The biggest and most important PC classic game ever made just got the Definitive Edition treatment. But the question here is… Is it worth coming back? Keep reading this Age Of Empires II Definitive Edition Review to find out.
Originally developed by Ensemble Studios and now remastered by Forgotten Empires and Tantalus, the absolutely epic Age Of Empires II makes a more than welcomed (second) comeback in this Definite Edition.
6 years after the HD release, the Definitive Edition is coming to Windows Store and Steam. This package includes the original base game with The Conquerors expansion, as well as The Forgotten Empires, Rise of the Rajas and The African Kingdoms, each of which brought new campaigns and civilizations. But wait, there’s even more: a brand new expansion ‘The Last Khans’ with three additional campaigns and four new civilizations has been included, but we’ll talk about that a bit later. Keep reading this Age Of Empires 2 Definite Edition review to find out about that and much more!
• OS: Win 10 64
• Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E4600 2.4GHz / AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 5600+
• Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 6850 or NVIDIA GeForce GT 420
• System Memory: 4 GB RAM
• Storage: 30 GB Hard drive space
• DirectX 11 Compatible Graphics Card
• OS: Win 10 64
• Processor: Intel Core i5-650 3.2GHz / AMD APU A6-3620 Quad Core
• Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 5850 2048MB or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 650 2GB
• System Memory: 8 GB RAM
• Storage: 30 GB Hard drive space
Assuming you could be part of the 1% worldwide population who -still- doesn’t know what Age Of Empires II is all about, let me tell you a few things. First of all, congratulations; you are about to learn about the greatest RTS game ever made, and, if you decide to buy it, trust me: the first experience will be a memorable ride.
Secondly, if Age Of Empires II could get in the ring against any other RTS, it would be the undefeated and forever Champion. How come? You might be asking… Well, the gameplay is rock solid and it still holds up. Yes, I’m talking about the original one, and bear in mind it released back in 1999. *mind blown*
Now, what is it about? Well, it’s about building an empire from scratch. You typically start out with a Town Center, a few villagers, and a scout. Near your starting location, there are different finite collectible resources such as food, wood, stone, and gold. The goal here is simple: You must expand your empire while keeping an eye out for the economy, population and, most importantly, your enemy expansion around the map. Watch out, as only one civilization can remain!
How do you turn this on?
The legendary cobra car cheat code will come to your mind the moment you try to make the original title work on your modern Windows 10 PC. And that was one of the strongest selling points of the HD Edition; that it would work without hesitation and no compatibility tab search needed. This time around, the Definitive Edition works like charm on modern PCs as well, so, with software issues out of the way, you’ll be able to enjoy once again this title in all of its glory. Everything you loved back in the day is available, along with huge graphical and resolution improvements -seriously, it looks 100x times better than the HD version- balance changes, as well as a more polished version of the AI when compared to both the original and the HD version. Even though you will be able to run it if you meet the minimum requirements, you will need a powerful PC to visually get the best out of it.
In terms of performance, Age Of Empires II Definitive Edition could use some optimization. You can easily make it work and look better than the HD version, but in order to have it at a ‘good frame rate’, you might have to tweak it a bit. Right now, medium-end PCs could struggle to achieve a similar performance than in other modern games, but hopefully, an update will address this soon enough.
There’s AoE for everyone
Let’s talk about accessibility for a second. Here at The Loot Gaming, we awarded Microsoft with our Innovation of the year (2018) award for their Adaptive Controller. The trend doesn’t stop here as they’ve added great accessibility options in this Definitive Edition, such as colorblind options and narration. This is the way it should be in my opinion; allowing everyone to enjoy this classic by ensuring there are no limitations on the way. Good job on this one, and keep it up!
‘The Last Khans’ are the new black
Tatars, Bulgarians, Lithuanians, and Cumans; four new civilizations included for the first time, with new technologies and unique units along with exclusive building skins for each one -the latter being the particular highlight for me- Beware of Cumans and Lithuanians as they rank on the OP side of the charts.
We can now enjoy these civs and their historical context with three new campaigns added as part of The Last Khans expansions and, of course, you can count on revisiting the 24 original campaigns, which have been revamped; Fully voice acted in various languages. How cool is that?
Worthy changes that keep the original essence
Since it’s now time to talk about changes, let me carry some good news for you; Age Of Empires II Definitive Edition doesn’t alter the good all gameplay we are used to. Most of the changes made serve a meaningful purpose, primarily making some things easier or displaying really useful information that we couldn’t access at first glance before. You heard that right, nothing alters the classic vibe. Let’s address some of these changes.
One of my favorites, the vastly improved UI, now indicates the number of villagers per resource and the total amount of idle villagers. As you can see, these new features don’t alter the classic gameplay at all, but instead, serve as much needed quality of life improvements.
There are also greater challenges associated with achievements, most of which include lovely music references in their names. Want more? You’ve got it: On-screen objectives in campaigns, automatic farm reseed (thank god for this one!), a Global queue, a Mixed queue (you can now queue technologies and units at the same time on one building), Command queues and Military drag-select, which avoids selecting villagers and focuses on military units only.
Sun Tzu’s military treatise ‘Art Of War’ shares name with the interesting brand new game mode, which is focused on showing new players how to play on the competitive scene; how to properly start a match, how to lure boars and more complex concepts such as Rush or Booming. My advice is to get yourself educated on this, because, if you don’t learn these optimal ways of playing, you’ll probably get obliterated real quick. This is one of those features many of us would have appreciated in the past, but you know how it goes; better late than never.
Sharp graphics, immersive sound
Among the Age Of Empires II DE most noticeable things, the bright and beautifully improved graphics, as well as the fully remastered soundtrack, shines the most.
From the destruction animations and particle effects to the new icons and textures, AoE 2 DE really has added a new layer with its new look while keeping the classic vibe we all remember and love. This new coat of paint really suits the game, taking away any feeling of it being a 20-year-old title. You can now even zoom in and out so you can take a closer look and enjoy the tiny details or the large scale battles, it’s really up to you.
I can’t deny Age Of Empires II is my favourite strategy game, and one of the first games I’ve ever played. Maybe for that reason, this particular edition felt like a love letter delivered just on time for Valentines day.
In addition to that, there’s also a DLC pack featuring 4K textures available for download at no extra cost. The size of it is around 14 GB but let me tell you it does make a difference.
Regarding sounds, the remaster is technically more than well-executed. Listening once again to the original soundtrack while playing will give you a serious nostalgic trip, adding a great amount of epicness to the moment. The soundtrack has been remastered as well and you will notice it as it sounds incredibly clean and if you listen closely, you’ll notice a few twists here and there. Despite the improvement, players are allowed to switch to the old soundtrack in case that’s their preferred choice. And that almost applies to every other feature; the ability to turn things off.
Master of Hotkeys
The game offers an online multiplayer mode in which you can play with up to 8 players, battling to prove who has the best strategy skills and micromanagement in real-time battles. The multiplayer no longer relies on the laggy peer-to-peer system but, instead, on the better server-based model. There are different servers indicating the ping, allowing to decide where to create a match or if you should join a particular one. AoE 2 DE also features cross-play between Steam and Windows 10 players, making it easier to connect with other players no matter what platform they are using.
As for the online experience, before launch, I was only able to try private matches with a friend and fellow writer, and I must say it was a smooth experience. The old lag we were used to on the HD version was gone once and for all. After launch, while trying to join other player’s matches I often got several error messages but could still join some of them. It’s pretty common having online issues on the first couple of days at launch, so in this case, it’s understandable. It’s just a matter of time a patch hits and fixes everything.