Review by MarcusBlack6

"A very polished RTS. StarCraft better watch out..."

I'll have to admit that I was a little skeptical about this game when I first heard about it. However, this is a very well-designed RTS with lots of replay value and strategy.

Graphics: 9/10 (Excellent)
Graphically, this is a beautiful game. The sprites have excellent animations, though some of them are exaggerated. The sprites themselves are a bit small, especially when playing with a 1280x1024 resolution, but are still nicely done. The buildings are a masterpiece. Every one of them is highly detailed and realistic, though I can't really see a Mining Camp or Lumber Camp looking like they do. The buildings become more intricate as you advance through the Ages (more on that later), from crappy shacks in the Dark Age to humble houses in the Imperial Age. The most impressive buildings are easily the Castles, especially the Western civilizations' castles. Damaged buildings catch on fire, as in several other RTS games, but these fires are violently dangerous-looking and prompt you to repair that building immediately. Landscapes sometimes look unrealistic with different elevations, but this doesn't affect gameplay much. If you'll notice, when your units walk through snow, they leave footprints in the snow, as well.

Music: 7/10 (Not Bad)
There's really not much to say about this game's music, other than it's 'just there'. The music plays in a preset cycle while the game progresses, and it has a 'pilgrim' feel to it. You know...pilgrims. Like back in the 1700's. That's what I think of when I hear this music.
It actually sets the mood quite well for when you're building your town, but it doesn't do too well for battles. Overall, however, it's good to listen to. Personally, I listen to Disturbed or Metallica when I play this game.

Sound: 6/10 (Mediocre)
The sound in this game isn't bad by any means, but it could've been better. Unlike in StarCraft, WarCraft, or Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds (which is almost 100% based off of this game, by the way), your units don't speak English. Each civilization speaks their own language, which is a nice innovation, but some of them are a little stupid, like the Vikings (who sound like they're saying ****er when you click on them). The sound of swords clanging against armor and walls gets old quick, and some of the grunts and death screams are quite bad. Some of the sounds, however, are hilarious. One of the female Villagers' death screams goes like this: ''Eyaouuuuch.'' The really funny thing about it is that it sounds like she's being stung by a bee or pinched than getting mowed down by an army of Teutonic Knights. And don't get me started on Camels...though overall, the sound doesn't distract from the gameplay.

Gameplay: 10/10 (Extraordinary)
The well-designed gameplay is AoE II will blow you away. Just as in most RTS games, you start each game with a base building (known as the Town Center), and some resource-gathering units (known in this game as Villagers). Then you send your Villagers out to gather quantities of the four resources: Food, Wood, Gold, and Stone, so you can build new buildings and create new Villagers or military units. One innovation that sets this game apart is the Ages. The four ages are: The Dark Age, the Feudal Age, the Castle Age, and finally, the Imperial Age. You (usually) start out in the Dark Age, with very few technologies you can research and about half of the buildings available to you. However, once you've gathered 500 Food and have at least one Dark Age building, you can research the Feudal Age, where you can build Blacksmiths, Markets, Archery Ranges, and Stables, and research several more technologies. Then you can research the Castle Age later and gain the ability to create Castles, Siege Workshops, Monasteries, and Universities, as well as research even more technologies. Finally comes the Imperial Age, where you can research every technology that your civilization can research. The Age system (usually) prevents rushes and getting all the best technologies in the first ten minutes of the game, and puts a higher focus on building up your town and military before you attack your enemies--If you're in the Feudal Age, and you attempt to fight someone in the Imperial Age, you're asking for it. There is a myriad of different technologies that can be researched, from Gold Mining, to Blast Furnace, to Banking, to Shipwright. There are also several different units, from the Militia to the Champion, the Archer to the Arbalest, the Trebuchet, the Galleon, plus many more. There are 18 different civilizations in this game. Though they are nowhere near as different from each other as the Protoss, Terrans, and the Zerg, these civilizations each have a unique unit (or two) and a unique technology (or two) that only they can research, and to balance things out, some civilizations cannot research certain technologies. For example, the Persians have the juggernaut War Elephants, but have very weak infantry. The Goths have murderous infantry, but lack the luxury of the Stone Wall for defenses.

Story: Not rated
Well, this game's the history of real-life civilizations after the fall of Rome. I don't really feel the need to rate a story that was ripped straight out of history. Not only that, but I don't ever play the Campaigns, because I find them too restricting. If you do decide to play the Campaigns, you will guide such legendary figures as Joan of Arc, Attila the Hun, and Montezuma through key historical battles.

Controls: 10/10 (Very Simple)
The control interface is almost 100% customizable. You can set hotkeys to just about everything, from saving the game to instantly going to a Castle to pump out 15 War Wagons. But you'll most likely use the mouse most often, and it is an easy task to select units and get them to do what you want them to do. If you prefer, you can use a one-button mouse interface instead of two, though the two-button interface is much more precise. Groups of units can be hotkeyed, like in StarCraft, but you can have upwards of 30 units in one group instead of 12.

Replay value: 10/10 (Possibly years of playing)
One of my favorite features about this game that I've yet to see in other RTS games is the Random Map Generator, which randomly places land and resources all over the map according to set rules, which you specify. This prevents 'memorization' of key resource points of preset maps, and makes the game a lot more interesting, especially if you elect to have the map unexplored at the start. You can even create your own rules for generating Random Maps. This adds a lot to the replay value. I doubt the Campaigns have much replay value, however.

System Requirements: Very Low
This game can run on even MY computer. And my computer is 8 years old.
-> Windows 95, 98, ME, NT 4.0, 2000
-> 166 MHz processor
-> 32 MB RAM (64 MB for NT 4.0 or 2000)
-> 200 MB free hard drive space
-> 2MB Video Card
-> 28.8K Modem for online play

Additions in expansion pack: 8/10 (Great additions)
The expansion pack adds five new civilizations: The Huns, Aztecs, Mayans, Spanish, and the infamous Koreans. 11 new units (not counting elite versions of units): Eagle Warrior, Elite Eagle Warrior, Halberdier, Jaguar Warrior, Elite Jaguar Warrior, Hussar, Plumed Archer, Elite Plumed Archer, Missionary, Conquistador, Elite Conquistador, War Wagon, Elite War Wagon (mwa ha ha!), Turtle Ship, Elite Turtle Ship, Tarkan, Elite Tarkan, and Petard. 26 new technologies, including the unique technologies for each civilization. Real World Maps let you fight in Britain, France, Italy, and even Texas. New game types include Defend the Wonder, Wonder Race, and King of the Hill. Four new campaigns are added: Attila the Hun, El Cid, Montezuma, and the ''Battles of the Conquerors'', an assortment of historically significant battles. Units can now garrison inside of Battering, Capped, and Siege Rams for protection and extra attack strength. Villagers are smarter and build walls more efficiently and gather resources as soon as a gathering building is built. Commands can be sent to allied computer players, such as my favorite, 38 (Give me your extra resources!). Finally, you can add a ''Reseed Farm'' queue to a Mill so that Villagers will automatically replant Farms when they are exhausted. (Now if they'd do that for Fish Traps...)

OVERALL SCORE (Not an average): 10/10 (Must-have game)

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 05/13/03, Updated 05/19/03

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