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Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition — Everything you need to know

Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition
Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition (Image credit: Microsoft)

The Age of Empires series is beloved by fans of the real-time strategy (RTS) genre for its historically-accurate campaigns, fine artwork, gorgeous soundtracks, memorable units, and addictive competitive multiplayer gameplay. While the first two entries in the series — Age of Empires and Age of Empires II — have already been given the Definitive Edition treatment, the third installment is still in the works. Here's everything you need to know about the upcoming remake.

What is Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition?

Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition is a modern remake of the original Age of Empires III game that was released 2005. Whereas the first Age of Empires focused on the stone age through the iron age and Age of Empires II focused on the dark and medieval ages, Age of Empires III is set during colonization of the Americas and the industrial revolution. Tantalus Media, the crew that helped develop Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, is handling development of Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition. It's all overseen by World's Edge Studio, the team leading everything Age of Empires at Microsoft.

The Definitive Edition rework includes updated 4K graphics, completely reworked 3D assets, a new UI that feels a lot less clunky, crossplay multiplayer between versions of the game from different retailers, and a remastered soundtrack and sound effects. It's the treatment we've come to expect from these Definitive Edition makeovers, but it's great to see it's all going to be here.

Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Two new game modes are coming to Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition. Historical Battles are self explanatory, covering important skirmishes that occurred during the Age of Empires III time period. For newcomers and for anyone who needs to brush up on their fundamentals, Art of War is also making a return following its popularity in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition. You'll be able to learn the game's meta, getting you up to speed in no time.

There's not a whole lot of information yet about multiplayer, and Age of Empires III players are no doubt expecting an improved experience that revives the competitive scene. Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition is still played by hundreds of thousands of people, competitively and casually, and ignoring one side of the fanbase in the third installment would no doubt be a huge letdown.

How big is the Age of Empires III: DE graphics overhaul?

The original Age of Empires III was already a big step ahead of Age of Empires II when it was first released, but the Definitive Editions have definitely leveled the field. We saw some beautiful work in the first major trailer, and the Age of Empires team on Twitter has been showering fans of the game with a bunch of old vs. new comparisons in terms of 3D models and cinematics. Needless to say, it's a huge overhaul that's going to look great on modern PCs.

Here are a few examples of new 3D models.

And here are a few examples of remastered cinematics.

And, finally, here are some remastered assets that will be used in Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition.

Is Age of Empires III: DE getting new civilizations?

We now know that the Definitive Edition version of Age of Empires III will include both expansions — The WarChiefs and The Asian Dynasties — released not long after the original game. Not only that, we're getting two new civilizations that bring the total number up to 16: Swedes and Inca.

World's Edge has done its homework in terms of respecting different cultures included in the game, and some changes have been made to Native American cultures that we'll see more of closer to launch.

Will you need a powerful PC to run Age of Empires III: DE?

There's no concrete PC requirements yet for Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition, though we do know what was recommended for the closed betas. As long as you have a semi-modern processor (Core i5-650 or AMD A6-3620) 8GB of RAM, and 2GB of graphics card VRAM, you should be able to run the game. Of course, any extra specs should only serve to make the game look better. Be sure to check out our collection of the best pre-built PCs for playing Age of Empires Definitive Editions if you're in need of an upgrade.

Can you help test Age of Empires III: DE?

There's still quite a bit of time before release, and the developers are working hard to make sure the game is as close to perfect as possible when it's released. If you're interested in helping test the game until release, head over to the Age of Empires Insider page and become an Insider.

When is the Age of Empires III: DE release date?

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Closed betas ran in mid February and early April 2020, both lasting for about a week. Until the recent Gamescom announcements, there wasn't a lot of information available. However, we now know that the Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition release date is expected to be October 15, 2020.

Judging by the placement of the Gamescom teaser banner above, we surmised that the release date would be between August 28 (Wasteland 3) and November 10 (Destiny 2: Beyond Light). Of course, that's now come true with the October release.

Where can you buy Age of Empires III: DE?

Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

It's been confirmed that Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition is coming to Xbox Game Pass for PC where it will sit alongside the first two remasters. You can now preload the game if you're a subscriber. It will also be available on Steam and the Microsoft Store (opens in new tab), where you can preorder right now for $20.

If you're a subscriber to Xbox Game Pass for PC or Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you'll get a 25% discount at the Microsoft Store, bringing the price of Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition down to just $15 (opens in new tab). And if you already own Age of Empires III: Complete Collection on Steam, buying the Definitive Edition through Steam will net you the same discount. Likewise, if you own the first two Definitive Editions on Steam, you will get a 25% discount on the third.

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Cale Hunt
Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He's been reviewing laptops and accessories full time since 2016, with hundreds of reviews published for Windows Central. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

  • This is great news. I really enjoyed this entry in the Age of Empires series. Still can't wait for more details on Age IV. Also, one game I really loved, and was sad to see end earlier than it should have, is Age of Empires Online. It would be awesome if they brought this game back in some form. The tower defense coop mode was really fun, as well as the crafting and city building elements.
  • To be honest I played AoEIII a lot less than AoEII (though I'm probably entering unhealthy time on that one). Still, it's great to see these games getting a modern touch. Can't wait to see what's revealed tomorrow at Gamescom.
  • I think this is why we have had no release for AoE4 yet. Release this game, and then 4 comes maybe April 2021. Have the 3 remaster out first. Then bam announce 4s release date.
  • I hope after aoe4 or this age of mythology will get some love too.