The original Age of Empires released back in 1997, and since then, it has left a decades-spanning legacy of expansion media, sequels, spin-offs, and even a board game adaptation - much of which is still held in high regard by both long-time die-hard fans of the series, and many PC game players in general.
Now, the progenitor of that impressive legacy has returned in better form that even our wildest nostalgia-driven dreams would have conceived possible; the vintage program now able to fully take advantage of the latest hardware to recreate the isometric ancient world at the highest standards of audio-visual fidelity.
Age of Empires has always been the baseline for concisely simple and streamlined real-time strategy gameplay in a bird’s’ eye view setting. AoE1 is very much so an entry level RTS - and this is certainly is not a bad thing - a newcomer to the series doesn’t need to rely on learning strict build orders, or being able to boast a top-tier APM to be competitive, or need to read up on pages and pages of dense lore like other games in the genre. If you are a complete newcomer to Age of Empires who is looking for a starting point - regardless of your amount of prior RTS experience - AoE1DE is a good place to jump in right now.
All the bells and whistles one would expect on a release as grand as this are all here; a slew of interface and graphical options to display the game however you prefer - up to “4k ultra HD graphics”, fullscreen or windowed mode, framerate-capped or not, colourblind mode and easy-reading pop-up help - everything that has been learned from adding QoL improvements to games over the prior twenty-plus years is in here.
When you’re done tweaking the array of display options - extensive enough to lay the ghost of John Bain to rest - to your personal preference, there’s actual gameplay to be had too. AoE1DE comes with all the original vanilla campaigns, and those that were included in the 1998 expansion pack, ‘Rise of Rome’ and the fairly obscure demo disk Hittite campaign too. After finishing the many dozen campaign levels to be found within, there’s classic ‘Random Map’ levels to play endlessly. These are pick-up games, the parameters of which - map size, resource availability, victory conditions, player numbers, etc. - are entirely customizable to your heart’s content for a hugely replayable pool of content.
The same game type is also available for multiplayer; up to eight users can complete together under the exact same freedom of map choice. Crossplay from Steam to the Microsoft Store and vice-versa is standard and even in a place as devoid of local classic RTS players and functional bandwidth as rural Australia, the MP matchmaking still works.
The AoE1DE Steam release supports custom map support, has a large and active modding scene and regular tournament fanbase, and also comes with the full range of Steam Profile extra goodies like Trading Cards, a full Achievement roster, emotes, badges and whathaveyou. They’re not even selling it at the usual new-game full price, and it goes on sale regularly, just buy it if you’re interested.