Review by Andy007

"Hard to admit but, Microsoft and Ensemble Studios made a great game!"

The Age of Empires series isn't that popular yet. If you don't know what it is, the series of Age of Empires games are strategy/war games where you need to plan out your attacks, make big decisions on what to use in your bank. Age of Empires 2 is a great sequel of Age Of Empires 1 and Rise of Rome. This game is so addictive and fun, I just have to write a review for it.

Gameplay 10/10: A few words to describe gameplay: addictive, challenging, and never-ending. This game has so many features in it that it will take you almost forever to get bored of, from campaigns to regicides, you are always having lots of different scenarios to play in the game. You can create your own maps and place units and buildings in the map editor, making the game challenging for you(if you make the scenarios hard) and you'll be always fighting a different battle.

Campaigns: This is the ''custom built'' scenarios that Ensemble Studios gave us. Campaigns are basically built ''levels'' in the game where you use a couple different civilizations in big battles and missions. The campaigns have 5 historic leaders and heroes which the gameplay is based on: William Wallace, Joan of Arc, Frederick Barbarossa, Genghis Khan, and Saladin. Each historic moment has about 5 different missions you have to conquer, and once you beat all the campaigns at all levels, you are probably a master at strategy in Age of Empires 2. There's also a really neat and helpful Learning Campaign(William Wallace) where you get to learn the controls and basics of Age of Empires 2. Trust me, if you haven't played any Age of Empires before, try the William Wallace Campaign and in a few days you'll get the whole concept and basics of Age of Empires 2.

Regicide: A great feature in a strategy game like this. Since Age of Empires 2 is so expensive, the Regicide game feature makes your challenge and fun factor greater. You'll want to play this game more, since the Regicide lets you make big wars against 1-8 other civilizations. Regicides can take 3 hours-3 days to complete! You'll be defending your civilization and sieging other civilizations until you knock down their king. The Regicide is really cool too because you can choose what type of map you want, so you can wage a war by sea or land.

Death Match: Heck, this feature sorta sucks. The reason why it stinks so much is because you start out with lots of wood, food, stone, and gold to go in an instant war against your enemies and your enemies are so chicken that they need everything perfect for them to battle. They give up in like 1-10 minutes usually in gameplay because they say they don't have ''enough food, gold, stone, or wood''. Do Regicide instead of this.

Random Map: Surprise, you need to be prepared for a battle at sea or land. You can get any type of map in this feature, so you should be picky about what units to make. This feature is another type of free style battle like the Death Match and Regicide.

Multiplayer: Yes, this game does have a multiplayer much like Starcraft where you can fight other Age of Empires 2 fans on the Internet. They will probably be really bad players or you'll be battling really strategic people. You'll be surprised, and also a couple of features in the game pop up in this mode that you won't find in Single Player mode.....

Custom Scenarios: A really great add on feature that the other 2 Age of Empires didn't have. Finally, you can make maps that suit you and make instant wars with your enemies. But some people like to cheat, giving themselves every special unit and like 300 warriors in their civilization and giving the enemy like 10 warriors. But you shouldn't cheat like that, you should really try to make a big instant death match betwewen your enemies, which should be interesting. Also in scenario editing, you can add Heroes to your army like Richard the Lionhearted, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, and William the Conquerer. This feature may keep you making your civilizations for hours.

That's basically all the gameplay modes for the game. Now Microsoft published a great game, which is rare for them, but they have included a few ''evil'' bugs inside the discs. Problems like your computer slowing down and freezing may happen, and if you play too long(like 5 hours), your computer will probably slow down temporarily. Age of Empires 2 is still great however, with the 13 civilizations(new) available, new units and heroes, new battle commands, artwork, music, and buildings. This game is nearly 100% accurate to the events in Medieval Times. If you read the manual, you can learn more about history too!

Graphics 9/10: Maybe not the best realistic graphics for a strategy game, but another awesome pro for this game. The graphics are really realistic, making the buildings look better. Ensemble Studios has taken a big step from the animation graphics in the first Age of Empires. Units are easier to determine and recognize, and some units like the Paladin, Champion, Arbalest, Cavalry Archer, and Samurai are so cool looking. Most units look accurate too, and so do the wild animals that inhabit the middle of your battle field. Everything looks so much like it fits that time. The only minor flaw of the high quality graphics is that it slows down the game, and you might need a good video card for your cpu or the game is going to be SLOW!

Sound/Audio 9/10: Maybe as good as the graphics are. A big improvement from Age of Empires 1, the new music is great and sound effects are awesome. The cavalry have a great cry and you'll like the cannon sounds! The sounds of swords clashing, archers letting their arrows go, those are just so realistic. There is also a cool alert sound when an enemy is attacking you, it is just great. Age of Empires 1 also didn't have the speech of the guys to explain your campaign objectives. Another great accurate audio feature is that the people from the different civilizatons speak their own language and it is very accurate. Too good to be true? Buy the game.

Control 8/10: Great, since all you mainly need to use to survive is the mouse. Left click, right click, that's mainly what you do to position units, command units, and view statistics. But there are some hotkeys on the keyboard to do some advanced customization. That is a good thing to know. I just hope after the Age of Empires 2 Expansion pack, Age of Empires 3 has even more hotkeys and isn't just right click, left click.

Fun Factor 9/10: Always fun and non-stop gameplay for you. This game is really fun once you get into a war and situation with your enemies. If you find no battles, just turn up the difficulty. Fun with your friends or on single player. You'll be thinking up strategies for months, and you'll never think you finished the game. It may take a year for you to get bored.

Replay Value 9/10: You'll be playing this game for hours a day and never want to stop. But the only bad thing is if you never get into battles, you'll get bored of the game and not want to play it for a while, but it can be vice versa, you'll be playing until you find a battle and siege somebody. This isn't the game where you fight a few battles and throw it away. You will always learn something new about history and strategy in war/strategy games.

Cost 7/10: A little too expensive? Did Microsoft go overboard on the expense of this game? I think they did. You don't get any strategy guides with it and its already $40-$50. This game isn't that popular and the price should be a little lower(unless you find it at Costco, with a strategy guide for $39.99). I paid a lot to get this game though, and I enjoy it anyways, so you'll probably not care about how much you paid.

Overall 10/10: Great strategy game, not one of those where you just send a bunch of troops to kill the enemy. It's not like that, you need to plan out a attack. Buy this game today, you may enjoy it so much that you'll play it for 4 hours a day. Even adults play this game, so if you can bribe them into buying it, or saying its ''educational.'' Age of Empires 2 is a very addictive game, trust me.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/09/00, Updated 08/09/00

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