Review by Sinroth

"An awesome sequel"

The original Age of Empires was a real-time strategy game where you would build up from humble beginnings to conquer your enemies, sending your troops to do battle with the enemy, and trying to manage your economy at once. It was a good game, but had its flaws. Well, it has been redeemed by its sequel, which not only expands on the original, but does it better as well.

The graphics are 2D, but look very nice. The buildings especially are quite detailed, and the troops are looking shiny and excellent. The terrain is a bit bland, with some of it looking incredibly ugly, but other than that, there is much eye-candy to be found using the editor. At least in the hands of someone skilled, that is. The graphics could be better, but they are suffice, and good enough for the game.

The sound is very nice. From the clatter of troops to the random mumblings, presumably in their own language to when you select them. Not only that, but the game features an awesome sound-track. It plays in the same loop, however, which may get on your nerves, but get a good game running, and you will be cracking heads to the melodies of peaceful dancing music. At least I assume it's dancing music. Not too much of an expert on that sort of thing. The voices are all superbly done, and the people sound like they could be from that country.

The gameplay. This is what makes the Age of _____ series. Superb RTS gaming at its finest. The basic premise is this; you start on a map, with several other enemies also present. You must gather resources, train units, and defeat your enemy with castles, knights, elephants, swordsmen, and other varieties of pokey things to insert into your enemies spleen. It doesn't possess the greatest balance I've ever seen, as some nations are actually quite crap, but the majority of civilizations shine at different points throughout. For example, the Persians become incredible at the later stages of the game, while they may suffer earlier, and so on. Only a few civilizations are overpowered, and this may get on your nerve.

Each civilization possess one unique unit (two if you're Viking) and several abilities that affect it. For example, you might have a bonus to gathering wood, which means villagers chop wood down faster and will return it to the nearest lumber mill, which means you can obtain wood faster than other civilizations. Another might make your infantry faster, meaning they'll move faster than the enemy infantry. Other than this, each civilization has its own technology tree (tech tree for short) which is pretty much, what units they can train, what technologies are available, and so on. For example, some civilizations can train champions, the strongest tier of infantry, and some are unable to. These are the nations generally lacking in that area, and it gives another sense of strategy to the game. To top this all off, there's an encyclopedia accessible from the main menu, so you can actually learn something while you're doing nothing.

Single Player
The Single Player is top notch, and is guaranteed a good challenge. The enemy AI can range from beatable to rather tough, but once you've gotten the grips of the game, you'll be able to overcome them. Within the Campaign, there are five of them. The first is a Learning Campaign, which serves as a tutorial. Playing as the Scots, you must fight back against the English. Next up is a lengthy Hundred Years War campaign as the French, in which you tear it up with Joan of Arc and try to make the French win a battle in the war. After that, you'll be charging across the sands of the middle east with Saladin as the Saracens, battling against Crusaders. After that, you're looting, raping, and killing in the steppes of Mongolia as you ride under Genghis Khan and literally overrun every enemy in your path. Finally, it's a ship off to Germany, where Fredrick Barbarossa is uniting the German kingdoms under one banner.

The campaigns all feature voices, usually detailed environments (a lot are quite bland) and some sense of realism. You actually feel as if you're learning something, which is amplified due to the games encyclopedia. Not only that, but there's a big plethora of random maps. In the expansion, another massive amount of scenarios are added on, including the Battle of Agincourt, and sailing in the frozen Atlantic as the Vikings. Hours of gaming.

It's a definite buy. Age of Empires takes a good formula, twists it around, armours it up, equips it with swords, multiplies it ten-fold, and lets it run wild killing and looting. If you're a fan of RTS games, I'd recommend you pick this up, or at least give it a rent. If not, I don't know why you're reading this.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/29/07

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