Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition Review
Age of Empires II is an undisputable RTS classic from 1999 (damn, it’s been that long?) and a game that still manages to be relevant to this day. Don’t believe me? Go on YouTube and search for some AOE2 content creators—this ancient game is thriving with an ongoing competitive scene and a vibrant modding community.
The Definitive Edition released by Microsoft this month is exactly the type of love this community deserves. Not only does it pretty up the game, but it also adds a slew new content to the game including four new campaigns, four new civilizations, and new game modes. For competitive players, there is now proper ranked matchmaking. Much of the base game has been touched-up as well, such as an update to the scenario editor and quality-of-life options to enhance playability. Priced reasonably at $21.99 CAD, this is a perfect remaster for veterans and new players alike.
What Is It?
Age of Empires II is a real-time strategy game where you command your civilization to glory. Taking place in the medieval times, you pick from among 35 civilizations from around the globe, each coming with intricate specialties to set them apart. Then, starting from the dark ages, you gather resources, advance in technology, and build a mighty army to crush your foes!
In my opinion, one of the crowning achievements of AOE II is their ability to make each civilization feel unique, whilst working off a similar system. Although much of their buildings look different from each other, asides from a few unique exceptions, civilizations share the same tech tree, buildings, and units. Working off the same system, each civilization possesses different limits in each of the branches of the tech tree, setting them apart (more drastically than you’d imagine). The result of this is that while civilizations all feel different to play, switching between them is easy,
There are hundreds of hours of single-player content available, including a comprehensive tutorial. Single-player campaigns follow great historical figures such as Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, Montezuma, and dozens more. The bots also offer great challenges in custom skirmishes with a large range of options and maps for you to toy with. If you ever get bored, there is a custom scenario creator for you to make your own maps or download scenarios others have created.
The list of changes is too numerous for me to cover all of them but I’ll go over some of my favourite features. The best ones in my opinion, are the quality-of-life changes, such as automatic farm reseeding, easier order queuing, and adjustable zoom levels. You can now see health bars on top of each of your resources being harvested, so you can check how much gold is left in that mine before it is dried up without clicking on it.
The accessibility options also are wonderful to see. There are comprehensive colour options, and also options for the game to narrate certain things in voice, from chat messages to the names of the units you click on.
There is also a new feature called the Art of War where you can test and improve elements of your game if you are struggling competitively. For example, If you are having a hard time booming (rapid economic growth) you can pick a scenario that will guide you and then grade your performance with medals depending on your score.Finally, the new game mode Empire War is a perfect mode if you want to play some casual games with your friends. Starting you off in feudal age with a handful of villagers already working away on a variety of resources, it skips the opening sequence of tight build orders and timings and lets you enjoy the mid-game.
This remaster not only revamps the visuals and playability, but it also adds a whole expansion pack to the game. Priced like a large DLC, there is no reason not to get this game if you are already an Age of Empires fan. I can only hope that all remasters in the future will be as good as this.
*** A PC review code was provided by the publisher ***
- New single-player content
- Ranked matchmaking
- Improved base game
- Accessibility options
- Some old-timey clunkiness