Even the people who made Age of Empires didn’t want to mess with the series’ reputation. A fourth game won’t come out until October 2021, 16 years after Age of Empires III. If you’re still looking for something similar, we’ve put together a quick list of six strategy games that we think are pretty cool and follow the same pattern.
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We didn’t include games like Command and Conquer or Starcraft II because, even though they are also RTS games, they are very influenced by their settings and are different in important ways. Age of Empires is a historical strategy game first and foremost, so with only a couple of exceptions, we’ll be looking at RTS games that also start with history.
Empire Earth is what you’d get if you took the basic mechanics of Age of Empires and added the long-term design goals of Civilization. You can start a game in prehistoric times and play it all the way through to the near future, which is a great contrast to Ensemble’s behemoth.
Even though this takes away some of Age of Empires’ depth and nuance due to its more focused time periods, you’re still basically playing a Civ game in real time, which more than makes up for it. Empire Earth 2 added a small new feature by dividing the land into chunks that you had to control before you could build on them. This made the map more useful for strategy, especially when useful late-game resources started to show up. We don’t talk about Empire Earth 3, but the first two games are pretty cheap on GOG.com right now.
RISE OF NATIONS
Rise of Nations was made by Brian Reynolds, who is known for making Civilization II and Alpha Centauri. It tries to bring the ideas of Civilization and turn-based strategy games in general into real time, rather than directly competing with Age of Empires.
Still, the place where it landed was very similar to both Empire Earth and Age of Empires, since it also covered all of human history. You can take charge of any of 18 different civilizations, each of which has its own unique units and traits. The rest of the time, these civilizations have nothing to do with real life, and you have a lot of freedom in how you build them up as the game goes on.
0 A.D. started out as a total conversion mod for Age of Empires 2. Now, it’s an open-source, free historical RTS game that has been worked on by over 100 people over the past twenty years. It’s still being worked on, and even though Age of Empires IV is coming out soon, it’s still a very popular alternative to Age of Empires I because it only goes up to the year 1 CE. It also has a more complex economic system than Age of Empires.
As of this writing, there is still no plan for when the game will be done, and an IndieGoGo campaign in 2013 did not raise the needed $160,000.
Many modern RTS games have tried to be like Age of Empires, and this one with a Viking theme is probably one of the better ones. This is a great modern take on the strategy series. Most of the other games on this list are from when the series was at its best.
In Northgard, you take charge of one of almost a dozen clans of Vikings in a fantasy world who have just landed on the edge of new, unexplored land.
You have to build up your village and tame the land around you while dealing with mythical monsters and other aggressive clans. It is different because it uses indirect control and has a winter phase that you need to plan for or your village will starve. Each clan has a very different way of playing, and Shiro Games, the company that makes the game, has given it a lot of love and support over the years by adding new content and game modes.
STAR WARS: GALACTIC BATTLEGROUNDS
Galactic Battlegrounds is a Star Wars game that is often forgotten, but it is important because it was also made by Ensemble. It came out in 2001, a few years after the very popular Age of Empires II from the same studio. The short version is that this is basically Age of Empires with a Star Wars theme, but there’s more to it than that.
Even with the expansion that added more about the Clone Wars, it’s not the best Star Wars game ever made. Since they didn’t come out until around the same time as Episode II, they didn’t get to take advantage of a lot of the good things that have been done with the setting since the prequels. Still, you can get it on Steam for less than $5, and people love to talk about it. There are also some great mods for it.
This is probably the best game like Age of Empires that you haven’t heard of. It was made by a small independent team and published by Slitherine. It takes a lot of ideas from AOE. It also has pretty stylish graphics, a good artificial intelligence, and some well-made factions.
You can play a basic version of the game for free, and then you can buy micro-expansions to play with other civilizations. There are skirmishes with the AI, online multiplayer, a survival mode, and a challenge mode. Empires Apart had trouble getting off the ground, even after it switched to a free-to-play model, but it’s a pretty good and under-appreciated homage to Age of Empires. As we wait for Age of Empires IV, it’s important to keep projects like this in mind.
AGE OF MYTHOLOGY
Age of Mythology and Age of Empires are very similar in a lot of ways. A lot more than you might think. Ensemble Studios, the same company that made Age of Empires, was in charge of making the game. The game is a spin-off of the original, but it focuses more on mythology than on history. That’s not too far off!
Age of Mythology takes place in Atlantis and focuses on famous stories and myths from Greece, Egypt, and Norse mythology. As a spin-off, the game is very similar to Age of Empires in how it lets you build an army, conquer other civilizations, and manage your resources.
You can choose between the Greek, Egyptian, or Nose civilizations. Each civilization has its own religion and way of life.
Depending on which empire you choose, the game lets you choose the major god, and as you play, you can unlock other minor gods who give players special abilities.
Age of Mythology is a subtle but refreshing change from Age of Empires. It has great gameplay that was inspired by Age of Empires, but it can still stand on its own. It’s perfect for Empires fans who want a change of pace that doesn’t change the main ideas of the original game.