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Get your swords and shields ready for an Ultra HD version of 'Age of Empires'

Age of Empires: Definitive Edition announcement trailer
During the PC Gaming Show event at E3 2017, Microsoft Studios unveiled Age of Empires: Definitive Edition as part of the game’s 20th anniversary. The company is bringing the classic real-time strategy game into the new visual age of 4K with revamped and enhanced visuals for ultra-high visual goodness, “modernized” gameplay, and the ability to play online through Xbox Live.

That said, Microsoft Studios overhauled the entire game by upgrading every asset so it looks superb on your Ultra HD TV. That means smoother battleground terrain, properly shaded characters and structures, and buildings with greater detail. There are new zoom levels, an overhauled user interface for clean, easy troop management on Ultra HD screens, and even an “Idle Villager” button.

But the visual improvement isn’t the only change. Microsoft Studios set out to bring the gameplay into the modern era such as an attack-move mechanic and control groups. The studio also implemented a pathfinding feature so that units don’t find themselves lost as they travel to their objective. Overall, the AI is better than before so players can focus on experimenting with the new commands to defeat the enemy.

“We have put a ton of cool new stuff in this 4K remastered version of our original game,” the company said. “Including all upgraded art assets, completely new narration throughout, and hundreds of new and rebuilt sound effects! The game will include single player and multiplayer modes, as well as a classic mode for when you just need to get the look and feel of that good ol’ AoE!”

Age of Empires: Definitive Edition will rely on achievements, lobbies, and a matchmaking system. There will be stat tracking too so that gamers can brag and compare their conquests. Enhancing both online and offline gameplay will be a completely remastered soundtrack based on a live symphony, bringing the game up-to-speed with today’s games on an audible level.

Microsoft originally published Age of Empires for the PC in October of 1997. Developed by Ensemble Studios, it’s based on a 2D sprite-based game engine called Genie, and became a huge hit. Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings arrived in 1999, followed by Age of Empires III in 2005. The original game focused on an era spanning from the Stone Age to the Iron Age in Africa, Asia, and Europe.

The move to provide a Definitive Edition for Age of Empires is part of Microsoft’s big push for PC gaming. The revamped game will presumably be offered through the Windows Store later this year, but anxious fans can test-drive the game now through a closed beta offered here (warning: the site is very slow). The system specifications are unknown, but given the game’s age, it should run well on hardware configurations that support a 3,840 x 2,160 resolution at a decent framerate.

Unfortunately, we have no indication regarding a possible Xbox One version, and if it will become a Play Anywhere title as a result. However, with the release of Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, fans of the classic can finally toss out their decrepit copy stored on a CD-ROM disc … unless you’re a hoarder, of course.

For more E3 2017 coverage, we have it all right here.

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Kevin Parrish
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