Is Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings HD still the king of RTS?

Back in 1997 Microsoft Studios published the Ensemble developed Age of Empires, a game that quickly garnered a sequel in 1999 with the release of Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings. There have been numerous sequels and spin-offs since the millennium with games such as Age of Mythology appearing on PC and ports appearing on both home consoles and handhelds. Yet nothing has approached the success of the original Age of Empires II.

ageHDheaderCritical and commercial success

The critical success of Age of Empires II has been quite astonishing. IGN ranked it in its top 10 PC games of all time, while its aggregate metacritic score was 92%. The sales have more than matched this critical success: in 1999 it was the 4th best selling game of the year – an astonishing feat when you consider it was released on September 30.

While sequels in the Age of Empires series have brought delight to fans around the world, Age of Empires II is still the one that is remembered most fondly, so it’s understandable that the announcement of an HD remake was met with considerable anticipation. Could the re-release live up to the original?

As good as it ever was

The good news is the gameplay hasn’t been tinkered with – it’s still the same great game. As well as high definition graphics the game also supports widescreen. Apart from these graphical upgrades the multiplayer experience has been improved thanks to Steam integration. The expansion pack, Age of Empires II; The Conquerors is also included, which adds more civilizations, units and technologies, as well as more gameplay modes.

age01

Development issues

While Ensemble developed the original game, the studio has since become defunct. Thankfully, one of the lead developers from Ensemble, Matt Pritchard, headed the HD remake as a part of Hidden Path Entertainment. Despite the experience of the development team there have been teething issues. As people who pre-ordered the game managed to bag themselves a pre-release version, members of online forums began complaining of problems such as the game not loading properly and it crashing at random points. Thankfully a patch has already been released that has managed to address these problems.

History repeats itself

Considering the game is over a decade old many people may not have had the highest expectations when it came to commercial success – after all, nostalgia doesn’t necessarily translate to sales. However, after holding steady at number 3 on the pre-order charts, the game has managed to top the Steam best seller list, ensuring that a game that is still critically loved has also managed to do well financially.

While this HD remake will bring joy to hardcore fans that believe Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings is the pinnacle of RTS gaming (especially when they find out that all the original cheat codes still work), convincing younger gamers of its appeal might be more tricky. There’s no doubt that it does look as if its aged when placed next to modern games, but luckily its budget price point should mean that plenty of newcomers to the franchise are willing to give the game the chance it deserves.

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Age of Empires Online

Two day ago Microsoft Studios released Age of Empires Online. Created as the next chapter in the best-selling Age of Empires PC game franchise, the game features two of the greatest ancient civilizations–the Greeks and Egyptians–and offers more than 40 hours of gameplay for free!

The game starts with your small village that needs to be built in order to face the challenges of a huge world. Your progress through the game depends on how you can manage to collect resources, build structures, arm your forces, and how will you develop new technology. If you can master all these you will be able to grow your civilization from a small village to a huge empire in order to conquer the world.

In the beginning there are some basic quests to go through that will teach new players the basics of this game. But as you will progress, the gameplay becomes more interesting because of the social side of it. You are free to chat with other players, trade with them and even send your armies to attack them.

Microsoft kept the RTS gameplay that made Age of Empires franchise so popular. The player has to build mighty empires, manage resources, earn rewards, and battle his way into rich new worlds full of lively villagers, epic warriors, and historically-themed architecture. It’s like the whole classic gameplay concept has been improved in order to deliver awesome moments in an online environment.

Most of the features are offered for free, but if you want to accelerate your expansion and become a respected ruler you can buy Premium Content Packs (not necessarily at a reasonable price) which include new civilizations, booster packs, new game modes and campaigns.

download Age of Empires Online

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The Gaming Report – Because Too Much Work Will Kill You Without a Respawn Timer

So Games32 is not going to be updated for a while (I hope it will be sometimes in the future…), but I figured there has to be a way to keep my favorite two readers tuned to the gaming industry pulse. Given the considerable less amount of time I have available to spent on this now, I can’t of course make any promises on what or when I will cover gaming stuff. If you however have any request please feel free to comment. I’ll read and try to oblige…

Yes, there will be new games, upcoming cool games, but I would also like to add once in a while some retro games that I feel so connected with because I grew up with them, and they grew up on me.

So today, instead of looking at the future, will take a quick look back at the past, with the world’s first Real Time Strategy game ever (okay there were previous RTS games, but this is considered the landmark)! Dune 2: The Building of a Dynasty.

If the name doesn’t ring a bell, think Starcraft, Warcraft, Command and Conquer. Yes, Westwood Studios who developed this game was comprised of members who later worked on the above projects. And those are only a few titles worth mentioning. Here: Dark Reign and Total Annihilation – totally Dune inspired as well.

The game was released in 1992 and later ported to consoles in 1993. It featured three factions: the noble Atreides, the insidious Ordos and the evil Harkonnen as they were presented to the player. Each had unique technology and weapons, it featured the familiar building sidebar and the minimap – commodities we all grew accustomed to.

In Dune 2 you could only control one unit at the time, so the game really felt like chess on steroids, making you work for your victory not only with your mind, but also with your keys. The added hassle of the Sandworms ready to swallow up just about anyone made this game really dynamic.

But what has gotten into me you ask – that has me babbling about an 18 year old game?! As usual, it is one of the new technologies. I was actually searching the other day for more meaningful, cooler games for my Android phone. I don’t want to shoot things and I’m not particularly enjoying driving cars on it – so the first things that popped into mind where Dune 2 and Transport Tycoon Deluxe.

I’ve searched the web for both, with various results, but still haven’t been able to run a version on my phone. Again, if you have any help in this matter, it would be gratefully appreciated. But meanwhile, here’s what I found:

Dune II: The Golden Path – A multiplayer oriented Dune 2 mod:

http://drackbolt.blogspot.com/

Dune II – The Maker – Probably the closest copy of the game you can find:

http://dune2themaker.fundynamic.com/

Dune Legacy – Decent mod but you will need the original game files copied with this:

http://dunelegacy.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

Although every game mentioned above is trying to bring back the feeling I had while playing Dune 2, my experience with them doesn’t compere to the original. I would really love to just see the original working well on Windows 7, and maybe on my phone – that would be just awesome. But hey if you have nothing better to do these days and want to give an ol’ man a chance, give Dune 2 a shot.

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