A new Age of Empires is upon us for the first time in over a decade. Ensemble Studios is gone, but Relic Entertainment is stepping in to try to fill their big shoes. None of this is new to anyone reading this by now, but as I learned the news, I felt a sinking feeling in my gut and a burning question in my mind; what time period will be featured in this installment?
Short Answer: The Modern Era
I originally felt that these developers, on orders from Microsoft, would have screwed everything up and set the game in the ancient world in order to appeal to fans of the old games. That theory makes no sense, as Age of Empires Definitive Edition has already been announced.
For the long answer, including justification of my predictions, we’ll look at three pieces of evidence; the visuals from the announcement trailer, the dialogue from the announcement trailer, and a photograph of a rather tantalizing page from the art book in the physical release of the Age of Empires 3 Collector’s Edition. Before anything else though, let’s look at the trailer one more time. Pay attention to the imagery and what it depicts.
Notice how the images scroll from left to right, like a timeline. It’s a small detail but an important one. More important, however, are the images themselves. At the beginning of the trailer, an ancient battle with ancient weaponry, is depicted. As the trailer moves on, we see depictions of empires and battles occurring in a later point in history. We see the Roman empire.
We see what looks to be a battle taking place in the middle ages – notice the cannon in the bottom left.
We see warships.
We even see what look to be musketeers.
As well as a (presumably but it’s debatable) Japanese horse-mounted soldier.
All of these images are depicting periods of history, yes, but more importantly, they represent the arc of the games in the Age of Empires series. From the ancient battles of the original game, to the introduction of the Romans in the Rise of Rome expansion – on and on, through the middle ages period in Age of Empires 2, and of course the colonial period of Age of Empires 3, it’s all there.
The dialogue provides more evidence for the ‘modern era’ theory. Through the magic of human hearing capabilities, and YouTube closed captions, I have a write-up of the dialogue right here.
Time changes everyone and everything
Empires will rise
Kingdoms will fall
The grounds of battle become stained with fire and blood
But our thirst for adventure
Will stand the test of time
We have battled through history
Now a new age is upon us
Notice the way that the tone changes through the trailer. It discusses the rise and fall of civilizations, the flow of time, worn and ravaged battlefields, exploration, and conquest. This all happens in a typical match of any Age of Empires game, but it’s also happened throughout the Age of Empires series, and therefore, human history.
Those last two lines are of particular interest to us; “we have battled through history, now a new age is upon us”. This implies that we will be seeing a brand-new period of history, one that has not yet been explored in this series. The modern day.
My third piece of evidence should speak for itself.