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Game Over Online ~ Age of Empires II: Age of Kings

GameOver Game Reviews - Age of Empires II: Age of Kings (c) Microsoft, Reviewed by - Dolphin-Safe Tuna

Game & Publisher Age of Empires II: Age of Kings (c) Microsoft
System Requirements Pentium 200, 32MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 87%
Date Published Friday, November 26th, 1999 at 09:27 PM

Divider Left By: Dolphin-Safe Tuna Divider Right

Just about two years ago, Microsoft made its first foray into the world of real time strategy games with Age of Empires. Received with open arms by the masses, AOE quickly became a best seller and, in addition to a decent single player game, a huge multiplayer following arose to become the Zone’s (Microsoft’s online gaming network) biggest game. With the huge success of AOE, Microsoft sent Ensemble back into development to work on a sequel. The sequel would propel Age of Empires out of the Stone Age and into the medieval times. The Age of Kings is finally here and war will be waged once again across the boundaries of the Internet.

Yes Age of Kings follows the ideas of the original. Gather your resources, build up a city, build an army, and make technology advancements, all in an effort to destroy your enemy. While AOE wasn’t a particularly original real-time strategy, it was well designed and the general layout made it succeed. AOE2 follows an identical layout which is integrated smoothly into the game.

AOE2 uses campaign style play, which allows you to become one of the more famous commanders of the medieval time period. The five campaigns consist of William Wallace, Joan of Arc, Saladin, Genghis Kahn, and Barbarossa. AOE2 has a little more attention paid to the detail of the campaign backgrounds. There are pre-planned events that happen within the game world that help spice up the feeling of involvement in the game. There are also a handful of special characters that like to add comments about your progress as the game goes along.

In addition to the campaign, there are quite a few other gameplay options. The standard Deathmatch is available, along with a game called Regicide, where you must kill your opponent’s king while keeping your own alive. In addition, you can setup games with your own rules to play against the computer.

AOE2 also adds a scenario and campaign designer, so if the regular missions aren’t enough, you have ample resources to make your own. Whatever you create can also be used for multiplayer missions as well, giving AOE2 a lot of room for expansion. A solid following will help to keep AOE2 fresh even as the average player beats what maps come with game because they can always go out and download more from the Internet.

AOE was a well-created world with artistic details taken with most of the aspects of the game. Graphically AOE2 improves on what AOE1 had. Terrain detail has been greatly improved. It’s actually true 3D, so you’re treated to nice rolling hills and what not. The actual unit graphics and buildings are along the same quality as AOE1, but the animation is better and the units themselves are a little better. Some of the graphics do seem to be leftovers from AOE1 like the burning animation. I’d prefer to see actual damage to the buildings instead of just the growing flames. It also goes for the construction of the building phase. A little more gradual transition would be nicer; three frames of graphics seem a little bland. It supports high resolutions, but these make the screen size bigger, not making the detail better. All in all, the graphics are better, I was expecting a little more but nonetheless, the quality is up to par.

The audio score isn’t that much of an improvement from AOE1 either, but that’s hardly a bad thing. The sound effects do have locational positioning, so depending on where on the map something is, you’ll hear what’s going on where. Music is also relatively decent; Microsoft moved away from the MIDI soundtrack and replaced it with some higher quality CD audio.

Multiplayer was an excellent feature in AOE1 and made it one of the most popular games on the Internet and by far the most popular on Microsoft’s own online service, The Zone. All of the game options, aside from the campaign, are available in multiplayer. Features like teamplay, capture the artifact, and standard deathmatch, as well as the ability to use user-designed maps, are all included in the multiplayer.

Ensemble has followed up an impressive original with a strong sequel. While Age of Kings is not an overwhelming improvement over its predecessor, it does live up to most of the expectations I had for it. The campaigns are much more fulfilling and there’s a greater sense of accomplishment upon completion of missions in AOE2. I’m sure we’ll see some quality addons put out for AOE2 down the road to even more so enhance the game.

Summary: It’s not a significant improvement as far as gameplay and graphics, but it does help further the claim of AOE as a solid gaming title and a quality multiplayer game. The originality may be gone, but the idea lives on.


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