Microsoft just released Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition, the latest high-definition revamp in their classic real-time strategy series. The game brings with it more than just visual and mechanical upgrades though, as the company has addressed several “problematic and harmful” depictions of Native Americans in game.
When revamping the game, the Xbox Games Studios subsidiary World’s Edge hired cultural expert and consultant Anthony Brave, who shared details on the changes they made to the game to better represent Native Americans. A key change was the game’s mining mechanic, which the game is replacing entirely with a “tribal marketplace.”
World’s Edge noted the “tribal marketplace” in Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition will provide “an alternative method to gather coin” in the game. The developer worked with players in the closed beta to make sure this mechanic change still kept the game fun and balanced.
“Mining is pretty antithetical to Native values in general,” said Brave, who is a Sicangu Oyate (Rosebud Sioux Tribe) and Chippewa-Cree descendant. “We are taught to respect the land as our mother and be in good relations with it. Mining is a form of exploitation of the land, and we would never treat our mother like that.”
When booting up the game, players are greeted with this disclaimer as well:
The game’s “fire pit” special building was also changed to a “community plaza,” which is described as a “building where villagers work together to create benefits for your civilisation.” Furthermore, they replaced the Native America and First Nations civs “Nature Friendship” ability with “alternative abilities” to better represent native peoples.
World’s Edge has also changed the name of the Sioux and Iroquois civ names, which the developer says were “given to them by European settlers,” to their indigenous names – the Lakota (Sioux) and the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois). Also, the Shadow storyline (Act II in The War Chiefs story) has been totally rewritten by Brave.
“The original story wrote Chayton as a Native guy who wasn’t really Native,” Brave said. “He knew nothing about Lakota culture, history, or his family; on top of that he was just incredibly naïve—to the degree that he was somehow shocked there was trouble between Native folks and settlers. Like, what timeline are you living in, bro?”
Initial user reviews for Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition note that more things have been changed or removed, some pertaining to natives and others being unrelated, but core mechanics. Many users are noting the game is quite buggy with framerate issues, and seems rushed. We’ll have our own thorough review out shortly.