advance technologies, create armies, and eventually overpower their enemies. Although it was not the first real-time strategy (RTS game), it was one of the more popular at the time, to the point where it also received an expansion (Rise of Rome) in 1998.
While innovative at the time, Age of Empires 1 fares poorly when compared to its successor in retrospect– notably for the primitive graphics and camera as well as a very straightforward, dull, and at times brutally difficult single-player mode — and was promptly overshadowed by its sequel the next year, which boasted major improvements in every category. Even a Definitive Edition that attempted to fix these issues was not very popular, and ended up being cast to the wayside in favor of the ever-evolving Age 2 and the recent production of Age of Empires 4. In both older and modern times, it would seem that the original game that started the legacy is widely forgotten — but a new, upcoming expansion pack for Age 2 promises to give it new life.
During the 25th Anniversary of the Age of Empires franchise in 2022, Microsoft celebrated with a live stream featuring teasers of many upcoming projects for the series — including Xbox compatibility for many games, a mobile game, and a much-anticipated revision to the popular spinoff Age of Mythology. The most unexpected of these announcements, though, was the reveal of Return of Rome — a project designed to bring AOE1 into AOE2‘s game engine and allow players to experience the old classic in the more refined format they have grown to love.
The expansion pack will feature the return of every single playable group from Age of Empires‘s Definitive Edition — resulting in the reintroduction of a grand total of 16 civilizations from the history of Europe, Asia, and Africa to the game franchise (including the Greeks, Yamato, Hittites, and of course, Romans), each with their own unique combination of technologies and units available. This would, technically, bring the total number of playable civilizations using the Age of Empires 2 game engine to a massive 58. Clashes between older and newer races, however, won’t be occurring — the technology tree and available units of Age 1 are too vastly different to those of Age 2 (primarily due to the fact that each game takes place in a different time period), so both single-player and multiplayer games are believed to only be able to take place between all Age 1 or all Age 2 civilizations.
It’s currently unknown if, much like other DLCs in the franchise, the names and civilizations used in Age 2’s campaigns will be changed to better reflect their historical affiliation (the most obvious example, in this case, would be changing the affiliation of the Western and Eastern Roman Empire used in some campaign missions from Byzantines to Romans). The separation of civilizations points to no, but as modified campaigns have featured renamed empires before, it’s not entirely off the table.
Fans of solo play are also excited about the importation of its single-player mode. In the Age of Empires series, a civilization will often have single-player missions or campaigns focused on their rise to power or the saga of one of their greatest leaders (for example, the fan-favorite Mongolian campaign is based around the life and raids of Ghengis Khan) — and with the return of old friends also comes plenty of revisions to their stories. Return of Rome will bring the ten campaigns from Age of Empires 1 (including the original tutorial and three major campaigns from the first game, four more from the Rise of Rome expansion, and another two added in Definitive Edition) into 2’s game engine, as well as provide them with some much-needed quality updates.
The original game featured 36 set missions (12 from the Ascent of Egypt tutorial, and another 8 each from the Greek, Babylonian, and Yamato campaigns). Rise of Rome would later add another 19, and the set was completed with an additional 6 in the Definitive Edition. If all of these missions will be ported into AOE2 during Return of Rome, this will bring the grand total of new campaign missions added to a massive 61 (not counting anything only available in demos) — more than all three of the previous DLC packs combined, even excluding the tutorials. It’s unknown exactly how many of the missions will be changed or outright removed for balance purposes, or even if any will be added to highlight other civilizations, but either way, players will have hours upon hours of single-player campaigns to play through again.
In addition, over 30 new achievements have been noted to be present in the Steam version (at least, according to its current page). While we assume a majority will be rewarded upon playing as each of the individual races and finishing the revised campaigns, playing as each of the 16 races and completing the ten campaigns would only result in earning 26 achievements — leaving us perplexed on what the remainder could be.
There are plenty of other questions we have regarding Return of Rome — particularly whether the original game and Definitive Edition‘s many bugs will be fixed, and if the updates to the civilizations and campaigns will come with better graphics to match — but even so close to its release, there is very little information regarding what the DLC will entail. However, fans are hoping that importing the old game into the new engine will give the origin of such a famous franchise the respect it deserves.
Earlier in April, an official date was finally confirmed for the release of AOE: Return of Rome — May 16. The base game is available on Xbox devices, Microsoft Windows, and Steam. Pre-orders are expected to be ready by the end of the month.
Do you think AOE: Return of Rome will be a great adaptation of the original, or will it still pale in comparison to AOE2’s classic gameplay? Are you looking forward to tackling the old missions in new ways? Be sure to let us know on our Facebook page!