Age of Empires II (AOEII) was released in the year 1999 and it revolutionized real time strategy gaming for the years to come. It gathered some of the greatest civilizations which existed in the history of the world and put them in your computer. It is you who explore and reigns the Empire. Which may fade away like the rest, or stand the test of time.
In AOEII, there’s a collection of different civilizations. Each with its own unique capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. In an AOEII match, which usually lasts 30-40 minutes. You are required to achieve victory by completing specific objectives as demanded by different maps. You select a civilization, and start off with a single building, a few villagers and a single cavalry unit which you can use for scouting the surrounding regions for resources. What you look for is wood, food, gold and stone. You use them for various purposes like researching new technologies and constructing buildings. From this small village, you have to build your economy, build an army and take on your enemies. The final objective, to emerge victorious.
Strategy is imperative for victory. You either focus on your economy, or prefer amassing a large army and crush the enemy early in the game. Or focus on constructing defences. Or maybe a more balanced approach. The possibilities are endless. It is essential that you understand the civilization’s technology tree. Be aware of your weaknesses and bank upon your strengths. Keep a close eye on the enemy though, you never know what trick they have up their sleeves, or in this case; scale mail armor.
The game has both single player and multiplayer modes. First I’ll talk about the former.
Single player consists of two sub-modes. In one of the modes you play on a random map with an Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) or multiple A.I. It is the second mode which I find to be most interesting, campaigns. AOEII allows you to play the campaigns of some of the greatest military generals or Emperors from various eras of world history. Campaigns include William Wallace, Genghis Khan, Frederick Barbarossa, El Cid, Montezuma, Joan of Arc, Saladin, Attila the Hun, Prithviraj Chauhan and many more. Voice acting is top notch, the accents have been well done. In these campaigns, you step into the shoes of the great personality and replay their great achievements. It is also an interesting way to learn history of various countries and continents. I have learnt so much about these civilizations, just by playing through these campaigns.
Multiplayer is where the real competition lies. You can go head to head with some of the best players in the world. It is organized in the same way like the first sub-mode of single player. Players can either fight each other or combat the dauntless A.I. together. However, it feels as if the A.I. might be overpowered. The victories of my friends and me against the A.I. can be counted on fingers. They are that difficult. But when you defeat them, the feeling is just sublime.
There are a few criticisms. When constructing a gate, there should be a button to rotate the gate, currently it is non-existent. As I mentioned before, the A.I. feels overpowered and probably some tuning is needed in its coding. Also, why can’t my villagers walk through houses? Or any buildings at all? There are doors. It should be made possible for them to walk through those doors. Maps are sometimes bugged, and resources are surrounded by forests through which the villagers cannot walk. Making it extremely unfair on the affected player. These should be sorted out as soon as possible. There are other tiny things which don’t affect playability but are a good laugh sometimes like, if one single villager survives the destruction of your empire, he can rebuild it again (And he humbly decides to remain a villager).
It has an active community. I believe it is due to the unique and unpredictable maps and players respectively. No two matches ever turn out to be the same way and that keeps bringing people back. The modding community has some great submissions. Maps like, Game of Thrones themed maps, Trump’s wall (Yes that’s a thing) are fun to play! My personal favourite mod is the merging of soundtracks from Stronghold with the AOEII soundtracks (Which are also good! But this makes it better).
I have been playing this game since 4th grade. I’ve come a long way from then, won a few battles and lost some. The time spent on this game has been memorable, and I find myself reminiscing about it now and then. This game is available on Steam and is on sale till 19th February. Even at full price, it is worth more than what you spend. You play the game and experience why it is a timeless classic. Till then, I will be laying siege to Constantinople and see you in my next article.
Here’s a video of a match I played with my friend!