We have already gotten the definitive editions of the first two, but now it’s time for the last one in line: Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition. The original Age of Empires III dates back to 2005. Arguably, the third game in this franchise was not the best one. Some really loved it, others thought it was not worth their time. Maybe this remastered version can change the minds of the latter ones. And if not, the former can enjoy this glorious game once again! The definitive edition includes the original game, as well as both The WarChiefs and The Asian Dynasties expansion packs. On top of the updated graphics, it also welcomes some new features, so let’s dive into it, shall we?!
What we liked!
- History: Since Age of Empires III is a historical RTS, representing the correct historical events is quite important and can be interesting to learn from. When starting the DE version, the developers show you a small note first, admitting that they didn’t portrait everything correctly back in 2005 and took liberties in the depiction of Indigenous civilizations, as well as events and personages from American history. They say they value authenticity and respectful representations grounded in truth, so for this version, they collaborated with Native American and First Nations consultants in order to correct said errors. Inaccurate and stereotypical depictions were replaced, new voiceovers were created using authentic speakers, and problematic mechanics and storylines were reviewed. I found this a very important note and can only applaud this!
- New game modes: AoE3: DE introduces two new game modes. The first one is called Historical Battles, and you can pretty much guess from the name what this means. You get to relive history’s greatest battles of all time. There’s no customization here, obviously, except for the difficulty (standard, moderate or hard). Based on which difficulty level you choose, you can collect medals. The second new mode is The Art of War, and man, did I love this one (even though I sucked at it). This mode is basically just a range of challenge missions where you can practice your skills in a series of short challenges. There’s a total of 10 missions, and before attempting each one, you have to watch a cinematic. I don’t know why they made this mandatory, honestly. You can take as long as you want to complete each mission, but there are also medals to be earned here. The first 7 ‘arts of war’ have time limits that you need to beat in order to get a bronze, silver, or gold medal. The last three are about not losing a certain amount of units and ships. I really, really enjoyed these challenges, even though getting medals was really difficult for me.
- Plenty of gameplay: Seeing as the game now offers two extra modes, there is plenty of gameplay to go around. It can be a bit overwhelming when you see the menu for the first time (and definitely if you’re a first time AoE player) but don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it soon enough. You have your basic story mode, where you follow campaigns. I very much enjoyed the variety of scenarios here. There’s also the historical battles and Art of War, which I explained in the previous point. If you enjoy battling AIs, there is the Skirmish mode, where you can play Supremacy or Deathmatches. There’s also a multiplayer mode, which I didn’t try out yet since I tested this game before the release and I couldn’t find any games to join. Of course, there’s also your Home City and a tutorial in which you can learn the basics or actually try a game to see if you’re ready for the other modes. Safe to say that there is a little something for everyone. Personally, I’m a fan of campaigns, so I spent most of my time here. The Art of War was definitely also worth my time, and I very much enjoyed this.
- Updated graphics and sound: Of course, a definitive edition wouldn’t be complete without enhanced graphics. AoE3: DE did a pretty good job here. I looked at some before and after shots, and plenty of work was done for this ‘new’ release, where they are now using 4K Ultra HD. People, landscapes, and buildings look so much better and more detailed than before. I really enjoyed taking everything in just by looking at my screen. With a game like this, sounds are also very important. Even though they pretty much had the audio part nailed down in the original game, some remastering was done for the definitive version. The game now features fully enhanced audio, and it’s a nice addition. I especially liked playing as the Dutch and hearing some Dutch words here and there.
- New civilizations: Besides two new game modes, Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition also offers two new civilizations: the Swedes and the Inca. This gives a total of 16 civilizations to choose from. Of course, these newcomers have their own strengths and weaknesses.
- HUD: There are no less than 3 HUD layouts to choose from. There’s the classic HUD, which is almost the same as in the original game. Then there’s a definitive HUD, which is almost the same as in the other DE versions of the franchise. I enjoyed this one the most because I found it very intuitive to use. The third one is the default HUD, which is a combination of the two others. The veteran players will probably enjoy the classic one the most, but for new players, I recommend trying them all out, because they are all interesting. It basically just comes down to personal preference. I’m glad we have options here!
- Nothing to see here, sorry! Please continue reading because unfortunately, there is a dislike as well.
What we disliked
- Bugs: Since this is a remaster of an old game, I expected fewer bugs and glitches. Unfortunately, this was not the case. At one point, two of my villagers were stuck in a rock somehow? I wanted them to go mine for gold, but when sending them there, they didn’t move at all and seemed to be stuck in a big rock. I don’t know why this happened, but it sucked because now I had two useless villagers. Then there’s also the moving around of large armies. It just doesn’t go smoothly. And I know that this is an older game, but it often frustrated me when my army did useless walks or took a weird path, and then seemed to block for a few seconds. I want to see a cool, strong army, not a bunch of imbeciles that don’t know where to go.
Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition does what is expected of it. It’s an update of a 15-year old game. Better graphics and sound are very welcome here, but I mostly enjoyed the new modes. There’s so much content here that you can try out, I’m sure everyone will find something they like. I’m very glad they took a look at the historical errors in the game and corrected these as well. All in all, a very fun RTS with a few bugs that sometimes get in your way, but won’t ruin your experience too much.
Head of PC team. PC, Switch, and Xbox game reviewer. Also a marketeer, concert and animal lover, and photographer in training 🙂