Developer: Hidden Path Entertainment/Ensemble Studios
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Release Date: April 9th, 2013
Age of Empires has gone through a good number of games by now, including a spin-off or two (Age of Mythology, anyone?), but it hasn't really touched on its roots at all. That's changed now with the release of Age of Empires II HD on Steam this week. It boasts adding new features and a nice little coat of HD paint, but are they actually worthwhile additions to spend $20 on?
I'll be honest- I've never played an Age of Empires game before. I did play (the fantastic) Age of Mythology quite extensively when I was younger, but that's a whole other diamond in the strategy game mine. The Age of Empires series, particularly the first 3 games, are simple to the core yet still incredibly fun to play. You try your hardest to take out the enemy, which can be AI bots, other players online, or a mix of the two. You build hordes of units to first collect resources for your soon-to-be mighty kingdom, and then either smash, diplomatically ally with, or sneak in a victory with your wonder against your opponents. There's tons of units, buildings, and civilizations to play as. Also, there are plenty of map choices, with randomization being the most fun option of course. I can definitely see why everyone and their pet horny toad seems to love this game, as I do too now!
This new HD edition comes with some new and some old extra tidbits of course. Firstly, the Conquerors expansion pack is included, which basically adds to every aspect of the game. Next up is the general modernization of the game. It now runs on modern versions of Windows with no problems, has widescreen support, support for resolutions up to 1920x1080, and even support for multiple monitors. Oh! Who could forget the "HD" tag too? The lighting is improved apparently and the textures look a bit better. It's not awfully much but overall it is definitely much prettier to look at.
Steam Workshop is included with the game to help making downloading or uploading maps, campaigns, and mods for the game loads easier than it was in the days of the 90s and early 2000s. I'm glad more games are using Steam Workshop, and this seems like a great canidate for it.
At the cost of this comes a few things that did end up annoying me a bit. To start with, the graphics themselves haven't seen much of a "HD" change as to be expected by the title. It still looks great for a late 90s game, but an actual HD overhaul would've been great. The resolution also seemingly can't be changed, as it takes whatever your desktop resolution is. With this being an expanded version of an older game, I'd expect it to at least let you change what resolution you want the game at, but this is just a small nuisance really.
I'd also like to say that the multiplayer is absolute gold in this game. There's a new system in place just for the HD version, and while I'm not sure how it differs from the original multiplayer system, it is certainly quite stable, if a bit laggy.
Playing with a fellow GP buddy (Ludono), we had a cubic kilometer of fun in the few games we played. Each game takes multiple hours to finish usually, though it is possible to save and re-load games you've played with others luckily. The experiences we had were both ridiculous and awesome at the same time (have YOU ever seen massive armies of Spanish conquistadores plowing their way through anything in their way? I bet not!).
There was only one time when we weren't really enjoying the game, and that was when we teamed up against 6 A.I. opponents who promptly ganged up on me early on in the game, forcing us to quit early and start anew. This was completely due to the randomization of the map though I think, as my buddy was on the opposite side of the fairly large map. However, every other moment of our time spent in the multiplayer portion of the game was very fun and we really enjoyed bashing each other's brains out in one game and then teaming up to fight fiercesome A.I. opponents the next. Anything goes in a game of tactics and while Age of Empires II HD isn't overly heavy on it, how you win (or don't!) is up to you.
Is Age of Empires II HD still a worthwhile addition to the very prestigious series it's a part of?
Definitely! The new additions might not be that huge, but they serve their purpose well for making the game actually playable on modern computers. The game is a classic by far, and while it may not be the most HD-realistic, ultra-modern portrayal of combat in the Middle Ages, it's still an incredibly fun one. Check it out here if you're interested: http://store.steampo...com/app/221380/
I give this game a: 9/10
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