Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings is a real-time strategy video game developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft. It is the second game in the Age of Empires series. It was released in 1999, and a year later, The Conquerors expansion was released, containing new storylines, game civilizations and improved gameplay.
The events of the original The Age of Kings take place in the Middle Ages, and the number of civilizations available for the game is 13. The player needs to collect resources, rebuild cities and create armies with which he must overcome opponents. There are five campaigns based on historical events, in which players are set certain conditions related to the plot and necessary to win. In addition to these, there are three additional single player modes as well as multiplayer.
On June 9, 2019, it was announced, and on November 14, 2019, the second re-release of the game called Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition was officially released. It includes redrawn Ultra HD 4K graphics, a re-recorded soundtrack, and The Last Khans DLC with 3 new campaigns.
The game takes place in the real world, conditionally covering the Middle Ages, from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance. The player controls one of the 16 represented nations, extracting resources and rebuilding settlements with the help of workers, develops the economy, learns new technologies and creates an army. The main goal of the game is to destroy your rivals, who are simultaneously developing their civilization in the nearby territory.
The game has a fairly developed economic system. There are 4 types of resources – wood, food, gold and stone.
Wood is used primarily for building buildings, archers, siege weapons, navies, and farms, which in turn produce food. It is obtained by cutting trees and storing it at the nearest sawmill. Most maps have more than a sufficient amount of this resource, and it is distributed relatively evenly across the map.
Food is perhaps the most demanded resource in the game. It is needed to build workers, to create infantry and cavalry, for most upgrades for troops. Also, a very large amount of food is required to move to higher eras – the key upgrades required to create buildings and units of a new type. It can be obtained in many ways. At the initial stages of the game, it is mainly obtained by hunting various animals (sheep, deer, wild boars), by gathering (berry bushes), also by fishing, if there are ponds with fish on the map. Fishing can be carried out by peasants near the shore, or in deep water using fishing boats. At later stages, these resources begin to dry up, and more food is required. So the player smoothly proceeds to the construction of farms, which in sufficient quantities provide a fully automated and constant increase in this resource.
Gold is needed mainly for the creation of the most powerful combat units, as well as for high-level upgrades. In the early stages of the game, it plays a much more modest role. It can be mined from mines dotted throughout the map, but this source quickly dries up, and then real battles arise between the players for the remaining deposits. It can also be produced by land or sea trade with allied players.
Stone is required to build castles, towers and stone walls. It is mined in the only way through the development of workers of the deposits located on the map similar to gold deposits, but in slightly smaller quantities.
The game has the ability to change resources on the market at a certain rate. At the beginning of the game, the cost of resources is about the same, in the later stages, gold is bought by players in exchange for food, timber and sometimes stone, which leads to the depreciation of these resources (inflation).
As a rule, the game begins with the dark ages, when only the simplest buildings and units are available to the player. Each player has a rebuilt city center, at least three peasants and a mounted scout. The initial tasks are to explore the surrounding area and obtain a significant amount of food, necessary for the continuous creation of new workers and the subsequent transition to the feudal era. Wood is mined in smaller quantities, gold and stone are optional. Of the units, only workers, militias (weak infantry, created in barracks) and fishing boats (in docks) are available.
The feudal era is a key moment for choosing a further development strategy – either building an army for an immediate attack on the enemy, or a quick transition to the era of castles. The latter can put the player in a vulnerable position for a while, but it will give significant advantages in the future. Archers, spear throwers, light cavalry and pikemen become available from military units, it is also possible to upgrade militia to swordsmen.
The main innovation of the castle era is the ability to build additional city centers, in which it will be possible, in turn, to simultaneously create new workers. This gives a very powerful impetus to the development of the economy, but at first it requires considerable investments. It is important to choose the right time to inject investments into the economy and not forget about defense and attack.
Finally, a transition to the last, imperial era is possible. This transition is extremely costly and time-consuming, so it takes place in an already fully established economy. The Imperial era allows for the highest tier upgrades to the army, buildings and economy. There is also a “post-imperial era”, which conditionally occurs when the player has completed all possible upgrades.
In addition to the original Age of Empires II: The Conquerors, as well as the next two, there are maps representing territories from the real world (Scandinavia, Central America, Sea of Japan).
In a game with several players, diplomacy works – they can be allies, remain neutral or wage a war.
Multiplayer mode supports up to 8 players.
Age of Empires II HD
On March 7, 2013, Microsoft announced the re-release of the game in HD. Since the original game developer Ensemble Studios no longer exists, the re-release was handled by Hidden Path Entertainment (developer of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive). The new version of the game supports screen resolutions of 1920×1080 or more, as well as the latest versions of Windows and DirectX. The graphics “engine” of the game has been improved, and textures of fire, water and earth have been reworked taking into account the increased resolution. Dynamic lighting has also been added to the game space. The game supports Steam features such as: Achievements, Leaderboard, Multiplayer, Steam Cloud, Steam Workshop.
The game contains all the campaigns from the original game, as well as additional campaigns and features from The Conquerors expansion.
The re-released version of the game is available exclusively on Steam since April 9, 2013. For pre-order customers from April 5th.
Due to the upcoming release of a new re-release, Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, on August 16, 2019, the name of the Steam version of the game was changed to Age of Empires II (2013)
Age of Empires II HD: The Forgotten
Expansion for Age of Empires II, released only for the “HD Edition” version of the game and available through Steam. The developer is Forgotten Empires LLC with participation of Skybox Labs. The Forgotten adds five new civilizations to the game (Italians, Indians, Slavs, Hungarians and Incas), four new campaigns, new buildings and troops, new improvements, new game modes, new maps, and improved AI.
Age of Empires II HD: The African Kingdoms
The second expansion pack for Age of Empires II: HD Edition, available via Steam. The developer is Forgotten Empires LLC with participation of Skybox Lab. The African Kingdoms adds four new civilizations to the game (Berbers, Malians, Ethiopians, Portuguese), four new campaigns – for the Arabian commander of Berber origin who conquered the Visigothic kingdom, Tariq ibn Ziyad, the founder of the Mali empire Sundiat Keith, Portuguese Viceroy of India Francisco di Almeida and the queen of the Ethiopian Jews Judit. Added new units and technologies (loopholes (increases the power of towers), arson (for melee units), fire galley; siege tower), new maps and game modes, integration with Twitch.tv.
Age of Empires II HD: Rise of the Rajas
The third expansion pack for Age of Empires II: HD Edition, available via Steam. The developer is Forgotten Empires LLC with participation of Skybox Labs. Rise of the Rajas adds four new civilizations (Burmese, Khmer, Malay, Vietnamese), four new campaigns, as well as two new units, improved AI and an observer mode to the game.
The original game includes five campaigns, Age of Empires II: The Conquerors four more.
The campaign consists of several scenarios of increasing difficulty. They are based on events from the lives of historical characters. At the beginning of the campaign, the player receives a certain amount of resources and units. The original game features campaigns for William Wallace, Jeanne D’Arc, Saladin, Genghis Khan, Barbarossa. The Conquerors adds campaigns for Attila, El Cid and Montezuma, as well as a campaign dedicated to medieval battles. The Forgotten add-on allows you to play as Alaric, Dracula, the Nauticos family arriving in Bari, Sforza looking for El Dorado Pizarro and de Orellana, Prithviraj and the Battle of Forgotten Heroes campaign. The African Kingdoms features campaigns for Tariq ibn Ziyad, Sundiata, Francisco de Almeida, and Judit. The Rise of the Rajas add-on adds campaigns for Gaj Mada, Suryavarman, Bayinnown and Le Loy. In the second reprint, as part of The Last Khans add-on, new campaigns were created for Ivaylo, Tamerlane, Kotyan Sutoevich and “The Art of War”, which allows you to test your playing skills. The Eldorado campaign has also been removed, replacing it with missions for Pachacuti.
The game initially has 13 civilizations: British, Byzantines, Vikings, Goths, Celts, Chinese, Mongols, Persians, Saracens, Teutons, Turks, Franks, Japanese. Each civilization has a unique unit (except for the Vikings, who have two unique units), a unique technology (ready to have two technologies) and several unique bonuses.
5 civilizations (Aztecs, Huns, Spaniards, Koreans, Mayans) have been added to Age of Empires II: The Conquerors.
5 civilizations have been added to Age of Empires II HD: The Forgotten (Hungarians, Indians, Incas, Italians, Slavs).
4 civilizations (Berbers, Malians, Ethiopians, Portuguese) have been added to Age of Empires II HD: The African Kingdoms.
4 civilizations (Burmese, Khmer, Malay, Vietnamese) have been added to Age of Empires II HD: Rise of the Rajas.
4 civilizations have been added to Age of Empires II Definitive Edition: The Last Khans (Bulgarians, Cumans, Lithuanians, Tatars).
The tech tree in the game is more complex than in the first part. To use the technology, the player must first construct a building. Technology can be developed in every building for a certain price. After the development of the technology, a wider selection of units and new technologies appears. Thanks to technology, you can develop units, peasants and buildings. The choice of technologies is wider in the higher Era. Each civilization has a unique technology. For example, the Franks have a lower cost of the castle than other civilizations. But there are also disadvantages: for example, the Persians have a lower attack power against siege weapons (ballistas, rams, catapults). It should not be forgotten that technological development is based on economic development. Therefore, the goal of the game is also to surpass the enemy economically.
Wonders of the world and relics
There are small items in the game – relics that can only be picked up by a monk. (The equestrian monk from Age of Empires II: The Conquerors cannot collect relics.) When a relic is placed in a monastery, it brings gold to the player. The enemy can recapture the relic by destroying the monastery. Collecting all 5 relics and holding them for a certain time leads to victory.
You can win by collecting all the relics or building the Wonder of the World. The Wonder of the World is a large building that takes a lot of resources and time to build. If the Wonder of the World stands for a certain time, then the player wins. All players are notified of the start of the construction of the Wonder, the location of the Wonder is revealed on the map. Different civilizations have different Miracles, but this does not affect their functions.