Age of Empires (AoE) is a history-based real-time strategy video game developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft, and the first game in the Age of Empires series. The game uses the Genie Engine, a 2D sprite-based game engine. The game allows the user to act as the leader of an ancient civilization by advancing it through four ages (the Stone, Tool, Bronze, and Iron Ages), gaining access to new and improved units with each advance.
Age of Empires requires the player to develop a civilization from a handful of hunter-gatherers to an expansive Iron Age Empire. To assure victory, the player must gather resources in order to pay for new units, buildings and more advanced technology. Resources must be preserved, as no new resources become available as the game progresses; for example, trees that are cut down will not grow back.
Twelve civilizations are available, each with individual sets of attributes, including a varying number of available technologies and units. Each civilization has technologies unique to them, so that no civilization possesses all the technologies possible within the game.
A major component of the game is the advancement through four ages. These are the Stone Age (Mesolithic/Nomad/Paleolithic), the Tool Age (Neolithic/Chalcolithic), the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Advancement between ages is researched at the Town Center, and each advancement brings the player new technologies, weapons, and units.