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Age of Empires Online -- the next iteration of the famous franchise is kinda, um, FarmVille...


Do not adjust your monitor -- it's meant to look cartoony!

Age of Empires Online, the long-awaited update to one of the most famous RTS franchises, is coming, along with a truly massive deviation from its usual format. Yes, it's still an RTS; yes, there are still buildings and military and a campaign -- but that's where the similarities end!.

Age of Empires Online is actually closer to FarmVille than an Age of Empires title. Your city is saved online, accessible from anywhere (the game will be digitally distributed, so you can log in from anywhere). You will carry out quests, which will take the form of single- and multi-player cooperative missions. Of course there's in-game chat too, so you can talk to your friends while you play. Basically, it's a social MMO, but with 'real' RTS gameplay tacked on. Watch the video on its website to see some actual gameplay.

I'm not quite sure what to make of it all. The FAQ has tantalizing yet thoroughly useless hints at what to expect. There's no sign of what it will cost, but I presume it will be free, if it wants to compete with FarmVille. That opens another kettle of fish: as a full RTS, it must be cost inga lot more than other Flash-based MMOs to develop... how will they monetize it?

Age of Empires Online is slated for release sometime in 2011. You can try your chances, like me, and sign up for the Closed Beta, though! (The beta sign-up survey asks if you've played FarmVille and Mafia Wars, incidentally...)

Oh, and apparently this is a Windows PC exclusive -- I had so hoped for a mobile title to challenge Civilization for Facebook...

Tags: age of empires, AgeOfEmpires, ensemble, games, games for windows, GamesForWindows, gfwl, microsoft game studios, MicrosoftGameStudios, robot entertainment, RobotEntertainment

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