Here’s more bad news for those who are hopelessly glued to the excellent Starcraft 2: Microsoft’s banking on a community RTS with Age of Empires: Online, a continuation of Ensemble Studio’s flagship franchise.

Ensemble Studios may be defunct, but Empires: Online developer Robot Entertainment, which was founded and staffed by former Ensemble members, should understand the franchise better than anyone. The colorful, cute, Kung-Fu Panda art style is sure to set hardcore strategy nerds’ tempers blazing, for better or worse. In addition to an innovative multiplayer component, the game will feature questing and other RPG elements, and will be free-to-play – which is surprising, since persistent worlds are typically the domain of the MMO.

Age of Empires: Online storms your PC in 2011. If you’re interested in taking a crack at this game early, sign up for the beta.