"A sublime addition to the series."

Introduction

This game is the sequel to Age of Empires. It has the same principles but has added many more things in. There are more units, some the same and some new ones, more technologies and in general the whole game just seems bigger. There are still the single player story missions where you can rein act famous scenarios like Attila the Hun's campaigns, but most of the fun will come from the multiplayer matches to the death.

Gameplay

The foundations of your base are still the villagers who are required to build and repair all your buildings. You need to collect resources (food, wood, gold and stone) with them. Like before they aren't particularly strong although you can give them 15 more hit points and 1 armour point fairly on which can mean the difference between life and death when you come under attack. As you advance through the ages you get access to more powerful units and abilities and in multiplayer games the objective is usually to destroy everyone else. But there are more ways to gain resources this time. On some maps are things called Relics. If you get a Monk to pick this up and put it back in your Temple you will automatically receive gold. If you pick up more then the gold will rise faster. You can also trade with other players at the Market using Trade Carts. This will also get you gold. At the Market you can buy and sell other resources for gold, so if you find you've got an excess off Food you can sell it and use the gold to buy other resources.

One of the new buildings is the Castle. I love this building and it serves many purposes. For one it increases your population limit by 20 which is very handy. Second it acts as a defensive building and fires 4 arrows at any nearby enemies. It also has a lot of hit points and armour points and so it should be the centre of your defences. Crucially it allows you to create your unique unit. Every civilisation has one unit that only they can build. These range from infantry to cavalry and a couple of others. This unit might have strengths that no other unit on the field has, and since only you can use it, learning how to use your unique unit to the fullest could give you a big edge. Also created at the castle is a siege weapon called a Trebuchet. This is a weapon which needs to be unpacked to fire, but it has a massive range and is used mainly for destroying buildings (usually defensive ones) from outside their range. But it is vulnerable to mobile units so you need to take other units along to defend it. Another change from the last game is that now when you upgrade your armour, it upgrades for both melee attacks and ranged attacks whereas before it was just melee attacks. You can also research armour for a lot more units this time round.

Again there are ships for water battles and some civilisations do better in this than others due to being able to research more powerful units. Transports for moving land units across water need to be defended because if they are sunk you lose all the units. Usually sending out a bunch of ships in front to draw fire does the job.

I can't remember if this was in the previous game, but if it was it is more pronounced here. Some units have massive advantages against each other. For example, the Teutons Teutonic Knight is a massively powerful melee fighter and can kill any soldier or horseman one on one. But it is very slow moving, and has a weakness against monks. A monk can convert a Teutonic Knight in a very short amount of time. By contrast, it takes much longer to convert a Scout and the Scout has an attack bonus against Monks. Pikemen also do tremendous damage to any mounted unit, much more then their attack figure shows. There are lots of examples of this and learning which units are better against others proves invaluable. I frequently use horses, so when I see Pikemen in amongst much more powerful cavalry I always go for the Pikemen because left unchecked they could decimate my cavalry faster than other cavalry unit. So sending out an army full of just one unit type is not a good idea because the enemy can counter with an army of units that excel against them. Sending out a mixed army makes it much harder because while one unit will be weak against another, others might be stronger and it's harder to defend against an army when there are many different types.

There are different types of multiplayer match. You can choose to do a normal match, but there are also Death Matches where everyone starts in the Imperial Age with everything researched and massive stockpiles of all resources. This is good if you can't be bothered to gather resources slowly at the start. There are many different victory conditions: Score, Time, Relic, Wonder and Conquest. In score you pick a score and the first person to get to that score wins, in Time you play for a set time period and the person with the highest score at the end of the time limit wins. In Relic if anyone manages to collect all 5 relics on a map and then hold them for a certain amount of time they will win. Everyone is notified who has the relics if they are all collected by the same person. For Wonder the first person to build a Wonder (a massive structure costing 1000 wood, gold and stone each and represents the pinnacle of that civilisation) and keep it in tact for a certain length of time will win. Again, everyone is notified when a Wonder is built. For conquest you just have to kill everyone else.

Conclusion

I personally find this game highly enjoyable because there are 5 difficulty levels and because of the type of game it is, no 2 games will ever be the same. If you find that the game is too easy you can team players up and have 2 on 1, 4 on 2 or whatever you desire. This should be enough to give almost anyone a challenge. Again, games can go on for a long time, but I can't think of a criticism of the actual game. The graphics are pretty decent and things flow very smoothly. Of course if you don't like strategy games then this won't change your mind, but for anyone who's a fan of the genre really should look into this game and the expansion pack for it.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/19/06


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