Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings
This is one of those games that looks too good to be true (gorgeous graphics equals dodgy gameplay is a philosophy that all too often rings true with video games). Of course, you should all know by now that Age Of Empires is as addictive in terms of gameplay as it is pleasing to the eye. Which is reason enough to look forward to the forthcoming sequel with relish.
Developers Ensemble are confident they can produce a more than worthy sequel, and they've singled out combat, diplomacy and trading as key areas in which to expand and improve on what is already a brilliant game.
To this end, there will be several ways to achieve victory in Age 2. Combat-shy wusses can win the game by accumulating massive wealth through diplomacy and trading or building and defending wonders of the world.
Anyone up for a bit of a fight will not be disappointed. Age 2 sports a vastly improved combat engine, with options to put units into classic military formations and set different levels of aggression for individual units. Additionally, the AI for military units, which came in for criticism from some quarters in the original game, has been completely redesigned, enabling extremely clever combat units which guard and patrol vital areas, follow important units around the place making sure nothing untoward happens to them, and generally kick ass in a more realistic and satisfying manner.
The game spans a thousand years, taking you from the Dark Ages to late mediaeval times, and you can now choose to play any of 13 different races. The race you choose to play determines to some extent which areas of research you explore: the Vikings, for example, are always handy in a scrap, so a military research path would seem to be in order for those playing with our spiky-hatted friends. The new research tree is massive (it has more than 100 nodes), so there's plenty of opportunity for experimentation one way or another.
Other notable new features include production queues, improved navigation points and customisable hot keys. The big question, though, is whether or not Ensemble will include a Cproper' campaign in the game. You could argue that the freeform singleplayer missions in AOE were big enough to constitute a different campaign every time you play, but what we would really like to see is a more structured campaign in the style of, say, Civilization 2.
Whatever the case, we're confident that Age Of Empires 2 will be one of the biggest games of 1999, and we'll be following it closely through its development period. Look out for an exclusive preview.
Download Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
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2018-11-28 Age of Empires 2: The Age of Kings game added.