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Ensemble Studios: The End of a Legacy

Halo Wars

Ensemble Studios, creator of the Age of Empires series all the way to the upcoming Halo Wars game, has been a dominating developer for Real Time Strategy (RTS) games. Ensemble cranked out a total of ten RTS games including Halo Wars and expansion packs, most if not all of which were high-rated top sellers.

Formed in 1995, Ensemble strived to create good quality games for gamers. In 1997, Ensemble Studios releases its first hit, Age of Empires. Age of Empires, based in ancient times, gave the players the experience of commanding soldiers and building armies through four ages: the Stone, Tool, Bronze, and Iron Age. This entirely new game became a sensation, selling 500,000 copies within a six month time period. Not long after in 1998, Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome is delivered, an expansion to the first Age of Empires, giving the players the ability to command Roman soldiers and Armies.

Soon, in 1999, the second installment, Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings is released. This sequel is set in the Middle Ages, a time of castles, fortresses, and swords. Players were able to play up to thirteen different civilizations, where the main object was to gather food and supplies, and build their towns and armies to defeat the enemy. In the following year, Age of Empires II: The Conquerors expansion pack is sent out. Giving five new civilizations, The Conquerors expansion is indeed a good seller.

After realizing the studios potential, Microsoft buys Ensemble Studios in 2001, ceasing the studio as being an independent developer.

After a quiet year, Ensemble releases its new series, Age of Mythology. The new title relies less on historical events, but more on mythological creatures and legends of Greeks, Egyptians, and Norse. An expansion pack for Age of Mythology is released in 2003, titled Age of Mythology: The Titans. The expansion enhances the game play with new units, buildings, and three new gods.

Finally in 2005, Age of Empires III is released with major enhancements including a new physics engine to animate battle scenes and is set in newly-found America. Players play as new European nations moving to America and battle on American soil during the Colonial Times. A new multiplayer system is setup on Ensemble Studios Online (ESO), allowing players to battle and chat with each other online.

2006 brings a new expansion to Age of Empires III, Age of Empires III: The War Chiefs. War Chiefs gives players three new native civilizations to play with new Home City cards. The expansion also adds a new single player campaign and new units. By 2007, Age of Empires: The Asian Dynasties is rolled out. The expansion brings three new civilizations: the Indians, Chinese, and Japanese. The Asian Dynasties was however created together by Ensemble and Big Huge Games for a purpose probably related to the secret development of Halo Wars by Ensemble.

To be released on March 3rd 2009, Halo Wars is the last game to be created by Ensemble Studios. Announced and shown off at X06, Halo Wars is largely spread over the internet as the new Halo game. The first Halo-based game to not be a FPS, Halo Wars will redefine the way the Halo Universe has been depicted.

It was a sad day on September 9th, 2008 for Ensemble and its fan base. Microsoft announced that lifelong RTS developer Ensemble Studios would be shutting down after the release of Halo Wars. Not all is lost however, when Ensemble Head Tony Goodman announced his plans for an independent studio after the closing of Ensemble on January 29th, 2009, in which many former Ensemble Studios employees have been offered positions.

Age of Empires III


February 2, 2009 - Posted by | PC

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