"We know there's this amazing game inside Age of Mythology that maybe wasn't quite right out the gate, and that's what we're doing this time with Retold": Adam Isgreen discusses upcoming Age of Empires games and DLC in exclusive interview

Age of Mythology: Retold and Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition Victors and Vanquished.
(Image credit: Windows Central)

"We want to keep Age going into perpetuity."

Friday was an exciting day for Age of Empires fans who learned during the Age of Empires New Year, New Age Livestream that various titles in the franchise were getting updates, including the new Victors and Vanquished DLC for Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition (Age 2). We also learned about the new Age of Mythology: Retold, a game coming simultaneously to Xbox and PC sometime this year. Unsurprisingly, Mythology: Retold will be coming to Xbox Game Pass like the other Age games produced by Xbox Game Studios and developed by World's Edge LLC. 

In the wake of such glorious news, I had the chance to speak with World's Edge founder and Studio Creative Director Adam Isgreen about what to expect from these new scenarios, civilizations (civs), and real-time strategy (RTS) adventures.

Disclaimer: This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Age of Empires II's continued success is due to its dedicated fanbase and intuitive mechanics

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition has been a success since it launched on PC in 2019 and then came to Xbox Series X in 2023. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

When I remarked on how incredibly rare it is for a game to maintain as much interest over the years as Age 2 has, Isgreen was quick to attribute this to the dedicated fanbase as well as the game's approachability. 

"So much of the game is so instantly accessible by so many people across the world. It's something I've always loved about the Age series... With an incredible community and incredible mods, I mean the stuff that people do with the game is crazy and creative. It's always fun to see how passionate people are about it."

"We thought there is no way people are going to want more civilizations and yet, 'more! We want more! We want this we want that.' I did not predict that we would still be making civilizations for this game into the — what are we 40s now? 50s? I'm going to get it wrong. But a lot [of civilzations]. A lot more than any other RTS game I've ever even conceived with that many civilizations and I think that's fantastic."

Upon hearing his remarks, I congratulated the Age team for keeping Age 2 interesting with frequent updates and new content. To this, Isgreen remained humble and said he had to thank fans for maintaining interest in the game during the dark years when it wasn't supported. 

"You know, I have to credit the community for keeping the game alive for so long. The modders, the balance patches, all of the stuff that was done even when Microsoft wasn't fully supporting the title, that was before my time here at Microsoft, but the community could not have been better about really keeping the game up, keeping the game going. I'm really humbled that we've been able to work with them to just keep making the game better and better."

Creating fun remake DLC means running with each Age game's original bugs

Since the original Age 2 launched, players have found ways to take advantage of bugs and clever tactics.  (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Later, I asked how the Age team feels seeing Age 2's continued success after triumphantly bringing controller mechanics to Xbox (see our Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition for Xbox review) and seeing the Sultans Ascend DLC sell better than any Age expansion before it. In response, Isgreen talked about how happy this made him and went on to say that meeting fan needs means running with an original game's bugs.

"Let me just say that, first off, I love [that] the game is more popular now than it was when it released, right? We have streams, we have ridiculous prize Wololo tournaments, and apartment cups, and all of this awesome play for it, and Esports for it as well. I love that they're games that stand the test of time.

"...There's (sic) bugs and quirks in the games that, you know, as a game designer and as a creator, I would be like, 'oh, do we have to keep that?' And it's like, 'no, we kind of have to keep that.' Because even if it was a bug, now it's something that everybody relies on, right? Like, did they really intend for houses to be walls when Ensemble built the original? Probably not. But you can't get rid of that. You can't change that. You can't go around that kind of stuff because it's become part of the DNA of the game."

Age 2 Victors and Vanquishers DLC's 19 scenarios are a labor of love made by a lauded modder turned employee

When I asked about the Age 2 Victors and Vanquished DLC, Isgreen explained to me how Ramsey Abdulrahim (Filthydelphia, @PhillySouljah) — who talked about the DLC on the livestream — was the main creative mind behind these new scenarios. 

For those who might not know, Abdulrahim is lauded among Age enthusiasts for having been a prolific modder who eventually became part of the official Age team. His passion for this RTS game can easily be seen through his attention to detail, intriguing campaigns, and portrayal of history. 

"[Victors and Vanquished] scenarios are all different," Isgreen said. "They all feature different leaders, different places in the world. Ramsey is a machine — the sole creator of this as a labor of love. He just loves Age so much that- you know, its funny. Everyone has roles, of course, working here at World's Edge. [There are] developers for things we've got to do and Ramsey is in the business group, but you just cannot tear him away from Age and campaigns. He loves it to death and he will just do them right."

The scenarios are so spread out and there's such a diverse set of them that everyone can find something to really enjoy. And of course, we still have difficulty levels, right? So you can always turn down the AI and do things, to make them easier for you.

"...And I think this is a really fun thing to do to kind of have this DLC that's just campaigns, right? That's just all these unique scenarios and missions. And man, I get my butt kicked by them. I will tell you like Ramsey builds for players that are, you know, good players of Age of Empires. So, I'm really excited to see how the community kind of tears into them and what they think of them."

"... I think that that's the fun thing is being able to kind of let passionate people on our team express themselves in ways that we think other people will enjoy."

The Victors and Vanquished expansion has 19 new scenarios for players to experience.  (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

In response to Isgreen's comments, I asked if we should expect these 19 upcoming scenarios to be especially difficult. However, he assured me that they are complex enough to provide a different experience each time but will still be enjoyable for a range of players. 

"No, I wouldn't say they're difficult. They're just- I'm a very casual RTS player. So for me, right, I am like, you know, my Fast Castle skills are not the most leet, right? That they could be. So I think that the great thing is, the scenarios are so spread out and there's such a diverse set of them that everyone can find something to really enjoy. And of course, we still have difficulty levels, right? So you can always turn down the AI and do things, to make them easier for you."

"But what I like is that they are made for real fans of Age of Empires, right? And that you can really sink in your teeth into them and not have them be like a one-and-done kind of thing. You can go back to them and try them again, right? Yeah, and there's (sic) some scenarios you can play different ways, right?... But it's different depending on which way you go. And so you can play the scenario multiple times and never see the same thing."

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Isgreen went on to explain his excitement for the Ninja units and the stealth aspect they bring to Age.

"I love this [Ninja] archetype of unit. How do we get this in Age of Empires? And the ninja as just the shinobi was a perfect way to kind of go about doing that and getting that kind of more spy stealth sneak super micro like you know I'm going to do something and I love that we've been able to pull things you know from other RTS games that we loved or elements that we haven't been able to explore right yet in age, and that's the amazing thing. There's so much more that we can do."

Mythology isn't the "Definitive Edition," it's "Retold" to improve upon the original

We switched gears to Age of Mythology: Retold and discussed how awesome it was that this game will be the first Age game to simultaneously release on both Xbox Series X|S and PC. Isgreen applauded the team that brought Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition to Xbox, specifically shouting out the team's controller mechanics like the Villager Priority wheel. We then discussed what kind of gameplay to expect from Mythology: Retold on both PC and Xbox.

"Yeah, and you know, the council for [the Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition for Xbox team]... knocked it out of the park in terms of taking all of the ideas and synthesizing them and iterating and iterating until they found that wonderful magic with like the automated villagers — the Villager Priority System — and the site menus."

"And those things are so great. That those are actually going to move forward with us regardless of platform... I think that [the] stuff that the console version has taught us [is] that we can be even better with accessibility, even on the PC side, than we are right now ...You're going to see more and more of that. And Mythology: Retold is going to be one of the ones that systems like Villager Priority and the site menus and stuff are gonna show up on the PC side as well."

"Optional, of course, right? Like optional. Of course, you don't have to use them, but they're there so that people that want to enjoy them don't have to only play on the console and be able to enjoy those features."

In Age of Mythology: Retold, players get assistance from gods including  Anubis, the Egyptian god of the underworld. (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Knowing that some people are averse to Age controller mechanics brought in for Xbox, I asked if there would be a way to make it so only people playing on keyboard could play together and only people playing with controller controls could play together when Mythology: Retold comes out.

"...I don't think we've aligned on perfectly like, 'oh, this is the rule set for ranked versus unranked.' But those are all options and things we can explore. And what we want to do is- you know, we saw this with Auto Scout, right? When we put that in on Age 2, there was a lot of controversy over Auto Scout. But then people played with it and they're like, wow, this thing doesn't scout very well. And we're like, yeah, that's intentional actually. Like, we put it in to help people, especially early in game, but we didn't intend it to be the only way you scout."

Mythology: Retold is going to be one of the ones that systems like Villager Priority and the site menus and stuff are gonna show up on the PC side as well.

"And so as we look at features like this, you know? I mentioned Villager Priority, but I don't know if you're aware of Villager Priority isn't as efficient as a player doing all of this stuff, right? There's (sic) delays and there's (sic) things that we've intentionally put in that the game is still really great and easy to play, but a real player can be more efficient if they micro everything."

"...But yeah, we'll look at options, you know. Again, this is one of those things. We'll listen to the community and see what they really want. But what we really want to do is just open the games up to more players. And we know that not everyone has the mind to be able to micro as much as others and that, you know, they can enjoy the game this way."

"...And I think as people get over the initial kind of hump of like, 'Oh my gosh, this stuff is in PC now, what the heck?,' I think they'll see that, 'oh, this is actually not this big of a deal as I thought it would be.'"

Age of Mythology: Retold allows players to take advantage of God Powers.  (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

I pointed out that the other Age games have all been getting a lot of DLC and asked if we could expect any expansions for Mythology: Retold. While Isgreen couldn't say anything about that, he did point out that Mythology: Retold is a retelling rather than the "Definitive Edition." In other words, it aims to improve aspects of gameplay from the original, which had mixed responses at launch, rather than being completely true to it. 

"Just on a personal note, I absolutely love Mythology to death. There's a reason we wanted to wait to do this because Retold is much more than Age. There's a reason we didn't call it 'Definitive Edition' because many of us in the studio and many of the fans love Mythology. We all know there's this amazing, amazing game inside of Age of Mythology that maybe didn't get all of it just quite right out the gate, and that's what we're doing this time around with Retold."

There's a reason we didn't call it 'Definitive Edition' because many of us in the studio and many of the fans love Mythology. We all know there's this amazing, amazing game inside of Age of Mythology that maybe didn't get all of it just quite right out the gate, and that's what we're doing this time around with Retold.

"There's (sic) some pretty significant changes to how God Powers work. There's (sic) some significant changes to how you can control your myth units and use their abilities and things that really change the game, like the game plays different."

"The great thing is, all of our community council — you know, we're engaged with our community pretty much 24/7 — and they've been playing the game for months with us and they're really happy, I guess is the way to say it. So far you know. Just teased with the [livestream] today and we didn't show you gameplay and we didn't show things that I know people want."

"Like I was on Reddit, I was reading the comments on the gaming forums and it's great to see that people are so excited and they want more. But just know that we know that."

There are going to be plenty of changes in Age of Mythology: Retold from the original game.  (Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

I acknowledged the original Age of Mythology's rough launch and reception back in the early 2000s, and expressed my own interest in seeing what changes the team had made in the Retold game.

"Well, yeah. To me, Mythology should have been one of the most popular Age of Empires games and it was kind of criminal to me that it wasn't."

"And we want to get it there, right? So that's what myself and the rest of the teams and everyone that's working on the game believes really wholeheartedly that it can be a fantastic game. And we want to bring that game out. So that's what we've been spending all the time. That's what we've been really hush-hush about, what we've been doing on the game so far."

"...We will have information coming out about the game. You can expect as we get closer to launch, we'll definitely ramp up the content and the coverage to make sure that people get everything they want to know about the game out there because that is a lot to talk about..."

"You have no idea how much I want to gush about a whole bunch of stuff in that game that I can't right now. But I promise you, we will at some point."

Will Age games simultaneously release on Xbox and PC going forward?

Age of Mythology: Retold marks the first time that an Age game will launch simultaneously on PC and Xbox.  (Image credit: Windows Central)

Knowing that Mythology: Retold is going to be the first Age game to launch simultaneously on PC and Xbox, I asked if we can expect Age of Empire games to release on both PC and Xbox going forward.

"You know, I can't say. I can't promise that. It depends the the way that we're building the games and the way that we look at our technologies, you know, it can be challenging because we have so many different engines right now."

"You know we've got the [Age 2] engine, the [Age 3] engine, which fortunately is also part of the Myth engine, the [Age 4] engine. You know. So there's a lot going on there and every time that we try to do something together it can be challenging because of moving the tech, making sure they all work together."

"... We're going to keep going down there to make sure that we can really deliver a great RTS experience for people that want to sit on a big, comfy couch with a big TV and a controller in their hand."

Age of Empires III's two new civs

Our discussion eventually led us to talk about Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition and the two new civilizations it will be getting. 

"We've got two new civs coming to Age of Empires III — we've got Poland and Denmark. Which, yeah, it's funny. I'm like, don't say the names and then they showed the flags (in the livestream). I'm like, OK, well fine, now I'll share the names..."

"There's a nice trial you can do and play Age 3 for free now. We really believe in the title that, you know, it's a totally unique experience in the Age pantheon of games. The deck-building system, the home cities totally changed the way that game feels and flows. Even the gameplay itself, right? Ensemble took a lot of risks and tried a lot of crazy things. You know, to try to find other nuggets of really good strategy that they could do with [Age 3]. And I think that they succeeded."

"...Adding more civs to [Age 3] is just another way to show that we really do still care about the game and want to keep pushing and adding content to it that players can jump in and really experience."

Age of Empires: Mobile provides RTS elements on the go

After discussing the main PC and Xbox Age games, Isgreen expressed his excitement for the upcoming Age of Empires: Mobile, which won't be a true RTS game but will have Age RTS elements that players can enjoy on the go. Plus, players can chill and fish.

"'How are you gonna do an RTS on mobile?' It's not exactly perfectly an RTS, right? It is still a strategy game, it has many elements of RTS in it, but the thing that I love is Timi has been a fantastic partner, like, I couldn't ask for a better partner, honestly, in building a game in the terms of the respect... That level of respect that we try to bring to Age 2 is what they want for the mobile title as well."

"...The thing that we wanted to make sure is that there were the through lines, right? You know, like I always think of games almost like cars in some ways, right? You look at an old Aston Martin and then you look at a new Aston Martin and the grills are very similar, right? They've got this curve and then a bigger curve... And that was the thing that we wanted to make sure with Mobile that it had Age of Empires DNA and you could see the through lines."

"I can't tell you how absorbed I get [playing Age of Empires: Mobile], you know, like you can fish, but it's a mini-game... That's part of that unique dynamic of Age of Empires, right, Is that I can build a city, I can go wage war, or I can just like chill and fish like. And I love that diversity, you know? And yeah, it's really great to see that it's been captured well and that, you know, it's still upheld that kind of pace that we love in Age of Empires."

Age of Empires has a bright future ahead that's centered around keeping fans happy

Winding down our conversation, I asked Isgreen if there was anything else he'd like to say about Age games or Mythology: Retold. After discussing things for a while, he finally ended by saying that his goal is to keep Age going by listening to fans. 

"Today as we're doing the streams and going on gaming forums and just combing through everything I could — reading the articles coming out just to make sure like, OK, what can we do, you know. And we want to keep everyone happy.

"We want to keep Age going into perpetuity."

There's a lot of excitement in store for Age fans who will be able to experience expansions like the latest Victors and Vanquished DLC for Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition as well as the brand new Age of Mythology: Retold when they release. You can dive into these RTS games now on both Xbox and PC or register for the upcoming Age of Empires: Mobile.

Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition

Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition

Play as one of several civilizations as you build up your forces, technology, and defenses. When the time is right, defend yourself from attacking opponents or go after their civilization and try to dominate the map. It's one of the most popular RTS games of all time. 

Buy at: GMG (Steam PC)| Microsoft (Xbox)

Age of Mythology: Retold

Age of Mythology: Retold

Level up your RTS gaming with the help of mythological gods. Everyone from Zeus to Anubis is here to aid you and your civilization in your quest for dominance. Take advantage of their godly powers and come out victorious.

Coming Soon at: Steam (PC)| Microsoft (Xbox)

Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition

Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition

Enter a new age of history while pitting civilizations against each other in storied campaigns or epic multiplayer. You can go up against others or simply compete against the computer AI. 

Buy at: GMG (Steam PC) | Microsoft (Xbox)

Age of Empires: Mobile

Age of Empires: Mobile

Take your love of RTS games with you on the go with Age of Empires: Mobile. Some mechanics are different from the PC and console versions of Age games, but this is to make gameplay more conducive for mobile use. 

Pre-Order at: Google Play (Android)| App Store (iOS)

Rebecca Spear
Editor and Reviewer

Self-professed gaming geek, Rebecca Spear, is one of Windows Central's editors and reviewers with a focus on gaming handhelds, PC gaming, and laptops. When she isn't checking out the latest games on Xbox Game Pass, PC, ROG Ally, or Steam Deck; she can be found digital drawing with a Wacom tablet. She's written thousands of articles with everything from editorials, reviews, previews, features, previews, and hardware reviews over the last few years. If you need information about anything gaming-related, her articles can help you out. She also loves testing game accessories and any new tech on the market. You can follow her @rrspear on X (formerly Twitter).