This is the first part of my quest to survive Age of Empires: Online as a Season Pass user over the next six months. In this introductory edition I'm going to quickly cover what the Season Pass has gotten me so far.
One of the first things you notice in Age of Empires: Online after you start the game is the Marketplace building. It's a quick and simple (some might say nefarious) way of purchasing any of the premium content in the game. As you can see in the picture to the right, I currently own everything so far for buying the Season Pass. This includes (currency in US$):
- Premium Greece Civilization ($20)
- Premium Egypt Civilization ($20)
- Defence of Crete (Booster) ($10)
- Startling Statuary (Empire Extras) ($5)
- Glorious Gardening (Empire Extras) ($5)
- Bountiful Bushes (Empire Extras) ($5)
- Ornate Ornaments (Empire Extras) ($5)
All up that's US$70 worth of stuff. Well, the 'worth' bit is a little questionable, but let's just roll with the assumption that, based on current content, I'm pretty close to fully paying off that Season Pass already without even getting to the point where I'll be 'paying' an extra 40 for the two upcoming Civs. Even if they're the only extra things coming in the next six months I'm getting some of the Empire Extras for free. I feel a little more justified... Just a little.
The most self-explanatory things on the list are the premium packages for the Civilizations. In the next edition of this blog I'll go over what you get from a premium Civ in more detail and the differences between a free and premium Civilization, but for now I'll just note that for being the most expensive things on the list they definitely return the most value for money, at least individually.
We Heard You Like Horde Mode
The next on the list is the Defence of Crete Booster Pack. This pack behaves more or less like console DLC that most of you would be used to by now. It's a little extra content for a little extra cash. The Crete pack adds a wave-based survival mode to the game. This mode has several different difficulty levels that are tiered for the level of your Civilization. Each level bracket gives you increasing amounts of rewards, and you can play earlier or later tiers if you want a cakewalk or a challenge. You can also scale up the amount of waves of enemies you will have to survive which also scales up the rewards and loot you receive if you win. There are nine different maps to choose from, each having their own unique layout and theme with a decent split between land and sea-based invasions. Lastly, you can do these missions in co-op if you don't want to go alone.
The rewards for passing each individual mission include the general exp/gold/treasure chest rewards that you get from normal missions, as well as unique crafting materials and unique "epic" decorations for your town. The unique materials are used to craft recipes that are only available in the Crete stores. The island of Crete itself is open to both premium and free Civs, even for those that don't own the Booster Pack. If you don't buy the Booster, you can still get a single daily quest from the island that allows you to do one low-level, low-wave mission per day, and everyone has access to the special Crete reward stores on the island.
The Stores on Crete sell unique advisers, consumables and crafting recipes as well as rare and epic armour and weapons. Only the armour and weapons actually require you to spend Crete Points, the others can be bought with gold, although the crafting recipes are useless to people who haven't bought the Booster as the materials are only available from doing the survival missions (the 'demo' daily only rewards a very small amount of Crete points). The weapons and armour do cost a lot of Crete points, and take a fair amount of grinding and farming the missions to acquire. It is technically possible for a player who doesn't pay for the Booster pack to afford the items by doing the daily every single day, but it would literally take them over a year to afford the most expensive pieces on offer. Moral: if you don't buy the Booster, don't bother doing the daily every day for anything more than for the fun of it.
Playing the missions themselves can be pretty intense, especially on the high-wave co-op versions, and can get really challenging if you aren't exactly an AoE expert. They open themselves to a lot of different strategies and can be pretty fun. If the difficulty spike of the main missions is anything to go by, the hardest waves of this mode could be positively brutal. The rewards for continually doing the survival missions are quite good, and the weapons and armour are powerful but require a lot of time and effort to acquire. In all it's a pretty good addition to the main game that you can play as little or as much as you like throughout the entire 40 levels of your Civ, and caters for solo and co-op players of really any skill level.
If you're on the fence about getting this, just play the daily a few times to see if you're really into it. The daily is basically the lowest level option with the lowest number of waves on, arguably, one of the easier maps in the pool. If you're really into it it can serve as a good leveling alternative and give some fun co-op experiences, and the loot is a nice bonus. The loot isn't exactly better or worse than what you would get as drops at the same level of quests in the main quest lines, but they are strong and a good reward for simply playing if you have fun in the survival mode. If you don't really like the daily and are only interested in the loot, be advised you can get similar loot from random treasure chests and it can take a fair amount of grind to afford the Crete epics.
Overall, the value of this content is based entirely on how much you'll play it. If you like the mode it's a rewarding piece of content with enough variation that you can play on and off from the moment you get your first soldier units right up and beyond the level cap. If you don't like the mode, you can comfortably ignore its existence.
Vanity Items: Town Version
Hats! Wait... No. As much as it'd be hilarious to be able to buy funny hats and angel wings and Chun Li skins for your individual unit types a la standard free2play model, Age of Empires: Online's vanity items are relegated to making your home town looking fancy. There are four different shops available at launch and each of them cost US$5. Each of the four shops have a different assortment of buildings, statues, fountains, plants and trees for you to lay out on your town to spruce it up a little.
In Age of Empires: Online, you can basically pack up any building into a blueprint that you can store in your inventory and place anywhere you like on your town map. It's a cool little customizability tool that can give your town some personality for when friends visit your town. When you get one (or more) of the shops you can plonk it down where you please and buy other features to give your town more character. These features are bought with gold that you get from quests and selling items and such. They can be as cheap as 10 gold each for things like vases and flagpoles, and up to 25k gold for giant ornate statues. Each shop has only 10 unique features that you can buy from it.
Something else that kind of sours it on these shops is that you can obtain some really cool looking town features as rewards for doing tough challenges in the game. All the big things like pyramids, shrines, temples and such seem to be in this category, where the paid shops give you things like fountains and bushes and smaller statues. I'm kinda hoping at this point that a little more worthwhile content comes out so that I can write these shops off as getting them for free with my Season Pass, because I will probably end up using them at some point but wouldn't have paid US$5 for each of them.
As these shops double as a gold sink, it is kind of hard to recommend you buy them at all unless you're really into making your town look nice, and even then only if you like spending a whole lot of money to spend a whole lot of gold. I guess at low levels these shops seem more heinous because you don't even have enough gold to throw around to afford the features let alone town essentials as well. I guess when my Civ's get higher level and have gold and materials to throw away I'll actually use these and make my town a little more respectable than it is at the moment (which is a total mess, admittedly!). US$2 a shop might have seemed more reasonable if you're really into fancy junk (I know people have paid more for less in other free2play markets).
For the next part of Six Months of AoE:Online I'll be looking at the Premium Civilization bonuses and comparing a free account to a premium one in more detail. If you have any questions, suggestions, comments, tips on how to get the editor to not be a bit of an arse with my images, feel free to comment below!
Thanks for reading!