Developer: Hidden Path Entertainment
Release Date: April 9th, 2013
ESRB: T for Teen
The "Age of" series has a long running history of fantastic strategy games, spanning from the original Age of Empires, to Age of Mythology to the recent online focused Age of Empires Online, but Age of Empires II is arguably the best game the franchise has ever produced. It seems that Microsoft knew this, and tasked Hidden Path to breathe new life into the (now defunct) Ensemble Studios masterpiece. So does this supposed timeless classic hold up after all these years, or is this just a superficial money grab?
The most obvious change to the game is the ability to run the game on modern systems. I own the original disc version of both Age of Empires II and it's expansion The Conquerors (Both of which come included in this release) and was unable to play them properly. The HD edition has increased the max resolution of the game to 1920x1080 (The original was somewhere around 640x480) as well, as you might have guessed, adding widescreen support. This makes a WORLD of difference when playing, the extra screen real estate helps you survey the battlefield with ease.
Aside from the increased resolution and widescreen support, there isn't much else that's been added to the game, visually at least. A large portion of the improvements made to HD edition of the game are the ones you can't see (at least not directly). Hidden Path has gone and revamped the multiplayer for the game, taking out the old system in place and replacing it with a system that actually works. They've also integrated this multiplayer system with Steam so you can invite people to your lobby directly from your friends list. I played an online match with resident Podunk member DrPixel. We started a 4 player lobby, with 2 AI players + us (AI can fill in for human players). Originally we were all playing independently but before long Pixel proposed a truce and a shaky alliance to join forces against the Koreans and Britons. Almost 2 hours (
The final addition to this edition of the game is the addition of Steam Workshop. The "Age of" series has always had a dedicated modding community with all sorts of custom units, maps and campaigns available to download. Even if you aren't a modder, you can still upload to the Steam Workshop thanks to Age of Empires II robust map and scenario editor. You've always been able to create your own maps, as well as custom campaigns in these games, but Steam Workshop makes it easier than ever to share your creations with others.
The game does include both the base game as well as the Conquerors expansion pack which adds a second set of campaigns set in more exotic locations such as the Middle East and the New World.
If you're looking for an entirely new Age of Empires game, the minor additions made to this game probably won't fit the bill, though I'd still recommend it. However if you enjoyed this game back in the day, or are interested in Real Time Strategy games, then you should definitely pick this up. The game is available on steam, priced at a very reasonable $19.99.
+ The best Age of Empires game, now playable on modern systems
+ Functioning multiplayer
+ Steam Workshop support
- Not a lot of new additions added
- No way to change resolution in menu (defaults to your highest resolution)
Age of Empires II HD is a worthy upgrade of a much beloved strategy game. Whether you're a returning fan of the series or just a strategy buff in general you should definitely give it a try.