It's challenging not to mention the Age of Empires series when discussing remarkable real-time strategy games. Originating in 1997, the franchise has maintained its strength for nearly twenty-five years. Age of Empires 4's launch has revived interest in this beloved series, leaving many fans surprised yet thrilled to finally experience a new AoE game after what seemed like an eternity. While it's been a while since the last Age of Empires release graced most PCs, the news of a console version is particularly exciting for Xbox players eager to delve into this title.

But when it comes to determining the standout entry in the series, the abundance of outstanding mainline games makes it a tough choice. Yet, certain titles possess that elusive "special something" that elevates them above the others. There's a genuine reason why both fans and critics hold these games in such high regard. While personal preferences inevitably vary among players, there's a general consensus that certain games in the series stand out due to their technical superiority and various other reasons.

1. Age of Empires 2

Age of Empires 2 holds a prominent place in the hearts of fans and critics alike as the standout of the franchise. Remarkably, its popularity remained steadfast even after two decades. The game notably underwent two remakes during its lifetime and found its way onto various platforms, including mobile devices. The Conquerors expansion, released in 2000, introduced fresh campaigns like Attila the Hun and El Cid.

Age Of Empires Ii
Age of Empires 2

While the original release was impressive, its subsequent re-releases have taken the spotlight. Compared to today's standards, the controls, akin to the initial Age of Empires, feel cumbersome. Numerous quality-of-life enhancements and overall presentation upgrades have been implemented since its debut in 1999. The continuous updates underscore the enduring popularity of Age of Empires 2, with dedicated players still actively engaging in its campaigns—both old and new—or participating in the notably active multiplayer mode.

2. Age of Mythology

Not every Age of Empires installment adheres strictly to historical accuracy. Age of Mythology, a spin-off title, trades knights and musketeers for mythical creatures and revered gods. While retaining the core gameplay, it infuses a fantastical element—summoning the gods of Mount Olympus to vanquish foes is a tempting prospect.

Age Of Mythology
Age of Mythology

The reception of Age of Mythology was resoundingly positive, leading to the release of two expansion packs: The Titans and Tale of the Dragon. Following suit with other games in the series, Age of Mythology received an Extended Edition featuring much-needed graphic enhancements for HD quality. Blending classic AoE real-time strategy gameplay with a hefty dose of fantasy, the game served as a compelling middle ground for players seeking a departure from historical scenarios.

3. Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition

It's widely acknowledged that Age of Empires 2 stands out as the top contender among its peers. The arrival of Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition was a dream fulfilled for devoted series enthusiasts. At last, one of the benchmarks in the real-time strategy genre was brought up to speed with modern gaming standards.

Age Of Empires Ii Definitive Edition
Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition

A key highlight highlighted by the developers was the enhanced AI. In the Definitive Edition, players and AI engage on a more level playing field, eliminating the need for the AI to resort to cheating to maintain aggression. To the delight of fans, a notable addition was the "auto-replenish" feature for farms, eradicating a previously frustrating aspect from earlier versions. This edition encompasses all expansions, including ongoing development of new ones. Undoubtedly, it stands as the optimal way to relish this timeless powerhouse.

4. Age of Empires

This game set the stage. In the original Age of Empires, players can lead one of twelve civilizations, guiding their evolution from a primitive society to rulers of the Iron Age. It includes four single-player campaigns focused on the Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, and Yamato civilizations. The Rise of Rome expansion pack delves into the challenges faced by the ancient Roman Empire.

Age Of Empires
Age of Empires

The 1997 Age of Empires remains a celebrated classic. Subsequent entries significantly enhance its outdated and cumbersome control system. The graphics are notably dated, serving as a clear reminder of its age. Nostalgia might be the primary factor drawing fans back to this inaugural title. However, sometimes, nostalgia alone is enough to deeply engage players with a video game, and the original Age of Empires certainly possesses this quality in abundance.

5. Age of Empires 4

Age of Empires 4 adds another strong chapter to the franchise, offering fans seeking medieval action a compelling choice. The game significantly improves base management, making controls and accessibility smoother than ever. The civilizations are richly developed, showcasing diverse units, special abilities, structures, and progression through the ages. Its campaigns delve into well-known moments of medieval history, providing a more informative experience than earlier entries.

Age Of Empires 4 April Event Announcement
Age of Empires 4

However, Age of Empires 4 does have its downsides. The graphics aren't particularly remarkable, and the combat mechanics mostly adhere to a familiar formula. Despite informative intro presentations in the campaigns, they lack the creative spark that made Age of Empires 2's campaigns so memorable. The repetitive use of the same voice in storybook-style narration becomes monotonous over time. It's the absence of inventive details that slightly diminishes this game compared to its successor.

6. Age of Empires 3

Age of Empires 3 marked a departure into a new historical epoch for the series. Shifting away from ancient and medieval Europe, it delves into colonial America. Its narrative follows the Black family across three generations in its campaign. Additional civilizations and story content were introduced through two expansion packs, The WarChiefs and The Asian Dynasties.

Age Of Empires Iii
Age of Empires 3

One of the game's standout aspects during its release was its graphics, which, combined with a new physics system, made combat more engaging to observe. The introduction of the "Home City" concept added an extra dimension to resource management. This allowed players to deploy beneficial shipments strategically, offering an advantage at crucial moments. While these features were welcomed, some individuals felt that the game lacked a certain spark, preventing it from achieving the same iconic status as its predecessors.

7. Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition

When a title bears the tag "definitive edition," it typically implies that this specific version surpasses all others in quality. Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition effectively addresses many of the persistent issues present in the original release and introduces previously lacking features.

Age Of Empires Iii Definitive Edition
Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition

Enhancements extend beyond graphics, which now boast a 4K treatment, to incorporate new civilizations, sounds, assets, and animations. Notably, the AI demonstrates marked improvement, challenging players on a more level playing field without resorting to unfair advantages. Although there are a few bugs, the overall package is significantly superior to its 2005 counterpart.

8. Age of Empires: Definitive Edition

The 1997 edition of Age of Empires presents a nightmare when played on modern systems. In 2018, Microsoft opted to revive this ancient relic. Despite a somewhat turbulent release, Age of Empires: Definitive Edition stands as the optimal means to relive this classic gem.

Age Of Empires Definitive Edition
Age of Empires: Definitive Edition

Visually, the game undergoes an HD makeover and incorporates 4K support, enhancing its appearance. Furthermore, the sound quality receives significant improvements, delivering a crisper and more satisfying auditory experience. Crucial elements like pathfinding, vital in any Age of Empires game, undergo much-needed adjustments, along with various other minor quality-of-life enhancements.

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