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Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition release date, gameplay, system requirements and more

age of empires 3
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition is Microsoft’s latest — and possibly last — remaster in the classic real-time strategy franchise before Age of Empires 4 comes out. Like Age of Empires: Definitive Edition and Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition before it, Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition will update a beloved game with 4K visuals, an enhanced soundtrack, new playable races and revamped gameplay.

At Gamescom 2020, the first trailer for Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition debuted during an opening night livestream. Fans had already known that the game was coming, but now they know when to expect it — as well as what kinds of new features to expect within it.

It’s been a long time since Age of Empires 3 debuted in 2005. If you can’t quite remember what made the game so special the first time around (or have never played it before), read on to find out why Age of Empires 3 is well worth another look, and how Microsoft plans to bring this historical relic into the modern era.

age of empires 3

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition release date

There’s no mystery about the Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition release date. The game will come out on October 15 for Steam, the Windows Store and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. The Steam and Windows Store versions will cost $20 apiece; an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription costs $15 per month.

It’s worth pointing out that if you own Age of Empires 3: Complete Collection on Steam, you can buy the upcoming Definitive Edition for $15. Likewise, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers who want to own the game outright can purchase Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition for $15 at the Windows Store.

Finally, if you want to buy all three Age of Empires: Definitive Edition games, you can get a collection on either storefront for $45. Purchased separately, it would cost $60 to buy all three games.

age of empires 3

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition system requirements

Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition has modest system requirements if you want to play it at relatively low settings, and somewhat more demanding requirements if you want to get the ultimate UHD experience. Be aware that the game will run only on Windows 10. Check out the minimum and recommended specs below:

Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition system requirements
MinimumRecommended
ProcessorIntel i3-2015 @ 3.1 Ghz or AMD Phenom II X4 973Intel i5-3300 @ 3.0 GHz or AMD FX-8350
Memory8 GB RAM16 GB RAM
GPUGeForce GT 430, Radeon HD 5570, or Intel HD 4400GeForce GTX 980 or Radeon R9 Fury
Storage42 GB42 GB

Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition Game Pass access

As stated above, Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition will be available on Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which costs $15 per month and gives you access to a more than a hundred games on both Xbox and PC. The game will also be available on the Xbox Game Pass for PC (beta), which costs $5 per month.

Since Xbox Game Pass for PC is still in beta, there’s no guarantee that it will be around forever; the $5-per-month price in particular seems a little experimental. But even if Xbox Game Pass for PC gets rolled up into the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate sometime in the future, Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition should still be available in the Ultimate package.

Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition gameplay

age of empires 3

(Image credit: Microsoft)

For those of you who have never played the Age of Empires series, it’s an historical RTS series in which you take control of one of the world’s great civilizations. Age of Empires covers the Stone Age through the fall of Rome; Age of Empires 2 covers the Dark Ages through the Renaissance; Age of Empires 3 covers the Age of Exploration through the late 19th century. As such, Age of Empires 3 introduces a ton of interesting options that weren’t available in previous games, from riflemen, to artillery, to cash crops.

There are three main game modes: Random map, campaigns and multiplayer. Gameplay is pretty much the same for all three, though. You’ll start off with a small base and a few villagers (or a larger force in certain campaign missions or game modes), then construct a base, gather resources and raise an army, all while exploring the map and researching new technologies. One twist in Age of Empires 3 is that you can receive shipments from your “home city,” which will supply your outpost with resources, soldiers or unique technologies as matches progress.

Another feature that sets Age of Empires 3 apart from earlier AoE games is that each civilization has access to a completely different set of units, buildings and technologies. (In earlier games, unit and technology selection varied from race to race, but all drew from a common pool.) As such, the Dutch can construct buildings that lock down economic supremacy, while the Russians can field massive amounts of soldiers. The Sioux can repurpose their cavalry as impromptu siege weapons, while the Indians can gather sacred cattle for resource bonuses.

Like earlier Age of Empires games, Age of Empire 3 also features narrative campaigns based on real-life historical battles. They’re a little more fantastical and story-driven than those in AoE1 and 2, but they still cover events like the Spanish Conquest of Florida, the American Revolution and the Sepoy Mutiny.

Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition new features

age of empires 3

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition will include all existing content from the base Age of Empires 3 game, as well as The Warchiefs and The Asian Dynasties expansions. This means you’ll have access to fourteen playable civilizations, eight campaigns and 28 maps.

Like previous remasters, though, Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition will add some new content as well, including two new single-player modes and two new civilizations.

The two new modes should be familiar to Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition players. Historical Battles are what they sound like: standalone missions that let you play through some of the Early Modern era’s military turning points. The Art of War challenges, on the other hand, help new players learn strategies for playing more efficiently in both single-player and multiplayer modes. They’re not tutorials, per se — they’re more about tactics and strategy than simply giving instructions.

The two new civilizations are the Swedes and the Incas. We don’t know much about either civilization yet, save to say that each one will have unique buildings and units.

Another interesting note is that Microsoft plans to make “fundamental changes” to its two Native American civilizations, the Iroquois and the Sioux:

“A key focus of our work … is to authentically represent the cultures and peoples that we depict in our games,” a blog post explains.  “While developing Age III: DE, we realized that we weren’t upholding that value as well as we could regarding our Native American cultures; so we set out to fix that: working directly with tribal consultants to respectfully and accurately capture the uniqueness of their peoples, history, and cultures.”

Whether this means changes to gameplay, aesthetics, or both is anyone’s guess, but more historical accuracy is never a bad thing.

Tom’s Guide will have more to report on Age of Empires 3: Definitive Edition once we get to try the game for ourselves.