Ensemble’s first dip into the RTS genre with Age of Empires was more of a miss than a hit. It involved many world-building elements of Civilization and the strategic combat of Warcraft II but it didn’t blend them into a cohesive gaming experience. Then Age of Empires II came out and blew the original out of the waters. To this day there is still an active modding community for the game and even though official servers have been shut down years ago, players opened their own so that the game can still be played online.
Visually, the game still looks good to this day. There are obvious signs of aging, especially with the sprites for the militia men and the numerous combat animations, but overall the game looks and feels very good. Some might argue that the different factions all look a little bit the same but the slight differences in theme and color make each group their own.
Campaign and Multiplayer
The campaign sprawls through the ages – as does the gameplay – but this is one that offers both a historic look of events and also the freedom to twist the pages of time with your own efforts and decisions. The single-player campaign can take a good long while to finish yet it is very rewarding in the end. You might even learn something about history.
The multiplayer offers a lot of competitive options and this is why it is still running to this day, via private servers and new gaming communities that keep the system alive.
This is the aspect where Age of Empires II turns into a true classic. Each faction might seem the same at first but then you realize each one has their own tech trees, meaning no faction is the same. One faction might have the advantage of building better siege weapons but poor defenses while another might have a tech tree granting them all of the best milita, archers, and cavalry but poor siege weapons or towers. There is just so much depth and variety with Age of Empires II that it guarantees a fresh new experience each time it is played.
Age of Empires II is a testament to excellent RTS gaming. While the first game was nothing memorable, this second attempt perfected everything that the developers wanted. It was deep, engaging, fun, and quite memorable to this day. There is a recent HD remake that gives new, younger players the chance to experience this game and it is one that should not go by unnoticed.