With Age of Empires 3, Ensemble Studios first portrayed the colonization of America in 2005. Although the title never quite got the top ratings of its predecessor, it still offered very successful real-time strategy entertainment with numerous new ideas (such as the hometown and trade routes), tons of different units and a really stunning presentation for the time. Almost 15 years later, this very classic, rated the PC Games at 89 percent, Relaunched again – the expansions The WarChiefs and The Asian Dynasties included. Our test reveals exactly what has changed in the process.
Useful interface and gameplay tuning
Let's start with the numerous gameplay optimizations. One of the most noticeable by far is without a doubt the option of being able to choose between three different user interfaces at any time after switching to the main menu. It starts with the "Standard" setting. It is aimed at series newcomers and shows the map and the resource display at the bottom right of the picture. The developers placed the command panel in the lower left corner, while the banners are displayed in the upper left corner. The setting "Definitive" is in a very similar notch. The resource display moves into a narrow, but still easy to read bar at the top left of the screen. The big advantage in both cases compared to the original: By rearranging the buttons, you create significantly more space at the bottom of the screen and ultimately have an even better overview.
<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/10/age-of-empires-3-definitive-edition-01-pc-games.jpg" alt = "scene from the 4K – Version of Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition: Graphically, the general overhaul of the textures immediately catches the eye.
Source: PC Games
That leaves the classic view. Here, the map and the resource display are enthroned at the bottom left and the command panel at the bottom right. However, the area in between remains free, which also creates a little more space. As soon as the first batch has started, connoisseurs will immediately notice further improvements in comfort. Among other things, the camera zoom has been slightly expanded, which provides a little more overview, and buildings have been given a radius indicator. With its help you can see, for example, how far a watchtower shoots and can align defenses accordingly so that every area of your camp fortification is optimally covered.
Also practical: Ships can now set sail in orderly formations, scouts have an auto-scout function for the first time, buildings can finally be rotated outside of the scenario editor and a technology tree that can be viewed at any time helps beginners to keep the upgrade overview .
Further changes concern the hometown feature, which was already successful back then. As a reminder: At the push of a button, you could switch to the hometown of the respective faction without interruption and order deliveries to help the troops in the new world. Which bonuses are then available depends on the deck of cards that you had to put together yourself. The comfort of the Definitive Edition: If you don't have time to build a deck, you can now simply choose from the decks that are already available. It's also great that new bonus cards have been added to the game (such as grenade launchers), some familiar maps have been revised and all maps are unlocked from the start.
<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/10/age-of-empires-3-definitive-edition-03-pc-games.jpg" alt = "The hometowns of the total 16 nations look a lot and make it possible as usual to get deliveries to the new world on the way.
Source: PC Games
A look at the main menu also reveals two new game modes. The former is called "Art of War" and confronts you with eight different challenges that explain important gameplay mechanics such as the treasure hunt and then ask you to complete certain goals in a given time. Biggest motivational factor: Depending on the performance, the game will reward you with a bronze, silver or gold medal.
In the "Historical Battles" mode, on the other hand, the name says it all: you plunge into notable historical conflicts in order to achieve victory. It starts with the Battle of Algiers in 1516, in which you as barbarian pirates have to withstand a siege by the Spaniards. These and other scenarios – such as an expedition by Christopher Da Gama in 1542 or the battle for New Orleans in 1815 – are clearly aimed at advanced players and can take an hour or two depending on the procedure. Once you've completed an assignment, a spokesperson explains, accompanied by other scenes in in-game graphics, of how the battle ended at the time. A funny idea that could be continued in the future with any DLC packages.
<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/10/age-of-empires-3-definitive-edition-04-pc-games.jpg" alt = "The destructive effects can occur The same applies to the related collapse animations.
Source: PC Games
More sensitivity in dealing with indigenous peoples
When Age of Empires 3 appeared in 2005, the developers had to put up with clear criticism of the way in which the representation of indigenous peoples was handled. The creators of the Definitive Edition responded by bringing consultants from these same population groups on board and making various changes to the game. In the course of these measures, for example, old voice recordings were replaced by ones with authentic speakers, problematic mechanics and storylines were corrected and stereotypical representations were removed. For this reason, the fireplace from the original is now called "community space" and looks completely different.
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Since the indigenous peoples are very close to nature, they no longer engage in mining, but collect gold by trading in fur. Further modifications concern the renaming of some tribes. So the Iroquois are now called Haudenosaunee and the Sioux Lakota. In addition: The Crazy Horse character from the WarChief campaign – in English "crazy horse" – has been replaced by a character named Frank Warbonnet. Meaningful revisions that definitely deserve respect.
<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/10/age-of-empires-3-definitive-edition-05-pc-games.jpg" alt = "Before the campaign you have to choose between the three new interface layouts: In all three variants you have noticeably more visible area in the lower middle area than before.
Source: PC Games
The new factions: Inca and Sweden
If you add the factions of the two expansions, Age of Empires 3 originally offered 14 factions. The Definitive Edition increases this number to 16 with two exciting newcomers. On the one hand, there are the Inca based in South America. This ancient civilization is aimed primarily at defensive players and shines with all sorts of special buildings. The Kancha house, which costs 135 wood units, increases the population limit by twelve units and automatically generates food. In the fortified Tambo trading post, in turn, settlers can take shelter from enemy attacks. Since each Tambo raises the population limit by five units, the construction is worth twice as much.
With the Kallanka and the Stronghold, the Incas also have two military buildings at their disposal that allow troops to be stationed. Speaking of troops: every time Inca players reach a new age, they receive the Chasqui, a fast-paced scout who fights perfectly against treasure guards and even stomps tambos out of the ground. In addition, we do not want to ignore the priestess, who causes opponents to overflow, heals the wounded and does all kinds of work in the community center.
On the European side, on the other hand, the developers complemented the Swedes. The northerners with their hometown Stockholm only have a really unique building called Torp (produces food and serves ten population units), but they score with particularly cheap and fast deliveries from their hometown, additional arsenal upgrades and a whole range of powerful special troops. Above all the Caroleans: This Swedish musketeer unit is particularly dangerous for riders and is best used to fight alongside the new leather cannons, which mow down the infantry in record time. Not to be underestimated are the Hakkapelites – a fast and heavy cavalry unit from Finland, which causes massive damage in close combat. Ideal, for example, to quickly eliminate settlers collecting resources or to fall into the flank of opposing infantry.
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<img src = "https://www.pcgames.de/screenshots/960x/2020/10/age-of-empires-3-definitive-edition-06-pc-games.jpg" alt = "Typical AI problem : Troops that are shot at from distant ships often stay in place instead of fleeing or fighting back.
Source: PC Games
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