• Return of Rome is a brand new DLC for Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition which adds content from the first original game
  • Play with 17 new factions, including the all-new Lac Viet, and fight your way through three new campaigns in a standalone expansion
  • We’re talking to the executive producer Age of Empires II: Definitive EditionEarnest Yuen for details ahead of the May 16 release

Over the past 20 years, Age of Empires II is consistently seen as the cornerstone of this great RTS franchise. It is praised for its many mechanical improvements over the first game, unique units, and the addition of gates to avoid accidentally trapping your warriors on screen. Age of Empires II ushered in an era almost as memorable as the in-game factions we love to play.

But a groundbreaking sequel always has a first origin story that started it all Age of empires the name is in no way left behind. The latest extension, Return of Romeconfigured to introduce integral parts of the original game content Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition as its own stand-alone offering, as well as some brand new additions for fans.

“We literally take Age of empires gameplay and placing it… inside Age of Empires II.”

Ernest Yuen, executive producer Age of Empires II: Definitive Editiontells us that the Age of Empires community is genuinely at the forefront of the decision to create this expansion, which is a testament to Age of Empires: The Rise of Romeaddition to the original game.

“It’s a different type of expansion pack that we’ve never done before,” explains Ewen. “We literally take Age of empires gameplay and placing it as a game within a game Age of Empires II.”

The return of the two Romes

Return of Rome includes the 16 ancient civilizations introduced in the first Age of Empires, one all-new civilization, and three all-new campaigns. This is not a bolt for Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, but a separate entity that operates under its own original rules and factions that are not included in the second remake of the game. You can easily switch between them.

There is one exception to faction exclusivity – Return of Rome of course, it wouldn’t be complete without the Roman faction, but it’s interesting that this expansion introduces two different Roman civilizations to play with. The playable Roman faction in this expansion focuses on earlier periods of history, but the empire is added to Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition actually covers a later period of Roman history and was built from the ground up specifically for the game.

This period dates back to approximately 395 AD. e., which makes them contemporaries of the Goths, Celts, Britons, Persians and other factions of the early Middle Ages. Until that point, Rome, experts from the Age of Empires team said, was considered a crumbling shadow of its former glory, unable to pay its soldiers or effectively fortify its house.

“They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it didn’t fall in a day either,” Ewen says. “So history buffs can feel the difference between early and later Roman factions.”

25 years of Rome in Age of Empires, from 1997 to 2017-2023

Yuen, who also executive produced the first Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, tells us that the goal of the game was to recreate the ultimate updated gaming experience from 20 years ago. This included running it on modern systems with better graphics while remaining similar to the original. However, it was a real learning curve for the team.

“We wanted to let newcomers really see what the game is like and let the fans experience it all over again, and we learned a lot from that,” says Yuen. “The lesson was that die-hard fans of the original Age of empires fans are very happy, it was difficult for new players to join. It’s still very old school, and some players are very used to the innovations that have happened in other great RTS games over the past two decades.”

It was this inspiration that changed the team’s focus on creating a final version of the game that fans remembered for its minor quality-of-life changes, not necessarily the exact original with all its quirks. Now it’s more like a fusion of the two titles, optimized for a smoother all-around experience while retaining the unique moments of each game.

“When we released the original Age of Empires: Definitive Editionpeople remembered that the game had gates, factions had formations, but no, there was none of that, just Age of Empires II had those,” Yuen says. “But now we are in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition engine, we were able to add these quality-of-life settings.”

“Instead of recreating the final edition of the original game as it was, we want to create the final edition of the game in your head,” says Yuen. “But in essence, we want to make sure of the original Age of empires the fans feel at home.”

Official D3 ruleset

The Return of Rome the expansion also includes the all-new D3 game mode, an in-game implementation of a long-standing unofficial rule set created by Vietnamese Age of Empires players. The ruleset limits players to a single military unit until the Bronze Age, which limits rush tactics and keeps all sides on an equal footing. It also introduces an entirely new faction, the Lac Viet, a Southeast Asian faction from the Late Neolithic period.

“Vietnamese fans have kept the original Age of Empires alive for the past 25 years,” says Yuen. “They still have local tournaments, stream them online, and we wanted to honor that community for supporting the game all this time.”

The D3 ruleset has long been around as a popular way for Age of Empires players to compete against each other, but it’s basically a handshake deal with no actual in-game restrictions. Now an official mode, players can customize the game with a set of rules, so everyone has to stick to it no matter what – a much more enjoyable and reliable D3 experience for those playing online.

“Ideally it will also spread internationally, so Vietnamese fans will be able to play with this set of rules against other people from around the world,” says Yuen.

Lac Viet is a completely new faction for Age of Empires, created in honor of the Vietnamese community

There’s plenty here to please existing Age of Empires fans, but this offering isn’t just for those who enjoyed the classic games years ago. They’re comfortable and modern, and designed to appeal to newcomers, whether they’re familiar with RTS games or not. Age of Empires is timeless entertainment for everyone, and now it’s more accessible than ever.

“This franchise is 25 years old, which means it crosses generations,” says Ewen. “We have fans who played as kids who are now playing again with their kids, which is fantastic.”

“One way to describe Age of Empires that I really like is that it’s like real-time chess. This is how people play and think about it, and chess is timeless.”

Prepare for battle once again when Age of Empires: The Return of Rome out May 16 on Xbox Series X|S and PC.

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition – Return of Rome

Xbox Game Studios

$14.99 USD

12.74 USD

Welcome to The Return of Rome, an all-new kind of expansion that brings Age of Empires, the title that started it all, to Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition as an all-new self-contained experience. This new expansion will let you challenge your friends with the original sixteen civilizations of Age of Empires—plus one brand new exclusive Civilization of Rome Returns, Lac Viet—and relive the triumphs and trials of antiquity. Make your way through the ancient world in three new campaigns with conquerors, empire builders and talented tacticians desperately fighting against fate! As an added bonus, the Romans will no longer be bound by time as they become a new playable civilization in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, ready to battle in a new age. 17 ancient civilizations: • Assyrians • Babylonians • Carthaginians • Choshon • Egyptians • Greeks • Hittites • Macedonians • Minoans • Palmyrenes • Persians • Phoenicians • Romans • Shan • Sumerians • Yamato • And 1 brand new, exclusive return of Rome: Lac Viet – Ancient a Southeast Asian civilization PLUS 1 new ancient civilization for use in the standard Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition: • Romans – Rise to the throne of an empire that rules the Mediterranean and defend your borders against countless barbarian invasions. Unique Roman units are the Legionnaire, a strong infantry unit, and the Centurion, a heavy cavalry unit that augments the strength of neighboring militia line units. Available in single player and unranked multiplayer games. Novelty! Exclusive Game Mode A Rise of Rome: Introducing the D3 game mode, inspired by the rule set that became popular in Vietnam, now an official part of the franchise! 3 new, fully voiced campaigns: Sargon of Akkad – An incredible man rises to power in the city-states of Mesopotamia: Sargon is a mere cupbearer to the king, but everything changes when the war goddess Ishtar appears in his dreams. Under her leadership, Sargon leads the warring Sumerians into a new era, but the alluring nature of power forces him to choose between divine destiny and personal ambition. In this campaign you will play as the Sumerians. Pyrrhus of Epirus – When the Diadochi Wars saw Alexander the Great’s successors throw the Greek world into chaos, Pyrrhus of Epirus began as a small player among the Titans. Will he be worthy of the judgment of the legendary Hannibal Barca – a famous general of the time – or will his constant uphill struggle prove insurmountable? In this campaign you will play as Macedonians. Trajan – Marcus Ulpius Trajan rose through the ranks of the legions while the tyrannical rule of Emperor Domitian tarnished the glory of the Roman Empire. When circumstances elevate him to the throne as Emperor Trajan, he inherits a kingdom on the brink of disaster. Will ingenuity, virtue, and military might be enough to save Rome and bring it to its historic zenith, or will the Roman Empire crumble four centuries before its time? In this campaign you will play as the Romans. Try Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition Age of Empires Quality of Life Gameplay Improvements: • Gates • Formations • Shopping Carts • Improved Wayfinding • UI Improvements • Visual Enhancements • Spectator Mode • Improved AI for PC Opponents • And More another!