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Age of Empires 2


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Age of Empires 2 review



Villagers doing their stuff
Age of Empires 2 is a classic real time strategy game which combines resource gathering and management with multiple unit confrontations.
The game is set during basically the medieval era, and combines a great collection of set piece single player campaigns which take place during various notable historical events. An example of this is the Barbarossa campaign which puts the player in the boots of the legendary leader of ancient Germania. Whilst playing this campaign you will have to deal with the fickle Henry the Lion, the Italian provinces and much more, all of which is based on history.
There are several more Age of Empires campaigns to play through each of which is divided into a number of separate game levels. All of these are good and they include a tutorial campaign, but I will shut up and leave you to enjoy the nice surprises of the details.
The game also has a random map generator which allows for virtually unending replayability. The player has a great deal of options when setting up a random single player game. You can choose between different sized maps, choose from various computer opponents who default as either allies or not. Map types can include forested super continents, arid deserts, water surrounded islands or a combination of these and other land forms.

There are four basic resources to gather in the game, these being gold, stone, food and wood. Your villagers take care of these gathering duties as well as doing the construction work in your settlement. They also are needed for repair work both to buildings and siege equipment such as trebuchets. Villagers therfore become an important part of an army if siege equipment is being employed, performing the same role as a healing monk does but to the woodwork instead of the meat.
naval action from Age of Empires 2
A naval engagement in the computer game
timeline screen from Age of Empires 2
The timeline screen from Age of Empires 2
The artificial intelligence in Age of Empires 2 is very effective. Path finding is great, I've spent some time with the game and have had few problems in this area. The computer controlled players are also highly effective at resource stripping and use effective combat techniques. If playing against multiple opponents you may also find they like ganging up together with you as the target.

There are several difficulty levels to play on however depending on how brave you are feeling. You can also slow down the gameplay if you need more thinking time or indeed speed it up if you are polishing off the enemy or are playing through an uneventful period of the game (or are an uber player with uber reactions).

Units in the game include the usual array of ranged and up close and dirty types. Example of the units are archers which can be upgraded to crossbowmen and then arbalasters (heavy crossbow). Militia infantry units which upgrade to men at arms, long swordsmen and then champions. Siege equipment including battering rams, catapults, trebuchets (for which a castle is required) and ballisters (huge crossbows).
All kinds of cavalry including scout, light, heavy and ranged archer types are there to be played with. Pikemen and there upgraded counterparts and of course the all important monk unit who heals your troops and converts the other side to your noble cause.

Each civilisation also gets a unique unit to use for which a castle needs to be built for their construction. The Britons get the longbowman for example, a highly effective archer unit, whilst the Japanese get the samarai warrior. This addition of unique units adds enormously to the game and really spices things up.
close up picture of the units
Close up picture of the units.
The red robed teutonic foot knights are very tough.
Research is something which needs to be pursued through the game. In Age of Empires 2 this involves spending your hard earned resources on such things as masonry research which upgrades your building strength, bodkin arrow research which upgrades your archer units range and damage, many different armour upgrades, saw upgrades for faster wood collecting and so on (there is a lot to research). You also need to research the major age upgrades, for example the movement to the castle age has to be researched at your towncentre during which time no other jobs can be performed in that building which includes training the essential villager units which fuel your economy.
Graphically Age of Empires 2 is very good indeed, even now several years after it first hit the computer game shelves it looks good. Units are superb looking pieces of artwork, especially the knights and palladins. The graphics are of the old 2D type however but so what. Animations are very pleasing to the eye and each civilisation has variations on the look of various buildings.

The game runs super smoothly on modern computers at reasonble resolutions, I play the game at 1280 x 1024. I've had rock solid performance both from a standpoint of framerate and system stability after many hours of game play. This is with an Athlon 2600mhz computer with 1gb ram and a Radeon 9800pro card (way more than what's needed for this game). The default maximum number of units per side in the game is 75 but this can be increased up to 200 if the computer can handle it which makes for great action.

Sound in Age of Empires is once again a quality feature of the computer game. Each of the civilisations has it's own suitable unit sounds when you click on them. The set piece campaigns also have well narrated intros. Music in the game is limited but the couple of tracks you get to hear are well done until you get sick to the back teeth of them and turn the music off.

Overall this is one great game that should be on the shelf of most PC computer gamers, young, middle aged, old and very old.

Age of Empires 2 SCORECARD

Graphics 8/10
Sound 8/10
Gameplay 9/10
Originality 6/10

Computer Games score 8.5/10

Classic RTS game that still cuts it.