Originally released in 2005 with additional civilisation DLCs in 2006 and 2007, the game was a critical and commercial success at release, and 15 years later it joins the other two Age of Empires games in getting a high-definition remaster courtesy of Tantalus Media and Forgotten Empires, published by Microsoft for PC and Xbox.
Microsoft provided a review copy of the game for PC, allowing me to indulge in one of my favourite computer gaming pastimes – imperialist warmongering – as well as experiencing Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition had to offer.
The remaster went beyond giving everything a fresh coat of pixel-paint though, with the developers re-recording the dialogue for the many Native civilisations in the game with members of the applicable groups speaking their native language. It works really well and adds to the game in a small but appreciable way.
The Definitive Edition also provides two new civilisations – the Inca and Sweden – along with cross-play multiplayer, an improved UI (to make it feel more like a contemporary RTS), and two new game modes.
Of the three Age of Empires games, I enjoyed the third one the best, not only due to its time period but due to the gameplay and the way the stories worked, and they hold up remarkably well.
This isn’t going to be a long review, simply because the game itself is 15 years old and the focus here is on the remaster, not the core game made when Destiny’s Child were still performing together.
The graphics are hugely improved and look really, really good. I was playing on a 34in widescreen Alienware AW3420DW 1440p monitor and everything was sharp, clear and easy to see; you can zoom in and out to a comfortable level and there’s a surprising but not distracting amount of detail.
The team at Tantalus and Forgotten Empires have done a fantastic job remastering the game, and it’s testament to both the solidity of the core experience and the remastering team’s work that the result has come together as well as it has.
With an appeal that goes beyond nostalgia, Age of Empires III Definitive Edition is both an excellent remaster and still a great game in its own right, and is up there alongside the Command & Conquer: Complete Collection as a masterclass in remastering a classic game.