The original Age of Empires turned 20 in 2017, and Microsoft knew exactly how to celebrate: by announcing it again, in shiny 4K, as Age of Empires: Definitive Edition. Unfortunately the re-release was postponed until early 2018, thanks to last-minute delays, but the good news is that it's not too far off now.

First announced at E3 2017, the Definitive Edition is a full remaster of the original 1997 real-time strategy game, with improved visuals, a re-orchestrated soundtrack, bug fixes, UI tweaks, and a host of other modern enhancements. Read on to find out everything we know so far, including the official release date.

In summary:

  • Age of Empire: Definite Edition release date: 20 February 2018
  • Formats: PC
  • Developer: Forgotten Empires
  • Price: £14.99/$19.99
  • Pre-order: Microsoft

When is the release date?

Age of Empires: Definitive Edition was due out worldwide on 19 October 2017, just in time for the 20th anniversary of the original game's October 1997 release date, but just days before the anticipated release Microsoft has pushed back the launch date to early 2018.

Developers wanted extra time to make essential tweaks to the game and invited thousands of people to the closed beta to get it right.

Following extra development time, Microsoft announced that Age of Empires: Definitive Edition will be available to buy on 20 February 2018 around the world. 

As you might expect, the game will be out for PC only.

Where can I pre-order it?

The good news is, Microsoft are sensible enough to realise you probably don't want to pay full price for a 20-year-old game, and have announced that the game will cost just £14.99/$19.99, and you can pre-order it right now directly from the Windows Store.

What are the features?

So, what does the Definitive Edition offer that you can't get from the original game? We went hands-on with the remaster at Gamescom 2017 to find out just what's new.

Well, the biggest change is visual, as the game will feature entirely new assets to provide 4K graphics, meaning that the game looks sharper than ever before - though still very much in that recognisable Age of Empires style. It definitely doesn't look quite like a modern title, but it's worlds away from its late-'90s roots, with impressively detailed models and terrain.

The enhancements aren't just visual though. Developer Forgotten Empires is also re-orchestrating and re-recording the whole score, modernising the UI, and fixing a host of gameplay bugs.

Online multiplayer support and achievements are also being added through Xbox Live, and the game will include the Rise of Rome expansion pack, giving players a total of 16 civilisations to play as and 10 campaigns to conquer.

There are also tweaks to the core gameplay, though these are mostly minor alterations to ease the adjustment period for modern palates - the inclusion of an Attack Move for example, or unit queueing and improved pathfinding - none of these features are revolutionary, but they're welcome conveniences.

Other changes are to take advantage of modern tech - an increase population cap for example, which you can really make the most of with the new zoom settings, which all you to zoom further out to see far more units in combat at once.

You can see those game changes in action in the Gamescom 2017 trailer, which highlights all the alterations to the core mechanics:

As a remaster rather than a remake, there's nothing revolutionary here, and for most the main selling point will simply be an easy way to buy a version of Age of Empires that runs smoothly on Windows 10, and looks that little bit prettier in the process.

And it that tickles your fancy, you'll be pleased to know that Microsoft is working on delivering the exact same treatment to Age of Empires 2 and 3, so there's plenty more on the way.