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Daily DripEntertainment

“Age of Empires” Mobile Game Available Next Week

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Age of Empires fans in China, save the date: Tuesday, March 29, will see the release of Return to Empire, the mobile version of the classic real-time strategy (RTS) game.

This marks the first collaboration between Xbox and China’s TiMi Studio Group, a subsidiary of Tencent Games that previously developed award-winning mobile games Honor of KingsCall of Duty: Mobile, and Pokémon Unite. Honor of Kings was the top-grossing, free-of-charge game worldwide in 2020, making over 2.45 billion USD in revenue.

The two gaming giants’ partnership was first announced in May 2021, and the official trailer for the mobile version of Age of Empires was released in August that same year.

Over the past few months, Chinese players have enjoyed access to several rounds of beta tests through Return to Empire‘s official website.

What’s more, gameplay videos have been circulating on both Bilibili and YouTube, unleashing a wave of comments from Chinese gamers and Age of Empires aficionados worldwide.

age of empires mobile return to empire

Illustrations by fans on Weibo

Released back in the glory days (the ’90s, of course — 1997, to be exact), Age of Empires sees players take control of an ancient real-world civilization. Gamers extract resources, build infrastructure, develop their economies, and clash militarily with their enemies. Since Age of Empires‘ initial release, the title has expanded into a franchise of related games.

Many fans have expressed their excitement over Return to Empire, but a handful remain skeptical about the game.

Several Chinese netizens question if the visuals and gameplay will hold up to those of Rise of Kingdoms, a popular mobile RTS game developed by Shanghainese mobile game studio Lilith Games.

Meanwhile, a few foreign gamers have criticized the fighting style of the mobile game, saying that there is too much of a resemblance to Japanese anime. Some have also questioned the game’s historical accuracy.

TiMi’s promotional campaigns for Return to Empire have been going full steam regardless of the mixed online reactions.

For example, the studio initiated a partnership with Global Game Art Contest to hold a special art competition from December 2021 to March 2022. Participants were invited to submit artwork inspired by the game, so long as it fits in one of three categories: landscape design, character design, and illustration.

Incentivized by a cash prize of 100,000 RMB (roughly 15,700 USD), fans from around the globe have been submitting a steady stream of entries. The results will be announced in April this year.

age of empires mobile return to the empire fanart

Character design art by fans on Weibo

Will the mobile version of Age of Empires follow in the footsteps of Tower of Fantasy and get a global release? Tencent has yet to release a statement on the matter, but here’s to hoping it happens (and doesn’t take long!).

Cover image via Weibo

Beatrice Tamagno
Beatrice is a graduate student in sociology at Fudan University in Shanghai. Her writings have appeared on SupChina and ChinaNauts, an online magazine she co-founded with fellow researchers from Fudan. When she is not researching gender in contemporary China, you will find her playing mahjong or binging Chinese TV shows.
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