Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition Review

On 14th November 2019, the new Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition was released. The game was launched after a lot of hype and marketing by Microsoft. The original game was released in 1999. It was termed as the ‘best real-time strategy’ game of its time. I had reviewed the original Age of Empires 2, you can read it by clicking here. Today we shall be talking about this new Definitive Edition.

The new main menu. It also has new soundtracks.
Note: HD refers to the Age of Empires 2 HD version released in 2013. DE refers to the new Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition version released on 14th November 2019. It is the latter which is being reviewed here.

Firstly, here are the system requirements:

Minimum:

  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: Windows 10 64 bit
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo or AMD Athlon 64×2 5600+
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 420 or ATI™ Radeon™ HD 6850 or Intel® HD Graphics 3000 or better with 2 GB VRAM
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 30 GB available space

Recommended:

  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: Windows 10 64 bit
  • Processor: 2.4 Ghz i5 or greater or AMD equivalent
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Nvidia® GTX 650 or AMD HD 5850 or better
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Network: Broadband Internet connection
  • Storage: 30 GB available space
Source: Steam 

Gameplay:

The game features a revamped UI

One of the most advertised aspect of the new Definitive Edition was the revamped gameplay. Many quality of life changes were incorporated within the game to help you in managing your empire efficiently; at the same time helping you focus on important things such as combat more.

According to me, the automatic reseeding of farms is the best feature which has been added to the game. Gone are the days when you are building your military and defenses and suddenly 10 farms one after the other get exhausted. You would then have to manually reseed them causing you to lose focus on what you were doing. You can enable this new option from the mill everytime you start a new game! Wood is automatically deducted from your stockpile, so make sure you always have a good supply of it.

Next up is the new resources tab in the top left corner of the screen. If you scroll up and check out that screenshot, you’ll see that every resource now has a small number near its icon. This number indicates the amount of villagers currently involved in collecting that resource. It also shows whether there are any idle villagers, and if yes, how many?

Villager work queue has been implemented! Now it is possible to queue the actions of a villager. For example, in the screenshot below, the highlighted villager will first construct the house, then the monastery and finally go back to mining stone. This keeps your plate lighter as villagers won’t just stand around anymore after finishing construction of buildings.

In this screenshot, the 3 flags indicate the queue, first the villager will complete the house, then the monastery and finally go back to mining stone.

You can now zoom into the map! Like on other strategy games like Total War or Civilization, your bird’s eye view in DE can dive in to the action. You also have the option of zooming out, this can enable you to have a better perspective on your empire or battles. It totally changes the way the game is played now.

There are many more things in gameplay which have been implemented. I have highlighted the most important changes according to me.

Singleplayer:

New Campaign Menu

All of the old campaigns from ‘Age of Kings‘, ‘Conquerors Expansion‘, ‘Forgotten Empires‘ DLC, ‘African Kingdoms‘ DLC and ‘Rise of the Rajas‘ DLC are now included in the game. This is a pretty good deal considering in the HD Edition, the base game+DLC would cost around Rs.1,672 where as Definitive Edition costs just Rs.529! That’s lower than the price of the HD version’s base game!

Moreover, all campaigns have been reworked! New artwork for cutscenes, new authentic narration (Joan of Arc campaign has an authentic French accent), new visuals in terms of AI unit placement/movement like the infamous ‘Golden Horde‘ of Genghis Khan! It is truly wonderful to see all of the old campaigns revived! The new DLC campaigns also have new visuals with voice acting finally implemented in them.

The developers also included an ‘Art of War‘ campaign which is basically advanced techniques of the game. It includes things such as ‘boar lure‘ and ‘fast castle‘ with proper explanations. This is targeted towards players who are new to the franchise. It can be used by them to catch up with the rest of the playerbase. (It has a few things which even I didn’t know about!)

The Definitive edition also has 3 new campaigns which come under the title of, ‘The Last Khans.’ Having played the campaign I can assure you that it is one of the best I have ever played. You will be playing campaigns of the time after Genghis Khan had passed away. That’s some new history for you to learn!!

The Artificial Intelligence (AI) has also been reworked. The new DE AI is smarter than the HD AI. The former is so smart, that it knows where to place markets to maximise gold income from trade routes (Hint: The markets should be placed in either corner of the maps.) It also has a new difficulty level called, Extreme. It comes right after hardest. But I must warn you, if you could beat the HD AI at the Hardest difficulty; you won’t win against the DE AI at hardest difficulty. There is an overall improvement in this domain.

Multiplayer:

Now let us come to the most interesting and fun part of the game. Multiplayer.

Veteran’s of Age of Empires 2 like myself, know how inconsistent the AOE2 HD version performed in multiplayer. Lag and stuttering gameplay was a common part of multiplayer games. 2000+ ELO rating players would have to play with lower rating players simply because they could not find someone of their skill level. It is because of this many players decided to use ‘Voobly‘ for multiplayer simply because it outperformed the vanilla multiplayer platform and gave more features for match casters like T90Official.

In the DE Multiplayer. Things have been taken to a whole new level. First off, to play ranked matches your computer and internet connection have to pass a benchmark test. This test ensures that your computer/internet won’t cause disruptions during play. This is the first major change.

The other change, is the introduction of a proper matchmaking system. It makes sure that you are always playing with someone who is of your skill set. This is determined by a rating system like that of the HD version’s ELO Rating system. Furthermore, you have the option of customizing your requirements, 1v1, 2v2, 3v3 or 4v4 with the option of switching between random and deathmatch.

Map selection UI now includes snapshots of the playable area.

In addition to this, I really liked the idea of including a snapshot of the map you wish to play on in the setup menu. It helps you in deciding what kind of map you want to play on and also explore some new ones. It also features map position of all players so you know how the locations are set while choosing the map. I absolutely love this feature and am glad it’s there, especially for new players.

Though I enjoyed the multiplayer (as can be seen in the video at the end) as of now it takes very long for the matchmaking system to find an opponent. Hopefully this will improve as more players float to the game from the old as well as an organic new playerbase.

Graphics

There are just two words for the graphics. Beautiful and smooth.

Movements are smooth. Butter smooth. Animations such as mining, farming, hunting, shooting, throwing etc. are no longer blocky. When I checked the frame rate, it was going up till 90-100fps! Battles and empires are beautiful to look at! With the new zoom in feature, you can get up close and personal to witness your troops in action.

Visuals are absolutely stunning. They have become richer with detail. An example can be seen in the new stables (used for creating cavalry units). The horses inside the stable move! You can see their legs and tails moving.

One of the best graphics enhancements has been the destruction of the buildings in the game. Instead of just falling down ‘PLOP!‘ like in the old versions. The buildings now crumble to dust. This so fun to look at! You wouldn’t mind seeing your own Wonder smashing to smithereens as your empire crumbles to the invading foe! (This has happened to me many times, I do not deny this.)

Buildings also suffer visible damage other than just fires. Just by looking at a building you can see how long will it remain standing. Its useful in quick combat situations and is also really cool to look at.

A Castle crumbling to dust

Improvements could have been made. Fires on a building close to another appear on those buildings as well. It is sometimes misleading but not very important. Another thing about the fires is that they extinguish as the building falls. Quite unrealistic and it would have been better if the fires did not just disappear immediately after the collapse.

There is one problem though, and that is the text in the user interface during a match. If you observe some of the screenshots, you will see that things like the resource stockpile are often obscure and difficult to read. There would be times when I would read 300 as 500 or vice versa. It becomes a problem during intensive combat situations as misreading resources could delay some buildings or units (Example: Reading 500 stone as 300 stone would stop you from building a castle or unnecessarily purchasing stone in the market).

Units have new designs as well. Villagers don’t have much difference. But military units like Knights, Pikemen, Trebuchets, Archers etc. now have a different look. They look better and at the same time you can recognize them without much difficulty.

Audio

Age of Empires had some of the best soundtracks, which used to match the mood of the game. These soundtracks played a huge role in building the atmosphere of every match.

In the new DE version, all of the old soundtracks have been remade. They are great and add a lot to the game’s aura. Not just the soundtracks, but the entire audio library has been upgraded. The sound when you click a unit, movement sounds, sound when you click a building (The house now features a more advanced version of a tabla playing sound) or even the sound of the infamous boar have been made better.

If you want to hear them, don’t forget to check out the gameplay video at the end of this review. It has almost everything we have discussed in the review.

Verdict

With the release of Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition, we can say that the franchise has come a long way since its release way back in the nineties. All these years it wasn’t receiving much attention from Microsoft, which forced the online community to take matters into its own hands. Though the game isn’t mod enabled or integrated with the steam workshop yet, we have been assured that it will be implemented along with support from Microsoft.

Having been part of the closed beta during the developmental stages of this game. I really appreciate that the developers took the time and effort to listen to the feedback from players. They were passionate and responsive to this game and that is why it is turning out to be a success.

The final verdict from me is a solid 8/10. The game is good. It is worth playing and it offers a lot of value for money. It offers hundreds of hours of gameplay with old campaigns reworked and new ones introduced. With the new AI you can expect more challenging gameplay and a sense of achievement on defeating it in campaigns or standard games. I had over 300 hours on the HD version. It is without doubt that Definitive Edition will offer a lot more than that.

That’s my verdict on this game, go and buy it. I will see you guys in the next article! Till then I will be on Black Forest as the Byzantines taking over the world!

Priyamvad Rai


Here is the Gameplay video of the game! Enjoy!!

This is a video of me going up against a random player in a ranked match online.

Like what you read? Don’t miss out on more! Subscribe to TheMusing.in now!

Join 199 other followers

One comment

  1. A very detailed analysis of this game.. nicely explained

    I have not played this game but your detailed analysis has helped me in understanding it.

    Now I am curious to play it.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.