Empires Apart is a game you play when you want to play Age of Empires, but not the actual Age of Empires.
Developed by DESTINYbit and published by military specialists Slitherine, it takes the era advancement, resource gathering and real-time combat of Age of Empires and...copies it wholesale, reskinning the entire experience in a low-fi polygonal art style.
It’s not a complete clone, as there are some slight differences in the way eras are advanced and the types of factions and units on offer, but really, this is an Age of Empires game in all but name.
So why play this over the recently re-released original (or Age of Empires II HD)? There aren’t many reasons, to be honest, since so much of the core experience is the same, only here there’s a distinct lack of content outside multiplayer and skirmishes (as in, there’s no campaign or singleplayer scenarios).
But the art is nice, with actual 3D units and buildings, and there’s a thematic variety in the six factions available, from the French to the Chinese to the Aztecs.
I’m using “Age of Empires” as a comparison point in terms of the series as a whole, not specifically the first game, because Empires Apart actually draws from AoEII more than the original, as with its medieval setting there’s a slightly greater emphasis on fortifications and castles.
I think the lack of proper singleplayer content (skirmish maps are pretty tedious) is a real bummer here, and makes it tough to recommend Empires Apart over Ensemble’s classics, but if you’ve played those games to death over the last 20 years and can’t bear another minute of that menu music, this might at least be worth a look if you’re aware of its limitations.