Age of Empires II is beloved in the strategy community. It’s considered a classic, and one that withstands the test of time. To this day, 20 years after its original release, the game still has a dedicated following. There are entire communities and websites dedicated to mods and cheats.
Unlike many series, you don’t need to play Age of Empires I first before playing Age of Empires II. Each game stands alone, so don’t worry about picking them up in order. Age of Empires II is considered the best in the series. So if you’re only going to pick up one, this is it.
You start as either a random civilization or your choice of the 18 provided. Each civilization has its own perks, strengths and abilities. It’s a testament to the amount of work that went into the writing and development of this game. Development trees are available that let you see the advantages and disadvantages of each before you dedicate yourself. But they’re all balanced enough to make playing any choice an equally good time. Even the buildings as you evolve through the ages differ depending on which team you’ve chosen. It’s a history buff’s dream.
The goal of each round is simple: be the last civilization standing. Grow strong enough to wipe the other teams off the map, while ensuring the civilization of your own. The difficulty of each round is customizable so you can make this as simple or challenging as you like. You can also customize the number of competing civilizations that exist on your custom map. It’s a small part of what makes the Age of Empires series a steadfast classic in its genre.
In addition to the custom maps, you can import real world maps as well. You can play as the Huns battling through the countryside they actually battled through, or try and see if you can take over the world as Korea. You can replay or recreate history however you like.
Like civilizations in the real world, you start out small. You have a town center, a scout and a handful of peasants. The peasants can be assigned to work cutting down trees to store lumber, mining gold and stone, or scavenging local sources of food. As you gather more resources you can build a barracks to create soldiers and other kinds of warriors. You can also enhance existing buildings. As you continue down this path, you can advance through the various ages, giving you even more tools to lead you down your path of conquest.
If battle isn’t your thing, explore the multiple story mode options. There’s a pacifist run where the goal is building a wonder rather than conquering the other civilizations in the world. Once you’ve discovered the world’s relics, you can also win by capturing and protecting these relics for 200 years. There are many alternative modes for victory, and that’s just in the vanilla version of this game. Numerous mods created by fans over the decades make the possibilities endless.
Age of Empires II HD Edition
These features and this gameplay style were staples of Age of Empires II, and they have not changed for the HD edition. What brings this edition to the table is its increased functionality when it comes to the multiplayer option. Instead of battling the computer, you can attempt to conquer friends or strangers on the internet.
While this feature too was available in the original, having it connected to the Steam network gives it the boost it needs. There are a lot more players on the Steam network, and that really enhances the playing experience. No one wants to wait for 10 or 20 minutes to connect to a multiplayer map.
However, there are some areas that the HD edition didn’t address that it really should have. There are some basics to the functionality of the game that went unaddressed. One of the largest and most well known frustrations has to do with mass selection. When you try to click and drag your mouse to select your troops, you can easily get a peasant trapped in that group instead, which makes for an awkward battle.
Aside from the new multiplayer function, the only real gameplay change seems to be an increase in possible population size. The previous version had a village population cap set at 200. In the HD edition, it’s been raised to 500.
If you’re a big fan of the multiplayer feature, this HD edition is definitely worth picking up on Steam. But if you already have an older version of the game and are considering buying this as an upgrade, save your money. The newer features aren’t worth buying a copy of this game all over again. Though Age of Empires II will always be a classic, the HD edition doesn’t add enough to make the purchase worth it.