Is Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition, Worth Playing?
Despite being a less impressive release than Age of the Empires II: Definitive Edition, Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition is still worth playing for fans of the original, even if the original is better in many ways.

The Lowdown.

Product Details
Genre: Real Time Strategy
Developer: World's Edge
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Price: $19.99
Release Date:
Supported Modes:

Free-2-Play Version.

Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition is the first mainline Age of the Empires title to have a free-2-play offering, with players able to download a free trial version of the game via Steam.

This version includes the first action of the original campaign and one historical battle, in addition to 8 hostable maps and three rotating civilizations, allowing new players the chance to try before they buy.

For a full list of what is included in the Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition Trial, click here. (External URL)

No Console Release.

Despite both Age of the Empires II: Definitive Edition & Age of the Empires IV being released onto the console to widespread acclaim, Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition remains suspiciously absent, with neither Xbox nor the developers giving any indication that Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition will be making its way to the console in future.

An Unworthy Successor To AoE II.

While Age of the Empires III received generally positive reviews at launch, and many Age of Empires veterans admit that Age of the Empires III is a very good game, it failed to create the decade-spanning loyalty and success of Age of the Empires II, something which continues to this day, with Age of the Empires II: Definitive Edition enjoying a much larger community and more frequent updates than Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition, despite the latter having a free-2-play version available to download via Steam.

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Campaign Issues.

Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition brought a lot of changes to Age of the Empires III, and for the most part, they were good changes that helped make skirmish and multiplayer modes far more palatable to modern audiences; unfortunately, they also broke almost every campaign in one way or another.

Difficulty Issues.

Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition overhauls enemy AI to bring them in line with modern RTS and limits the AI’s ability to cheat; unfortunately, many campaign missions were based around the old AI and its ability to cheat.

As a result, many missions are entirely broken on any difficulty except hard, except for a handful of missions, where the changes to unit abilities and statistics introduced in Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition result in vastly overpowered enemy units, making victory almost impossible.

One early example of this is the Act I mission “Into the Caves”, where the enemy AI will build nothing except villagers on Easy and Normal and only builds a handful of units on Hard, most of which refuse to leave their spawn point.

Another prominent example is the Act III mission “Bolivar’s Revolt”, which is insultingly easy on anything below Hard and almost impossible to complete on Hard, due to the AI spawning around 100 units and multiple cannons around 5 minutes after the start of the game, while the player and their AI allies are limited to only infantry, resulting in Bolivar’s army being decimated by cannon fire, long before players (or Bolivar) are allowed to create artillery or calvary.

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Broken/Missing Dialogue.

Due to the developers making changes to dialogue to avoid stereotypical or offensive terminology (explained in detail below), many lines of dialogue in the single-player campaign have been edited to remove the offending phrases and, in some cases, replace the names of various characters and factions.

Hearing characters butcher the name of a main character frequently in Act II, Act III and Act I (Warchief) is distracting. I honestly would have preferred either text-only dialogue or AI replacement for the offending words and terminology instead of what appears to have been done, which is snipping out syllables from other words and making new words with them, such is the case with the character formerly known as Kanyenke who name has been renamed Ká:nien in text. In contrast, the character pronounces his name as “Kanyen”, a clipped version of the audio used in the original game.

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Missing Buildings.

Due to Native American factions being overhauled, players cannot train healers for most of Act 1: Fire and Act 2: Shadow campaigns, making them far more difficult than intended on the hardest difficulty, while lower difficulties remain insulting easy and, in many cases, entirely broken.

New Content.

While much of the original single-player content is broken in more than one place, thanks to Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition and its various DLC, there is plenty of new content to enjoy and new civilizations to play as, which, unlike single-player content from the original game, work as intended, and by themselves offer excellent value for money, even if the sorry state of the original eight campaigns is disheartening to see as a longtime fan of the franchise.

While I feel that World’s Edge owes it to themselves and the players to fix the original campaigns, they are unlikely to see much improvement unless Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition receives a console release, as for all intents and purposes, Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition appears to not be a priority right now for Xbox, with  Age of the Empires II: Definitive Edition receiving two major DLC in 2023, and Age of the Empires IV set to get first paid expansion pack in late 2023, while Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition has not received substantial new content in almost 18 months.

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I must begin this section by stating that I support developers when they attempt to build bridges between people and encourage greater diversity; there were several aspects of the original Age of the Empires III release that were honestly offensive to indigenous people, and addressing these issues in Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition was the right choice, that being said even well-intentioned developers can go too far, and while some changes were in the right direction, however, other changes are little more than virtue signalling and distract from the positive changes that were made for the Definitive Edition.

Needed Changes.

In the original release, Nonahkee (John Black’s girlfriend in Act II) was portrayed as a stereotypical “Sexy Indian Girl” with a strapless buckskin dress and ample breasts; in the Definitive Edition, her appearance has changed from that of a college girl in a “sexy Indian” costume to that of an indigenous princess, wearing era-appropriate tribal attire.

Renaming Civilizations.

Calling the Haudenosaunee “Iroquois” and the Lakota “Sioux” is a prime example of unintended ignorance; these names were thrust upon the tribes by others, and while I believe that antagonists should still use the incorrect tribe names (bad people do bad things after all), having a Haudenosaunee character refer “Iroquois” while in the company of others from their tribe is laughably ignorant.

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Gold Mines.

Unlike in the original release, Haudenosaunee and Lakota no longer can mine gold, as in real life, both tribes would not have done so; however, they are not without means of making coins, and instead, both tribes can build a fur trading post near coin deposits, that magically stops working when the gold deposit dries up.

While this is a rather clunky way to maintain balance and avoid infinite gold, I did find it amusing that a building created not to change the landscape by mining ends up doing just that.


The firepit has been avoided to avoid the negative stereotype of “Indians dancing around a fire”. It has been replaced by a new building called Community Plaza, which serves the same purpose in a less offensive manner.

Neutral Changes.
Nature Friendship Changes.

Indigenous heroes can no longer befriend animal guardians and recruit them to avoid the “offensive” stereotype of Native Americans being close to nature and good with animals, which is strange considering I do not think I have seen a single Native American feeling offended by this stereotype.

As someone from a culture with the same stereotype, I do not know anyone offended by the ultimately positive association, nor have I ever met a Native American who disliked the positive stereotype, and honestly, it feels like the type of thing white people worry about, while the target of their concern is either unconcerned with the issue or ultimately offended by their “white saviour” attempts at addressing it without consulting the community in question.

In place of this ability, Indigenous heroes can now recruit “colonial guardian units”, which makes neither historical nor narrative sense.

Pointless Changes.
Historical Erasure.

Several units, home city cards and buildings have been renamed to remove problematic words such as colony, colonial, colonialism, and plantation from a game, which, for those unaware, is almost entirely about colonization and colonial powers, in addition to colonies rebelling against their former nation.

What is most baffling about these changes is renaming plantations to estates. While I understand why they did it, slavery took place in all manner of places, from boats to mansions and plantations (a farm that grows coffee, cotton, tobacco or sugar) are no more inherently evil than a farm, orchards, mill, dock, or cattle ranch, places which also would have utilized slave labour.

If the developers made this change only to avoid touching on the subject of slavery, then erasing the association between plantations and slavery does a massive disservice to the very cause they are trying to support, akin to someone rewriting a WW2 film to remove all references to the holocaust to avoid offending Jewish people, instead of using the film as a way to highlight what they endured, and honour the memory of those that were lost.

All in all, a pointless change and one that does more to erase the horrors of the past than address them, unlike the Indian campaign, which attempts to address the abuse of the Indian people by the British Empire and its allies.

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It Had The Reverse Effect.

Because of some of the more pointless changes in the name of “diversity and tolerance”, many gamers who would have been on the fence or even supported the positive changes found themselves swaying dangerously to the right.

Many of the changes were pointless at best and hypocritical at worst, not to mention how often the developers essentially erased problematic parts of history instead of showing gamers exactly what went on and how inexcusable it was.

Erasing history is never the answer, and while there is room to portray history from a more enlightened angle, pretending the darker parts of history didn’t exist to avoid portraying any negative words or feelings does a huge disservice, not only to the memory of those who suffered through those times but also to anyone facing discrimination today.

Don’t pretend slavery didn’t exist. Show gamers how evil it was!

Don’t pretend that many people didn’t look down upon anyone who wasn’t white and Christian. Show how evil and un-Christian such behaviour is, focus on characters who oppose such bigotry, and use the narrative to show players just how illogical and evil such behaviour is.

Don’t erase the atrocities inflicted upon indigenous people or their massacres against settlers in retaliation. Show both events for how evil they are, explain the events that lead up to the atrocities, and focus on people from both sides who worked for peace and reconciliation.

Presenting the case where one race was always right no matter what they did, and the other was always wrong leads to more division, often fueling extremists and amplifying their message.

There are good and bad people from every race and every gender at every point in history.

Pretending that every Native American or enslaved African was noble and good while every white settler was evil and cruel is factually incorrect and no better than saying that “Indians are savages” or that white Americans are “God’s chosen people.”

You cannot force unity from deception, and rewriting history for any reason will not help unite people or bring true acceptance and diversity; until we can accept the past for what it was and acknowledge evil events as evil, no matter the perpetrator, we will never know true peace.

In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. - Matthew 7:12

And, more importantly, until the world truly grasps the importance of the words and deity of Jesus Christ, we will never know true peace; this is an unescape truth that has been proven time and time again when people act after their own desires and all too often that includes people who falsely claim to follow him, something we have seen far too much of throughout history, with atrocities such as the massacre during the Crusades, and even slavery itself being promoted by “Christians”, despite the words of Jesus being the antithesis of those behaviours.

For those people, the very words of Jesus they ignored will one day be their judge, a terrifying prospect for those alive today who continue to teach bigotry in the name of God.

The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. - John 12:48

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Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition FAQ

Incomplete game information. Please check the post meta fields.

Platform Availability.

Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition is available exclusively on PC.

Are The Developers Active?

While the developers have not given many indications of what to expect in 2024, Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition remains in active development, and despite much of 2023 being dedicated to the release and support of Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition free-2-play offering, DLC content is expected to resume in 2024, much to the joy of new players and veterans alike, who are eager to see what World’s End has in store.

How Many People Play Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition?

While we do not know exactly how many people play Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition via Game Pass, we do know that it does comprise the majority of the community, which makes the fact that the Steam community hovers around 6k concurrent players during peak hours all the more impressive, and makes the season highs of 15k+ a sizeable achievement for a game of this age and status.

Is Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition Dead?

Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition remains very active thanks to its sizable game pass community and successful free-2-play initiative, and upon opening the server browser, I was greeted with dozens of regional matches and around 150 public lobbies worldwide, more than enough activity to support a game of this size.

Is There Group Finding/Matchmaking Support?

Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition offers the following matchmaking options:

  • Skill-Based Matchmaking
  • Region-Based Matchmaking
  • Server Browser

What Peripherals Are Supported?

The following peripherals are officially supported:

  • PC - Controller.

Is There Any Mature Content?

Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition is rated PEGI 16+ and contains the following:

  • Violence

Final Verdict.

Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition is a fantastic game, sold at a very fair price; however, unlike Age of the Empires II, its transition to Definitive Edition status has not been as smooth.

While Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition is entirely playable as both a single-player and multiplayer title, a wider array of creative and mechanical changes have resulted in many campaign missions suffering from narrative and mechanical issues.

Do I still recommend Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition? Certainly, I enjoyed my time with it, but being forced to reload campaigns due to AI issues ranging from the AI factions forgetting to build to the AI rushing the player within moments of a match starting, have in some ways, soured my happy memories of playing the original game, even though I am supportive of the developers attempts to be more respectful of indigenous cultures.

Is Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition Worth Playing In 2024?

Honest Video Game Reviews has given "Age of the Empires III: Definitive Edition" a rating of 8/10, indicating that it is a good game, that is well worth playing, and while it may have a few shortcomings, the average gamer will enjoy it.

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