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The game of the series, simply called Age of Empires III was released in October of 2005, and is set during The Colonial Period, with seven European civilizations (Spanish, British, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Russian and German) and the Ottoman Empire as playable civilizations.
Among the features of the series' gameplay, there's the Hometown, which sends shippings such as troops, technology or resources, and the addition of 12 native tribes and trade routes. In order to be able to send shipments, the player must gain experience points which are obtained during normal gameplay. Also, unlike the previous games, all the civilizations are completely different, and have more twists than in previous games. And, like Mythology and their Gods, in order to advance to another age, the player must choose a Politician.
The game features a single-player campaign made of three acts, (Blood, Ice and Steel) which follows the story of the Black family on their travels against their antagonists, the Ossus Circle, and with the Fountain of Youth as a key plot point across the three acts. The acts are narrated by Amelia Black, the protagonist of Steel.
The first expansion pack, Age of Empires III: The Warchiefs, was released a year after the original game, and featured three of the native civilizations of the first game as playable: the Aztecs, the Sioux and the Iroquois.
It also had many other twists such as new buildings, (the Saloon and the Native Embassy) units, (gunpowder cavalry, petards and spies) and the chance to go to an alternative fifth era for the European civilizations; and unique twists to the three new civilizations such as the firepit (where the villagers can dance in order to obtain a bonus such as creating healing priests, gaining more experience and raising the population's limit) and unique big buttons for many buildings.
The Single-Player campaign, this time composed of two acts, (Fire and Shadow) which extended the Black family's lore by focusing on Amelia's father and son respectively, with Amelia starring as the narrator, as well as doing a cameo appearance in Shadow.
Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties, the second Expansion Pack, was developed this time by Big Huge Games and Ensemble Studios, and it was released in 2007, just a year after Warchiefs and two years after the original game.
This Expansion Pack added other three new civilizations to the game, this time from the Far East. (Imperial China, Japan and India) It included such bonuses for them as the Export resource and the Consul.
The singleplayer campaign this time was set in three different historical events: the unification of Japan, the Chinese landing in the Americas and the Sepoy revolution in India.
There's also a version of the original game for the N-Gage phone, made by Giu Mobile in 2009.
After the demise of Ensemble Studios, Robot Entertainment (a development house made of former Ensemble employees) is developing the updates and maintaining the ESO service.
Age of Empires III, The Warchiefs and The Asian Dynasties give examples of:
- Anyone Can Die: Armies aside, a fair amount of main and supporting characters bite the dust across the campaigns. The countdown includes Francisco Delgado and Alain Magnan in Blood; Stuart Black, John Black and Warwick in Ice; Major Cooper and Pierre Beaumont in Steel; Sven Kuechler in Fire; William Holme and George Armstrong Custer in Shadows; Daimyoes Mototada and Ishida (among many others) in Japan; Admiral Jinhai in China; and Colonel Edwardson in India.
- Anachronism Stew: Given how Ages work (and the chance to pit out pikemen against Napoleonic musketeers), this is inevitable. But the languages used can also serve as an example, especially in the campaigns. It can be jarring, for instance, to hear Anglo-American heroes speak (more or less) Modern English while your British units still talk as though stuck in the 16th Century.
- Anti-Grinding: The introduction of an RPG-like system into the battles in the form of the Metropoli and the cards also brought the expected problems, solved in the following ways:
- The multiplayer cap of experience gained by match in both Skirmish and Deathmatch is about 30.000 Experience Points per match.
- Some campaign maps have a cap on the amount of experience you can gather, such as "Respect" the sixth mission in Ice, where Kanyenke and John tries to gain the favour of the Lakota Tribe Chiefs. Other campaign missions, by way of being timed missions, don't let the player to level up a lot, such as the first and sixth mission of Blood ("Breakout" and "A Pirate's Help") and the first and seventh mission of Ice. ("Defend the Colony" and "Warwick's Stronghold")
- Attack of the 50 Foot Whatever: The "George Crushington" cheat unit. It's a giant, hopping bust of Washington that headbutts enemies to death with a BIFF! or a ZOINK! and shoots fireballs from its eyes.
George Crushington: "CHECK IN YOUR WALLET. THAT'S ME ON THE DOLLAR BILL."
- Arrows on Fire: Archers attacking a building.
- Ascended Extra: The Aztecs, the Sioux and the Iroquois were just native tribes in the original game. In Warchiefs said tribes were made as playable, with the Iroquois and the Sioux having a War Council instead of a Hometown. Oh, and the two acts of the campaign (Fire and Shadow respectively) focuses on both of them.
- Ascended Meme: One of the pre-recorded taunts players can send each other is a hilariously British-accented "I'm in your base, killing your d00dz".
- Author Appeal / Creator Thumbprint: One of the chief developers is an Aztec fanboy. This is why the Aztecs were upgraded to playable faction in the first sequel, rather than what most fans had expected, the Inca.
- Awesome but Impractical: The "Big Buttons" in Warchiefs, with various powerful abilities for the Native civilizations. For the Aztecs, these buttons would each send a shipment of units, the number of which depending on how long the game has been running. If the game has been running for at least 30 minutes, you could splurge and instantly produce an army over a hundred men strong... Though the likelihood of someone having that many resources to blow on a normal game are quite slim.
- Banner armies, not only are they Anachronism Stew (banner armies are strictly Manchu organizations which are only available during Qing dynasty and yet most of the campaigns are set in Ming), they mean that you need a relatively larger amount of resources to restock casualties, and that for every types of units you want, there probably will be more other types that you don't and unavoidably built anyways.
- Awesome Yet Practical: Chinese flamethrowers. The continuous stream of damage adds up pretty fast, and the splash radius and damage multipliers against infantry means that half a dozen flamethrowers can sweep away a large infantry force far faster than any other field artillery unit type. They also are pretty effective against buildings.
- Bandito: Some are available as mercenaries.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy:
- Anything dealing with the very existence of the Circle of Ossus in III:
The main reason for the Great Siege of Malta, as seen in Blood, was so the Ottoman Turks could get info on the Circle of Ossus, the Fountain of Youth, and the New World.
The Seven Years War in Ice was an attempt by the Circle of Ossus to obtain the Fountain of Youth by using the Russian Czar to conquer the Americas for them while the Western colonial powers were killing each other.
- The Ming Chinese in the China campaign landed in the Americas and fought a secret war amongst themselves before erasing almost all traces of their presence.
- And then, there're more "mundane" things like Turkish outposts in South America, the knocking off of an entire Spanish Treasure Fleet, the course of the Seven Years War and Custer's Last Stand, and how many historical characters or organizations get involved in the plot.
- Anything dealing with the very existence of the Circle of Ossus in III:
- BFG: The Monitor, and the Ottoman Great Bombard and the mercenary Lil' Bombard. Guaranteed to ruin someone's day when they start firing. Ottoman Abus guns are portable cannons and the only infantry to deal siege-type damage.
- BFS: The Chinese Changdao. If you're not paying attention, you might think these guys are actually carrying a spear.
- Big Damn Heroes:
- In "Breakout", from Blood, Alain Magnan comes with his cavalry to ban the Ottoman forces from Malta.
- In "Temple of the Aztecs", also from Blood, the Aztec forces come to ban the Spanish from their lands.
- In "Defend the Colony", from Ice, John's Mercenaries come to defend the colony after the time is out.
- Bilingual Bonus: A peculiar subversion. Native speakers of French, Spanish, German, Russian, Portuguese, Dutch and Turkish will have little trouble understanding the phrases used by these civilisations, as they use the modern variant of their respective languages. Native English speakers, on the other hand, are stuck with the British speaking in 16th century Early Modern English.
- Bling of War : Your units will wear increasingly colorful armor/uniforms as you upgrade them. Also a case where Informed Equipment is averted.
- Bottomless Magazines: Technically, the units clearly reload their projectile weapons in between firing them. But they never run out of ammunition, or for attacking buildings, torches.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Player Characters often explicitly refers to the fact that they are part of a computer game.
- One specific example from the campaigns: in the Saratoga mission of the Fire campaign, Nathaniel Black mentions advancing to the Fortress Age.
- Call That a Formation: Generally averted, as the different formations available all have their uses in certain situations.
- Classic Cheat Code: tuck tuck tuck.
- Convection, Schmonvection: Averted, for both RTS and AOE standards: some missions in the campaigns (such as a mission in Los Andes in Steel after helping Bolivar, or Valley Forge in Fire after Saratoga) have the cold depleting your units' health.
- Crippling Overspecialization: There are a lot of units with a low base attack damage but high multipliers against certain unit types, meaning that they're pretty rubbish against anything but those specific types. Culverins, for example, are nearly useless against anything but ships or other artillery.
- Damn You, Muscle Memory!: The first two games have one and two-button interfaces. This series, only one.
- Damage Is Fire: Justified: historically, professional armies (before the invention of electricity or reliable lighting) carried various unlit wooden torches with them into battle tucked into various places that they could light up and use in night fighting or when they had to burn something. The number a given soldier will use in short succession is still ludicrous, through.
- Deadpan Snarker: Several Player Characters as the AI.
- Defeat Means Friendship: The British army John and Kanyenke defeat in the the fourth level of Ice. But there's also another British army which subverts this: the one led by Warwick, a member of the Circle, who is also a renegade from the British army.
- Doing It for the Art: The 4599 separate lines for just the skirmish AI (found in Age of Empires III/Sound/Chats directory) seems to be quite a testament to this.
- Easy Communication: The formation buttons.
- Easy Logistics: Home-city shipments can't get lost at sea, or delayed due to bad weather, and paying for a blockade is a one-time investment. The Asian civilizations in Asian Dynasties can get support from other civilizations, even if that civilization is an enemy, which can lead to Redcoats fighting Redcoats. Units never run out of ammunition (or while attacking buildings, torches).
- Edutainment Game: The first purpose of the game is entertainment, but there's plenty of historical information available, with the multiplayer interface having a sidebar displaying random historical factoids. Other examples include:
- The first few missions of Blood happening during the Siege of Malta.
- The fourth mission of Ice has the player fighting in the Seven Years War for the French.
- Fire takes place during The American Revolution.
- The Japan campaign takes place during the unification of Japan and ends with the battle of Sekigahara.
- The India campaign takes place during the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857.
- Enemy Exchange Program: In Warchiefs, the namesake Warchiefs have the ability to convert treasure guardians.
- Final Death: As per RTS standards, averted, thanks to the Gameplay Ally Immortality: this means that the campaign heroes, explorers, Warchiefs, and monks getting KOed does not mean Game Over. Other mission-critical units such as Bahadur Sah... not so much.
- Firewood Resources: Averted as per both RTS and AOE standards: the units don't need to carry the wood/food/gold to the nearest Town Center nor there is the need for a specialized building for this.
- Friendly Fireproof
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: The info on the units show the developers know the game's representation of them aren't really like that, but nonetheless, there are many breaks from reality - for example, muskets can fire around every three seconds where in real life they took significantly longer to reload (The unit info itself stating that a competent musketeer could fire four times a minute)
- The Japan campaign allows the player to advance to the Industrial Age, which gives you access to your main anti-building artillery..... and allows you to upgrade your Trade Routes to railroads. In 1600.
- Gender Is No Object: Women villagers and women explorers.
- Generational Saga: The campaigns of III and Warchiefs tell the tale of the Black family.
- Genre Shift: To a degree; the introduction of storylines revolving around fountains of youth and secret societies was a pretty noteworthy one for a series whose campaigns had previously been focused upon the relatively accurate retelling of actual historical events.
- Gentleman Adventurer / Great White Hunter: The explorer.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: There's an unlockable visual customization for your home city's harbor called 'A nice lady', further described as 'a soiled dove'. Guess what it means.
- Giant Squid: Appears in Asian Dynasties, but in a completely different manner to most media portrayals. Rather than as grossly over-sized mosnters from the deep, the squids are harmless creatures, actually portrayed with the same size as in Real Life, being around 5 metres with the tentacles, rather than over 20. Other than that, they never attack you, but are actually acting like any fish in the game, such as salmon and cod, and only exists to be caught by you. Also, they only appear in the Honshu map, where real Giant Squid actually lives.
- Gondor Calls for Aid: In the first mission of Blood, the Knights of St. John are near defeat when the bombards show, so they send some settlers to light a signal fire to call for reinforcements from Alain.
- Glass Cannon: Artillery and Skirmishers. (Archers and Riflemen) The Uhlans are a mix of this and Fragile Speedster.
- Russian Oprnichiks are fragile and have relatively low base damage, but have a very strong anti-building attack and a huge damage multiplier against settlers. A dozen of them can cripple an enemy's economy within a minute.
- Guide Dang It: Fun fact - most ranged attacks from infantry are twice as slow as melee attacks in attack rate. Notably, that means musketeers will generally do more damage if attacking in melee rather than ranged. Unfortunately, this isn't written anywhere in the game, even with the advanced stats option on.
- Hit and Run Tactics: All ranged cavalry can fire on the move. Averted by the other ranged units, who must stop to fire.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Petards and Demolition Ships. The point of the units are to die, but do lots of damage in that death.
- Hold the Line: Several missions in the Single-Player campaigns: the ones which end after the line is held are "Breakout" in Blood, "Defend The Colony" in Ice and "Breed's Hill" in Fire; the ones where it doesn't, and you have to defeat the enemy to win, are "Temples of the Aztec" in Blood and "Hold the fort" in Steel.
- Horse Archer: The Ottomans, Russians, Sioux, Chinese, and Japanese have these.
- Immortality Seeker: The Circle of Ossus is devoted to finding the Fountain of Youth in Blood, whose water is said to give eternal life to those who drink it. This plot was revisited in Steel. Morgan has found that the "Immortality" granted by the Fountain of Youth is no myth, as we find out in the closing cutscene of III.
- Implausible Fencing Powers: The British variation on the explorer unit may be upgraded from the home city to give him a special melee attack that allows him to spin around, causing damage around him. Tends to One-Hit Kill skirmishers. Several characters in the main campaigns also have a similar ability.
- In Name Only: Even Ensemble Studios didn't think it was an Age of Empires game and tried to have Microsoft change the name.
- Instant Awesome, Just Add Ninja: Ninjas are added as mercenaries by the first expansion. Also trainable by the Japanese with certain requirements.
- Katanas Are Just Better: The Implausible Kendo techniques of the Ronin, who have one of the strongest infantry attacks in the game, as well as the Samurai heavy infantry of the Japanese.
- Large Ham:
- Almost all of the AI "players" except for Queen Elizabeth and Hiawatha have traces of this, but the Aztec's Cuauhtemoc stands out. A Third Person Person with a raspy voice and a lot of ego, he has such gems as:
(When losing a Trading Post): "Cuauhtemoc did not need that trading post!"
(Entering a large battle): "Blood! Ha ha ha ha! MORE BLOOD!"
(Resigning): "No! Cuauhtemoc will NEVER surrender! ...Unless ... you let him?"
- The Elmeti, who speaks Italian in a very over the top manner:
- Lesser of Two Evils: In Ice, after Stuart Black is kidnapped, John Black, Kanyenke and Nonakhee are involved in the Seven Years War. They have to choose between the britons and the frenchs. They choose to side with the french in this mission. Later missions have them sided with the britons, but out of the war.
- Lightning Bruiser: French Curaissers, Spanish Lancers, Sioux Dog Soldiers, and mercenary Elmeti and Hackapells are all fast cavalry capable of both absorbing a lot of damage and dishing out absurd amounts.
- Mighty Glacier: India's War Elephants.
- Mighty Whitey: This seems to be among the main tropes emphasized by these series. The campaign scenarios feature Native Americans seeking military and economic help from the story's European-descended heroes, and even introduces Kanyenke, a Tonto-like character, in Ice. You cannot play as any of the game's Native American civilizations and all of the Native American military units are either yours or your enemy's willing pawns.
- The first expansion allows control of three Native American civilizations.
- The final nail in the coffin, there are three Asian civilizations in the second expansion.
- Misplaced Wildlife: A few slip-ups appear in The Asian Dynasties, if only regarding treasure guardians. Black panthers, tigers and giant pandas in Japan, snow monkeys outside Japan, any monitor lizards dangerous to humans in any of the levels, none of which are on the Komodo islands where the actual dangerous ones live, as well as snow leopards outside the Himalayas.
- Ms. Fanservice: Isabella, the Spanish Player Character, while she doesn't dress Stripperiffic, she does have a sultry Spanish voice. She tells you to "Quit playing so rough" when you're in the middle of kicking her ass and that she "can't handle all these men" when she requests your help in battle. She likes to call you "pet" as an ally. In addition, her picture in the game's encyclopedia looks quite lovely compared to the historical paintings.
- The Musketeer: It has a ranged attack to use against melee units with his muskets, but provides a better damage per second in total with their melee attacks as well as only doing bonus damage to cavalry while using melee. Light cavalry units also fire with pistols against heavy infantry, but will likely do more damage against artillery in melee since artillery takes much less damage from ranged attacks.
- Mythology Gag: The "Eye of Ornlu", a treasure that gives 200 EXP, is named after a certain Big Badass Wolf in Age of Empires II.
- Napoleon Bonaparte: The French Player Character in Skirmish and Multiplayer.
- Ninja: Available as mercenaries from Warchiefs onward. They serve mostly as assassins, dealing massive damage to Hero Units and other mercenaries.
- Omniscient Council of Vagueness: About all that we know about the Circle of Ossus for sure is that they are the enemy, their elite units are called 'Boneguards' and they want to obtain The Fountain of Youth. Absolutely everything else is up for grabs.
- One-Hit Kill: The European explorers have the Sharpshooter and, later on, the Crack Shot abilities: the first one allows you to kill a Treasure Guardian instantly, the second one allows you to kill any unit (except villagers and ships) instantly.
- Pirate: Lizzie's pirates, and The Woukou pirates in the China campaign and many scenarios. The Warchiefs introduces a specialised building that can train mercenaries, amongst which the player finds pirates and corsairs.
- Private Military Contractors: The player can recruit teams of specialized mercenaries from the home city at a price in gold and a shipment card. Warchiefs allows them to be trained normally at a saloon, depending on the map, but at increased price.
- Protection Mission:
- In "Temples of the Aztec", from Blood, the player must not let the enemy to destroy the three Aztec temples.
- In "The Rescue", from Ice, the player must not let the enemy to destroy the outpost and trade post in the Iroquois village.
- In "Respect", from Ice, the player must win the scenario before the Lakota chiefs are killed.
- In "The Battle of Morristown", from Fire, the player must not let the Hesse Mercenaries to destroy the Capitol.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Japanese.
- Purely Aesthetic Gender: A town center told to produce a villager will randomly make either a male or a female. Males and females do exactly the same work.
- RPG Elements: You're required to level up to use most shipments from your home city, as well as customization for your home city's appearance. And in every match, you are required to get some XP to receive a shipment.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: A recurring theme in the campaigns.
- Sarcasm Mode: The Lil' Bombard, capable of sending its victims flying across several dozens of tiles and smash them into buildings.
- Separate but Identical: Once again, averted: every civilization has it's unique quirks, especially the ones in the expansions. For example, the Indians use wood instead of food to train villagers, British houses spawn a bonus villager when built and cost more, and the Dutch use gold instead of food. This also applies to the Home Cities shipment cards. While some are identical across civilizations, (extra villagers, resources...) others are unique to that civilization. Also, all the civilizations of the game, except for the ones in the expansions, have more powerful unique upgrades for their "guard" units that replace the generic third-tier upgrade. For example, the British having Redcoat Musketeers instead of Guard Musketeers and Lifeguard Hussars instead of Guard Hussars.
- Seven Years War: The player fights in it for one mission in Ice.
- Shaggy Dog Story: "Ambushed!" in Shadow. This is a long, rough, labyrinthine map crammed full of War Huts stationed around the cliffsides. The player needs to get powder wagons to clear paths through trees, which can halt your progress until you get them to the areas. And after all of your work in getting up the player is taken to a cutscene showing up Holme screwing up the entire plan, thus making the whole trip pointless.
- Shoot the Medic First: Subverted. Priests, missionaries and surgeons heal units automatically but they tend to be very slow while at it and outright incable of it if there are enemies in sight.
- The cheat code "sooo good" causes a little Teen Girl Squad-style message to appear whenever a unit is killed, such as "musketeer'd!" or "imperial howitzer'd!" All with a badass bugle sound included.
- When "killed", some explorers will yell (roughly) "I've fallen, and I can't get up!" in their native language.
- The cheat code "sooo good" causes a little Teen Girl Squad-style message to appear whenever a unit is killed, such as "musketeer'd!" or "imperial howitzer'd!" All with a badass bugle sound included.
- Shown Their Work
- Siege Engines: Artillery units.
- Sophisticated As Hell: As mentioned above, the "killin' your doods" taunt, and this gem from the same voice actor as the Queen Elizabeth AI;
"Really... such a noob."
- Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Inverted. The first three Big Bads are technically equal in threat, since they all run the same organization, but there's still a big disconnect in their day jobs, which regress from the Grandmaster of the Knights of St. John to a lowly fur trapper. As for the Warchiefs expansion, the first Big Bad is some two-bit mercenary captain, and the second is the Fort Laramie quartermaster. Makes you wonder where they get these huge armies to throw your way...
- Speaking Simlish: Averted. Units speak in the language of their nation.
- Stuff Blowing Up: Mortars, Monitors and Heavy Artillery.
- No matter what graphics level you have the game at, damaging weapons caches in the Campaign will cause them to blow up.
- Symbology Research Failure: The Chinese "Confucian Academy" Wonder can automatically produce heavy siege weapons. Riiight.
- Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: While it's less clear-cut than in the other games in the series, generally, Infantry > Cavalry > Artillery > Infantry applies. It generally gets a bit complex, but the intent remains clear.
- Infantry is divided into Heavy Infantry (Musketeers and Pikemen/Spearmen) which are effective against both kinds of Cavalry, and Light Infantry (Skirmishers, some types of Melee Infantry, Riflemen, and Archers) which are effective against Heavy Infantry and Ranged Cavalry.
- Cavalry is divided into Melee Cavalry (Exactly What It Says on the Tin) which are effective against Artillery and Light Infantry, and Ranged Cavalry (Likewise.) which are effective against Melee Cavalry.
- For Artillery, the Falconet is better against infantry than they are against buildings, the Culverin is good against other artillery and ships, the Mortar can only target buildings and annihilates those with ease.
- Civilization specific units can also be effective against units that their unit archetype is not effective against.
- Technology Levels: The Discovery Age, Colonial Age, Fortress Age, Industrial Age, and Imperial Age.
- The Beast Master: Explorers can get a canine companion to fight at their side. The Spanish Explorer can train more War Dogs. The Warchiefs can train animals and convert treasure guardians, so they often end up with a menagerie of wolves, jaguars, and bears that follows them around and tries to eat enemy soldiers.
- Theme Park Version: Of the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th century. At the same time, no less. But they even it out by providing tons of detailed background information for every type of soldier, animal, and plant in the game's world!
- They Killed Kenny: Your explorer. Technically "captured"/"fallen" rather than "killed" when his hit points drop to zero, and can be brought back either by being ransomed by the player or by having units sent to recover him. You can expect this to happen at least once per game.
- Timed Mission: The next-to-last mission of "Ice" requires you to destroy Warwick's Town Center in 15 minutes while stealing resource carts and having some settlers to collect these resources.
- Units Not to Scale: when putting people inside ships and canoes. The in-game database entry about the canoes lampshades this.
- You Require More Vespene Gas: Gold, Wood, Food, and XP, along with Firepit dancers or Export depending on the civilization.
- Zerg Rush:
- The Russians produce batch armies, which are cheaper per soldier.
- The Chinese in The Asian Dynasties take this even further, producing mixed batches of cheap but pitifully weak troops.
- The Spanish can rush enemies by spamming army shipment cards at the start.
- There are also the minutemen: cheap and quick to train but they lose health as they live.