Based on a slightly compressed version of world history, Empires covers five eras, from the Medieval Age to World War II. The game features nine civilizations: England, the Franks, Korea, and China are playable from the Medieval Age to the Imperial Age; the United States, Russia, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom are playable in the World War I and World War II ages.
The game attracted positive critical reaction.
In 2009, Activision terminated its multiplayer server contract with GameSpy. Multiplayer can be played unofficially in Gameranger services.