Product Type: Microsoft PC games
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Rome has fallen and the world is up for grabs.
Age of Empires 2 (PC)
Member Name: defiler
Age of Empires 2 (PC)
Date: 24/10/01, updated on 02/11/01 (300 review reads)
Advantages: , Easy to learn but complex enough to remain interesting
Disadvantages: , Can still be fairly expensive
The timeframe is different to the original and this is reflected in the civilizations you see, the look of the units, the look of the buildings, technologies and a variety of other things. Personally I preferred the setting of the original Age of Empires, it was a time period I always found interesting in history and I felt slightly more familiar with a lot of the civilizations, having said that though I still enjoy the setting of the game and for a game like this it works much better than if the game was set in modern day.
Anyone who's played either Warcraft 2 or Starcraft (or Age of Empires 1 of course) will instantly be familiar with the feel of the game as the control is very much the same. You have a 2D isometric playing field on which you can see your units, the scenery and the resources. Control is simple and smooth, you click on a unit and then tell them what you want them to do by right-clicking on the object you want them to interact with, if you want them to kill a sheep for food then right-click on a sheep, right-click on a tree to have it cut down for wood and right-click on stone to mine it. Of course not every unit can do every action and in fact only one unit (the basic settler) can do most of the economic functions such as hunting and gathering with most of the other units only used in combat.
So what makes the game worth playing over other real time strategy games? Well for me it's the way the game slows down the combat elements of most games like this and adds more economic elements creating what feels like a mix of Civilization and Warcraft. The unique feel is also created by the fact
that you are playing in a realistic time period that you have never experienced before which makes it both familiar and mysterious at the same time. Everyone will have heard of the civilizations that are shown here but of course few people have lived hundreds and hundreds of years in order to have actually seen the things that are shown in this game for real.
A lot of detail has been put into the game to try to make it historically accurate, you have units that actually existed and an explanation of what they did, an explanation of what the civilization was like in the past and an attempt to give it advantages relevant to its strengths/weaknesses at the time. You’ll also get buildings made to look like what they should and generally try to be given the feel that what is in the game is real. It’s not perfect but it’s very well done and makes the game more interesting somehow.
Rather than the game being played in a single period of time you instead progress through 4 ages, in order to progress to the next age you must have met certain goals such as having x amount of gold or having built certain buildings. You don't need to progress through the ages if you don't want to but if you don't you will be very limited in what you can build. As you progress through the ages the game represents this by changing the styles of the buildings, allowing you to research certain technologies that can help improve your units (not necessarily military units, you may want to research a technology that lets you saw wood faster than before).
Another thing that adds to the game is the large choice of civilizations you can choose from, there are 13 different ones in total and while they may share many of the same units and technologies they each manage to have their own unique feel to them. Each civilization has one unique unit that cannot be built by anyone else, you may think that one unit to set a civilization apart from a
ll the others isn't much and if this was the only thing that did this I'd agree with you, luckily it's not. Other than the one unique unit civilizations are given certain technologies and units that they can build that will not be buildable by all the other civilizations, they will be buildable by "some" but not by all. By giving each civilization their own technologies and units this way it means that though most things won't be unique to your civilization overall you will be unique, you will be the only civilization that can research all of your technologies and build all of your units even though other civilizations may be able to build/research some of them. As well as this though a civilization is given certain benefits from being chosen, it may simply be that they start with more units at the beginning of the game or certain units are cheaper for them to produce or certain technologies may be cheaper to research but it adds to the unique feel of a civilization.
The game has a slower pace than games such as Starcraft or Red Alert, you will probably find yourself spending more time on the economy of the game than you would in many other games like this. This is mainly because there are more types of resources, in a typical game like this you tend to only have 1-2 resources and so can set up the buildings to produce these fairly quickly, in this game however you have 4 types of resources and a variety of ways of getting them, almost all of which will eventually run out. So rather than just producing a bunch of units and sending them to kill the enemy straight away you instead have to work out how you are going to produce food, find some stone and gold to mine and set up a building near a wood so that you can produce wood. Everything takes time and resources run out eventually so you always feel like you have something to do, in fact if you are sitting at the game doing nothing at any time you aren't playing the game a
s well as you could be. Your options are much more flexible than most games like this, you just feel like you have more control over what you do (though it's just as easy to do something disastrous).
Combat somehow feels more realistic and strategic than in other games like this, every type of unit has a strength and a weakness and if you send only one type of unit into battle against an opponent who knows what they are doing you will lose straight away. This keeps the game interesting and makes you think about what you are going to do in a battle, you may find yourself concentrating on 2 types of units but keeping a few other types around to deal with any problems you face or you might specialise more or less than this. Of course there is a disadvantage in specialising too little, if you have all kinds of units you have no particular strength which is in itself a weakness.
Anyone who remembers the original Age of Empires will remember how disappointing this part of the game, Age of Empires II promised that campaigns would be more interesting, more involving and involve real historical events. They do succeed in doing some of this but the campaigns just aren’t as fun as they could be.
The positive side of them is that they are interesting, because it is a real historic event it makes you feel more involved somehow, you tend to control a famous historical figure (for example Joan of Ark) and are given a number of missions to attempt. The missions are varied enough to remain interesting and appear well designed. You also get an introduction and conclusion to each mission with still images and a spoken story that really does help create the setting.
Where the campaigns fail is in how fun they are to play, because the game is slower than many other games like this a single mission can take quite a long time to complete and if you fail you probably won’t feel like replaying it. I personally wo
uldn’t play through the campaigns more than once unless I left a large break in-between.
Winning is simple in games like this isn't it, kill the enemy and you are done. That's what most games like this are like anyway, this game however is different in that it offers you a number of other ways of winning too. First of all you can just kill all the enemy units, if this is what you want to do it's probably the easiest way of playing. Secondly you can build a wonder, once the wonder is complete you have to ensure it remains standing for a fixed period of time, you'll find that suddenly all the players become interested in you and attempt to destroy the wonder but if you like to play a defensive game this is probably the best and most fun option for you. There are also other options involving controlling certain items or controlling certain bits of land.
Of course if you are playing a campaign you should ignore this as you will be given your objectives at the start of a level and they will differ to the general game a lot of the time.
There is also a version of the game called regicide in which each player is given a king to defend, if they die you are defeated. Simple idea and one I've often seen in other games but still very fun to play now and then.
There is also a simple deathmatch, you are given much more resources than normal with the only way of winning being to kill all the enemy units. It's a nice enough version that thrusts you straight into the action but not my favourite way of playing as it removes a lot of the economical aspects of the game that make it unique.
The game really is quite complex in ways and yet very simple to play. The first few times you play you may be overwhelmed and quickly defeated (although if you set the computer to an easy difficulty you may find yourself winning even if you play very badly) but the game is easy to g
et used to and the sort of game where you find yourself slowly improving with each game you play.
Unfortunately the computer AI isn't that great and you may find yourself being able to beat it fairly easy after a while even on the hardest settings. To combat this you can add extra opponents and perhaps refrain from using certain tactics that the computer can't get around. To a normal player the computer opponents should be challenging enough but the experience of playing the game against a human player will still beat playing the computer anytime. The only trouble with playing a human player is that games can often last quite a long time (for this type of game anyway, but not long compared to games such as Civilization).
For a 2D game the graphics are great. Everything looks smooth and detailed, there are several choices of resolution (with the lowest being 800x600) and it is apparent that quite a bit of effort has been spent on them. You can see what is happening on screen well enough, if someone passes behind a building or part of the scenery their outline is still shown to make them easier to spot and to me being able to see what is happening is the most important part of the graphics in a strategy game, I don't want to be having my units killed while I fiddle around with the camera angle even if it might make the game look better. My only complaint with the graphics is that there is no option to change the brightness, my monitor seems far too dark for some games (it's the monitors fault not my settings) and I often need this option in order to play the game at all, luckily in this game I can still see what is happening as well as I'd hope to if I turn my monitors brightness up to full.
Rather than just give all the buildings a generic look there are 4 different styles for the buildings which will be reflected by the civilization you choose, as well as this you have a different look for the b
uildings depending on which 'age' you are currently in. Unlike the buildings though the units will look the same no matter which civilization you choose, the only real difference being made my your civilizations unique unit (though this is only because no other civilization can build it, if they could it would look identical to yours). Buildings and units aren't to scale as such but there often look as though they are with the bigger buildings such as castles and wonders looking huge in comparison to everything else.
Musically the game is near perfect for me. The music being played is the perfect background music, the sort of thing that is great to listen to if you want to relax and it is music that a lot of people would consider listening to outside the game (in fact you can do as the CD appears to have just over 30 minutes of audio that is playable on any CD-player). When you are in combat the music gets more intense and the sounds of battle perfectly complement it, you have the sound of swords clashing again things, arrows being fired and a variety of other things which really help to draw you into the game.
Normally with games I have complaints with the music sounding a bit too similar after a while or the sound effects getting on my nerves, this is one thing that I have no complaint with at all in this game. One thing in particular I found interesting was the way that each civilization has the people speak in their own language, of course it means you can't understand a word being said most of the time but you can always turn this option off if it bothers you.
--If you like this...--
I'd recommend a variety of other games if you like this. First of all there are the obvious choices of the original Age of Empires and the add-on to this game (although I personally think it's too expensive at the moment for what is just an add on).
For games that are similar to this but more
based on battles than economy I'd recommend Starcraft (still the best game I've played in this genre) which has a similar style of play to it, I'd also recommend Warcraft II for the same reason. Other than the 2 Blizzard games I just mentioned I'd recommend Red Alert, Red Alert 2 and Total Annihilation.
For games that concentrate more on economy than this game I'd recommend The Settlers series, all the games in this series are excellent but for people new to the series I'd actually recommend one of the first 2 games, the graphics may be worse but I found the gameplay to be the best.
And for just general strategy games I'd recommend Heroes Of Might And Magic 3, Age Of Wonders, Civilization II and X:Com: Apocalypse.
Some of these games may be a little old but they are all great games in my opinion and I wouldn't let the age of a game put you off playing.
Not the best game of this type but close. It manages to take elements from a number of other games and still remain unique providing a great single and multi player experience. There are enough elements here to mean that there should be something that will appeal to most people who like any similar type of game.