Review by slavemaster

"My lord, with this new army, we now have the chance to blow everyone to Knigdom Come!"

Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings...is there a better game out there? I'm not so sure about my previous statement, but I'd probably say that it was true. Age of Kings is probably, in my humble opinion, the greatest of the great in the area of strategy gaming...even five years after its debut in 1999...wow; it has been a long time since it came out...

Game-Play 9/10

The game-play; the most important thing in a game. This is a place that Age of Kings truly shines...along with everything else, of course. Being a great game, Age of Kings has to have great game-play, of which I will discuss further below.

Firstly, this game can be super easy...to moderately difficult by changing the difficulty prior to the level. This is the reason that the game-play only got a 9...the AI isn't the greatest of its time...

Controlling armies has never been easier...unlike most other games of its time, Age of Kings has got the ability to...wait for it...have army formations! Not only this, but it improves on Age of Empires 1 with formations for their ships...yes, ladies and gentlemen, you can actually organise your ships for the first time in the Age series history. Formations, although they seem a very small part of a game at first site are EXTREMELY useful in combat, and make armies much more versatile on the battlefield. Not only this, but Age of Kings has four, yes I said four, different formations. Amazing, isn't it? This really gives it the edge in battles. Using formations you can attack enemies in different ways, adding some depth to this game that most others of this age don't have.

Next comes the commands. You can have a unit patrol an area...have one guard a weaker unit...even delete a unit, yes actually have a delete button, instead of having to manually kill them...this makes defending easier, and can speed things up a bit. A great part of game-play, these commands, they can mean the difference between life and death (especially the delete button) and make it so much easier to work an army.

There are also different...what's the word for it...”personalities” is all I can come up with...personalities that effect the way that they act. For example, you could set one to attack mode...ah! That's it; “mode”...and it will attack and pursue anything on sight until either of the units die, or the unit following loses the unit its following (It leaves its Line of Sight). This really adds to the game, meaning that you can give your soldiers preset commands, although you can override them at any stage of the scenario-even change them if you want. Another great thing that adds to the game.

As well as all this, there is also the great controls in-game. The mouse control is really simple-Left click is select something and the right is attack/move-making the game-play so much easier and giving you more time to focus on the game rather than what you are pressing. Yet another great thing about the game.

Another additive to this game that wasn't in the original-garrisoning. The ability to put soldiers/villagers/non-combat units into buildings, making them safe from harm and adding to the buildings attack-if it has one. Some buildings-ones that create units and research technologies-can only be garrisoned as soon as the unit inside is made, and cannot be put back in later. Buildings like castles and Town Centres fire arrows when garrisoned.

Finally-a real reason to choose certain civilisations. Unique units are yet another addition to the series. They are units unique to different civilisations. For example, only the British get Long-bows and only the Persians get War Elephants. Get the point? This really adds depth to the game, as now there is more than one reason to choose a civilisation-they might have a super-powerful unique unit like the War Elephant of the Persians.

Villagers are now new and improved-more buildings to build; more ways of gathering resources; and plenty of other things to top that off. This just another thing that make this game excellent...and just another reason why I think its one of the best games ever! More depth is added to the game the buildings you can build, because: more buildings most usually equals more units and technologies!

As well as all of this information above, the game has a wide range of units that counter each other. There is a complex, and I mean VERY complex web of counters and strengths and stuff like that. It goes something like: pikemen counter cavalry but are countered by archers which can be killed by knights which are eliminated by camels...you get the idea. The game is really VERY complex when it comes to units and their counters.

Overall, this game has so much stuff that I don't have the time to type it all out...you should just get the idea from what I've already said. As said before, the only reason that game-play got a 9 was because of its lacking in the area of powerful AI...not that its too bad...

Story 9/10

The story in this game I am presuming is the five wonderfully made campaigns. Now, although these campaigns are not 100% historically based...hell, they probably wouldn't even be 50% historically based, but they are fun and well made, that's what matters in games. The learning campaign, William Wallace, is an excellent one to get used to the game mechanics. Following that, the other four campaigns-Joan of Arc (the story of Joan of Arc's recovery of the 100 years war), the Saladin campaign (Following his conquest of the Holy Land), the Genghis Khan one (following the great Mongolian conquest) and the Barbarossa campaign (the creation of the Holy Roman Empire). This is really good, because if you get sick of one storyline, you can always go onto another! Gives the game a different way of “extending” the enjoy ability of the game. A good 9 for this section is probably an understatement, but 10's are something that I have never given.

Sound Music 10/10

Wow. My first ever 10. Technically it's 9.5, but oh well.

The music is superb. I don't know who the hell they have working for them, but they really cook up a storm for us in this game. It's amazing how well the music is done...hell; it's probably some of the best I've ever heard! I would be playing day and night if only I could find it on the disk...anyway, a whopping nine for this.

The sounds for this game are also stunning, but in a way that I was amazed...something I had never heard before...the units, when you click them and give them orders...wait for it...TALK IN THEIR NATIVE LANGUAGES! For me this is a first and last experience. I was absolutely amazed by this (I know a little Japanese, so I realised this whilst playing with them). This is the greatest feature I have ever set my ears on...and still, five years later, I am amazed by this idea, and how it was performed. I will probably never get over this. Apart from that, the sounds are most probably what you would expect, but still each of them is very well done to the extent of the games potential. It's annoying how I can only give a ten to this section...

Graphics 9/10

Although it is on a 2D graphics system, Age of Kings isn't too sloppy with its graphics. Each and every unit has about ten different views, every building, although each has only one, they are all very detailed, and the terrain is amazing. Not only does each patch look unique, because the repeat is often off the screen, they are extremely well done, and each looks as close to real as they could in a game with a 2D graphics engine. Really, for 2D, this is a really good graphics system.

Play-Time/Re-Playability 10/10

Wow. Another 10. I'm really being generous to this game, although it does really deserve it...anyway, this game has a HUGE, I said HUGE, amount of play-time. Hours and hours and hours and hours on end, and you'll still want to play more. There is also multi-player on the Zone, a wonderfully worked out site, might I just add, as well as the extremely well done Scenario Editor. Trust me when I say good...I've had it for five years, and I'm still playing and making scenarios. To top all this off, if you go to Ensemble Studios On-line, you will be able to find multiple sights with scenarios, campaigns, random maps etc. that other people have made...it really is great...

The re-playability...there is little I can say about this, because there is never a second play through, unless, of course, you include the campaigns which are always fun for a second play through...so much to do...so little time...

Buy or Rent?

If you do not already own this game, firstly I have absolutely no idea why, and secondly, get up to your closest computer store and go and buy it in the combo pack it comes in along with the Conquerors expansion pack and prepared to be amazed by what I think is the greatest game in the genre of Real-Time strategy...and in my top ten of all games. Buy I say...buy...

Final Say 9.4/10 (Average, but I rounded it up for the score with the review name)

This is firstly-the greatest Real-Time strategy game out there, and secondly-one of the top ten games still in production. This, of course, is my opinion, so why don't you try it out for yourself, so as to prove me wrong. If my reverse psychology didn't work I'll try hypnosis-buy the game...buy the game...buy the game...oh, you should get the point now. All in all this is probably the game that has kept me entranced to a screen the most, and its in the series that has kept me closest to a screen, perhaps excepting Pokemon. May I have one last moment of your time please so as to get a point across that you may have missed, THIS IS A REALLY GREAT GAME!


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/30/04


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