Age of Empires Online goes freemium, includes persistent civilizations

Fresh details have surfaced on Age of Empires Online, the forthcoming PC title from Robot Entertainment and Microsoft Game Studios (R.I.P Ensemble Studios).

Gamasutra reports that the new game will be based on a free-to-play business model and will sport persistent civilizations that evolve while players are offline. Borrowing from MMORPGs, players can earn experience and gear by completing quests and crafting systems.

The game will launch with two playable civilizations, Greeks and Egyptians, and players can unlock all aspects of said civilizations at once by purchasing a “Premium Civilization” upgrade. This is said to include special abilities known as “star techs.” Users that purchase a Premium Civilization will also have access to “rare” and “epic” loot tiers, while those that don’t pony up for premium will toil away with less powerful items.

Along with this premium upgrade, the game will feature a handful of microtransaction packs called “boosters” to unlock new quests and gameplay, as well as new designs that allows players to alter the look of their civilizations.

Although this is a big departure from previous Age of Empires, Microsoft contends that the priority is not in the lucrative nature of microtransacting.

“We don’t want to nickel and dime you; we’re trying to build a community,” Microsoft Games Studios’ Ian Vogel says. “We’re not just trying to sell you a product. We want to have something that’s living and growing moving forward.”

AoEO will launch sometime in 2011 and pricing for premium modes and microtransactions are still TBD. For now, betas can be had by visiting the AoEO site.