The World in Wargaming: Empires Apart is digging up Age of Empires

The World in Wargaming: Empires Apart

Twice a month we’ll be taking a look at a new strategy or wargame with the help of Slitherine, purveyor of more wargames than you could hope to count. We’ll be interviewing developers, going hands-on, and rounding up the latest strategy news.

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A change of pace this week, as we take a look at Empires Apart, an upcoming RTS from DESTINYbit, inspired by the likes of Age of Empires II. It’s due out next year. 

Empires Apart

DESTINYbit are in the midst of a spot of RTS archeology, digging up the past and evolutionary dead ends in the hopes that an Age of Empires-style game can still consume people’s days. Despite some HD remakes, the genre seems to have largely moved on, but Gian Paolo Vernocchi, founder of DESTINYbit, believes the systems that AoE was built on are still just as compelling and relatable today.

“Some people might look at games like Age of Empires, which had you manage four different resources, and call them ‘complex’ based on modern standards. While that might be – mathematically speaking – strictly true, we find it’s actually the opposite when you put the game in the hands of players, even people new to the genre.

“When you see a villager mining a rock and then coming back to the town center with a piece of stone in his hands… it simply makes sense. That’s the kind of gameplay we’re trying to resurrect. It’s not ‘build a power plant’ or ‘put refinery on top of rocks,’ it has a visceral feeling to it that everybody can relate to.”

While nostalgia is a motivator, Empires Apart is also being designed with contemporary gaming habits in mind. Multiplayer will play an important role, and DESTINYbit have looked to MOBAs and MMOs for some inspiration.

“The main focus of Empires Apart has always been multiplayer and MOBAs and MMOs are among the most played games nowadays,” Vernocchi notes. “Usually in these games, characters serve a very specific role and you have your healers, tanks and DPSs. We’re borrowing some of these distinctions and roles when designing our civilizations.”

Each civilisation, he explains, has a multiplayer role. Some of them will be very strong in the early-game with a strong military focus, but thanks to their weak economy, they’ll need help as the game continues. Other favour the Boom approach, building up to a crescendo where they’ll smash their enemies with superior tech. And then there are the Support civilisations, working best in a team with their healers and counter-units.

Placing the game in a historical setting was also important to Vernocchi, who feels that the genre favours science fiction too much. “There’s something incredibly cool about cavalry charges, Aztec warriors running on the field and arrows flying in the sky.”

Empires Apart’s roots are in medieval history but, like its inspiration, it’s not beholden to it. So while the game’s civilisations are based on historical groups, DESTINYbit is taking some artistic license. Vernocchi mentions “Assassin’s Creed-style assassins for the Arabs” and “huge flamethrowers for the Chinese,” but despite such exaggerated units, he doesn’t want to fall into fantasy.

“You won’t see dragons in Empires Apart, but history doesn’t need them to be epic.”

In other news…

That’s it for now! Come back in a fortnight for the next instalment…

Our ‘The World in Wargaming’ series is created in association with Slitherine. Empires Apart is due out next year.