The short answer is yes, the legendary Age of Empires series is now more free and accessible than ever before! As a long-time fan of the iconic RTS franchise myself, I‘m thrilled there are so many options for both veterans and newcomers to start playing for free. Let‘s dive into the details.
Reliving the Glory Days with Age of Empires Online
It‘s hard to believe, but Age of Empires Online originally launched way back in 2011. At the time, it was an ambitious attempt to take the beloved historical RTS series online and make it more massively multiplayer. Now, over a decade later, Microsoft has officially made Age of Empires Online free to play once again on Steam!
As someone who sunk countless hours into the game all those years ago, I‘m delighted to dust off my old account and dive back in. Age of Empires Online strikes a perfect balance of the trademark AoE gameplay we know and love blended with fun online elements like collecting resources even when offline, unlocking various civilization perks, and cooperating with friends. There‘s both PvE against AI enemies and PvP modes to choose from.
Best of all, the game has been updated to support modern systems and brings back special limited-time events and challenges. Reliving those glory days of building up my empire from the Stone Age through colonial times has been an absolute blast of nostalgia. The game is 100% free, so if you missed out on it back in the day, I‘d highly recommend giving Age of Empires Online a shot now!
Trying AoE II and III through Xbox Game Pass
Now this is an incredible value – you can access both Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition and Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition as part of an Xbox Game Pass subscription for PC. I‘ve been using Game Pass for over a year now and remain impressed with the library of strategy titles available.
Age II Definitive Edition especially is phenomenal, updating the classic game with some quality of life enhancements while retaining the fantastic core gameplay. It also comes packed with all content from the original and its expansions, so you get an enormous bang for your buck.
Meanwhile, Age III Definitive Edition brings improved graphics and new content to the third entry in the series. I‘m partial to the medieval era myself, but playing through the colonial period and onto more modern times provides wonderful variety.
Considering Game Pass starts at just $9.99 a month, gaining access to both these stellar Definitive Editions is quite enticing. You can even try out the subscription for only $1 for your first month! As an avid real-time strategy fan, I find Game Pass to be an indispensable resource.
Age of Empires Definitive Edition via Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
Taking your Age of Empires enjoyment to the next level, an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription provides access to the Definitive Edition of the original 1999 game on both PC and Xbox consoles. I really appreciate how Microsoft has consolidated access to the Age of Empires experience across their various platforms.
As someone who split their gaming time between PC and Xbox, Game Pass Ultimate is a must-have. Being able to play that classic initial entry in the series on my Xbox with improved visuals and quality of life enhancements makes me feel like a kid again.
Plus, Ultimate bundles Game Pass together with Xbox Live Gold online multiplayer membership – further increasing the value at just $14.99 monthly. If you want to experience the full range of AoE titles seamlessly across PC and Xbox, Game Pass Ultimate is definitely the way to go.
Cloud Gaming Opens Up Endless Possibilities
This is where things get really exciting. Even if you don‘t own a fancy gaming PC or Xbox console, you can now stream Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition virtually anywhere thanks to cloud gaming through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate!
As someone who travels a lot for work, this feature has been an absolute game-changer (pun intended). All you need is a stable internet connection, compatible controller, and an Ultimate subscription. Then simply log into Xbox.com/play on any laptop or mobile device and start streaming AoE II Definitive straight through your browser.
The power of cloud computing means you can enjoy the full experience just as if you were running the game locally. Leading your kingdom to glory has never been more portable. I never tire of the feeling of freedom from being able to continue my progress wherever I go.
Cloud gaming works excellently for turn-based and real-time strategy titles. And now that Xbox has integrated it across Game Pass subscriptions, Age of Empires is more playable than ever, untethered from bulky gaming hardware. It‘s a landmark achievement in accessibility for the legendary series.
Trying Before Buying with Free Trials
Free-to-play access to the classics is fantastic, but maybe you also want to give the latest entry, Age of Empires IV, a spin? Not to worry, Microsoft has you covered here as well with an up to 2 hour free trial right through the Microsoft Store.
As a big fan of history, I‘ve been absolutely captivated by AoE IV‘s presentation with its in-depth Illustrated Timeline spanning from the Dark Ages up through the Hundred Years War. The graphics and animations are gorgeous, bringing an immersive level of detail to historical events and personages.
The trial may only allow a couple hours of gameplay, but that‘s plenty of time to get a feel for the civilizations, campaigns, and revamped combat. Any progress also carries over to the full game if you do decide to purchase.
It‘s a slick means of letting players experience AoE IV‘s majesty without fully committing. Definitely take advantage if you‘re curious how the series has evolved in its latest incarnation!
Keep an Eye Out for Free Weekend Events
Finally, it‘s worth mentioning that Steam often runs limited-time free play weekend events for various Age of Empires titles. So in addition to the permanently free options mentioned already, you can sample full versions of the games on these special occasions.
For example, just last month Steam granted free access to the original Age of Empires II HD version for a full weekend. As an avid Steam user myself, I always mark my calendar for these AoE free weekends and take full advantage of the temporary promotion to get my fix!
So in summary – whether you‘re a diehard Age of Empires fan like myself or completely new to the legendary RTS series, there have genuinely never been more options to start playing for free. As a franchise that holds a special nostalgic place in my heart, I love seeing Microsoft make it more accessible than ever through Steam, Game Pass subscriptions, cloud gaming, and free trial promotions.
No matter your experience level or platform of choice, you can now start expanding your empire and waging historical warfare across the ages free of charge. I wholeheartedly encourage you to give Age of Empires a free trial in one of its many incarnations if you haven‘t already – you won‘t be disappointed!
Quick Comparison of Free Age of Empires Options
|Age of Empires Online||Steam||PC||✅||None|
|Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition||Xbox Game Pass||PC||✅||Requires subscription|
|Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition||Xbox Game Pass||PC||✅||Requires subscription|
|Age of Empires: Definitive Edition||Xbox Game Pass Ultimate||PC, Xbox||✅||Requires subscription|
|Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition||Xbox Cloud Gaming||Web, Mobile||❌||Requires subscription + internet connection|
|Age of Empires IV||Microsoft Store||PC||❌||2 hour time limit|
|Various titles||Steam Free Weekends||PC||✅||Time limited|
Key Takeaways on Free Age of Empires Options:
- Age of Empires Online returns for free on Steam after a decade, now updated
- Xbox Game Pass (and Ultimate) provides access to multiple AoE Definitive Editions
- Cloud gaming through Xbox brings AoE II Definitive to browsers and mobile
- Free trials of AoE IV available directly from the Microsoft Store
- Watch for limited-time Steam free weekend promotions
So whether you‘re an RTS veteran hungry for nostalgia or totally new to the genre, it‘s an amazing time to dive into the legendary Age of Empires series. With so much free access across various platforms, what are you waiting for? Now is the time to start building your empire!
I hope you found this overview helpful. Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to chat more about one of my all-time favorite game franchises.