Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings is a medieval real time strategy game that was released in 1999 for the PC and published by Microsoft Game Studios. It was developed by Ensemble Studios, famous for the Age of Empires franchise and Age of Mythology. The game is set directly after the fall of Rome and tasks players with building a great and powerful civilization during the Middle Ages. Due to its commercial success, an expansion pack was released under the name Age of Empires II: The Conquerors and this was followed by the Gold Edition, which consisted of the game, the expansion, and bonus maps.
Age of Empires II is set in Medieval Europe and during play a player will progress through four historical ages, the Dark Age, Feudal Age, Castle Age, and Imperial Age. New technologies, buildings, and units (or troops) will become available for the player to research and build as the game progresses. Which buildings and units become available is dependent on the player's chosen civilization and the current age. A fully upgraded player gains a noticeable advantage over players who have fallen behind in their technological research. The Age of Kings' core gameplay and strategy remain similar to the first Age of Empires, but some key tweaks such as the addition of unit garrisoning and military formations add to the game's depth.
The game is controlled using a mouse and keyboard. There is a thin menu bar at the top of the screen for gameplay and settings options, a main view window in the center for showing the battlefield, and a Heads-Up Display, or HUD, at the bottom of the screen to show options for any currently selected units and buildings as well as to house the mini-map. The player can select units or buildings by left clicking on them in the main view window. It is also possible to select multiple units by left clicking, dragging a box over them, and then releasing. To move around the map a player can slide the mouse to an edge of the screen to scroll in that direction or click on their desired destination on the mini-map. The mini-map allows players to jump quickly to areas of interest and ensures an overall understanding of what is currently happening on the battlefield.
Villagers, Troops, and Building Types
A player begins the game with a town center and a small group of villagers. The town center is the soul of a players civilization as it is the only building that can produce new villagers. Villagers are used to collect resources and then use these resources to build buildings. These buildings can be used to create a variety of soldiers and siege weapons for attack and defense or research new technology. A villager can also build walls and defense towers to protect the player's growing empire. To build a new building, select a villager and the bottom HUD will display all the current buildings a player can create. Researching new technologies and advancing to a more modern age will increase the number of available buildings. A player must simply select their desired building type, then select where to build it, and the villager will promptly begin construction. There a re a host of buildings available, each with their own functions. The more common buildings are the barracks, archery range, stable, and siege workshop for creating an army, houses for increasing the maximum population, a market for trading, wood camps and mining camps for quicker resource gathering, a university, blacksmith, and monastery for weapon development, watchtowers and walls for defense, and a Castle to build a civilizations unique units.
Campaign, Custom Scenarios, and Random Maps
Age of Empires II has a campaign mode, single-player matches against computer A.I., multiplayer matches against other players over the internet or a local area network, and a scenario editor to create custom maps and games. The campaign mode has 5 campaigns that each follow the story of a great historical leader through their great conquests and battles. These missions each have unique victory conditions that are stated at the outset of the match. When a player completes these conditions, the player wins and is allowed to move on to the next mission or campaign. Single-player matches and multiplayer matches have no story and simply pit a players civilization against other human or AI controlled opponents. In these games it is possible to customize match characteristics such as the player's civilization, teams, terrain type, map size, game type, a resource abundance. The game type determines the rules of the match and specifically determine the victory conditions. A player can win through military conquest in the standard and deathmatch game types, but in others such as regicide a player must win through killing the opponent's king. The scenario editor is essentially a map editor, but also includes a robust event system that allows a player to create maps similar to the story based campaign missions. These custom maps can also be used in single and multiplayer games.At one time 8 player internet matches were hosted via Microsoft Zone, but as of June 19, 2006 this service was discontinued. Microsoft named Gamespy Arcade its official successor, but other match making services such as IGZ (Internet Gaming Zone) are also available.
Enhancements Over its Predecessor
Some new features added in Age of Empires II as listed in the manual are:
- Thirteen new civilizations - Each with a unique unit and a team bonus.
- New units - Including Kings, Heros, female villagers, knights, cannons, and exploding demolition ships.
- New buildings - Including impressive castles and gates that automatically open and close for you and your allies.
- New technologies - Including Conscription (increases military unit creation speed) and Town Watch (increases building line of sight).
- Formations - Precision control of how your army moves and engages in combat.
- New multimedia campaigns - Unique music and more than 300 pieces of original art enhance your game as you follow a soldier through battles featuring William Wallace, Joan of Arc, Saladin, Genghis Khan, and Frederick Barbarossa.
- New ways of trade - Trade with other players over land and by sea; buy or sell resources at the market.
- Learning campaign - Master the basics by helping William Wallace rise from his humble beginnings to defeat the British.
- Regicide game - Defend your King to win the game.
- 8 new map types - Including Arabia, Black Forest, Rivers, and Random, which allows the computer to pick a surprise map type for you.
- Garrisoning - Station units inside buildings for protection, healing, and surprise attacks.
- New combat features - Order military units to patrol guard, or follow and choose their combat stance.
- Record and replay games - Watch your single-player and multiplayer games later.
- Find idle villagers - Automatically locate villagers not assigned to a task using the Idle Villager button.
- New online tech tree - See what is available to your civilization and which units and technologies you've researched while in the game.
- Improved multiplayer features - Save and restore multiplayer games; lock the game speed for all players; lock game teams so players can't change alliances during a game; signal allies.
- Gather points - New units automatically gather at a location or garrison inside a building.
- Improved interface - Units behind buildings and trees are visible; the mini-map has Normal, Combat, and Economic modes; chat interface is expanded; Help is integrated into the game.
- User profiles - Customize options and hotkeys and automatically save them from game to game.
- Online encyclopedia - Extensive histories of 13 medieval civilizations; background on the Middle Ages, armies, weapons, and warfare.
There are 13 civilizations to choose from in Age of Empires II. Each can be characterized by their global proximity and military nature.
- Britons - Foot archer: Fast producing, longer ranged archers with diverse tech tree. Unique unit Longbowman, which are the longest ranged archers available.
- Celts - Siege: Strong wood bonuses with fast firing, fast producing siege. Unique unit Woad Raiders, which are fast moving infantry.
- Franks - Cavalry: Strongest knights in the game, free farming upgrades, and cheaper castles. Unique unit Throwing Axemen, which deal melee damage from range.
- Goths - Infantry: Cheap, fast producing infantry, with balanced tech tree but no walls. Unique unit Huskarl, fast moving infantry which are impervious to archers.
- Teutons - Infantry: Complete infantry technology tree and Teutonic Knight, the most powerful infantry unit.
- Vikings - Navy: Heavily discounted dock with strong economy bonuses. Unique units the Berserk, which are health-regenerating infantry, and Longboats, which fires multiple arrows per volley.
- Byzantines - Balanced: Wide, flexible tech tree with strong defenses. Unique unit Cataphracts, which are anti-infantry cavalry that deal trample damage.
- Persians - Cavalry: Full cavalry technology tree with strong buildings. Unique unit War Elephants, which are cavalry tanks.
- Saracens - Monk and Navy: Fast firing ships, with strongest camels and top tier monks. Unique unit Mamelukes, which are anti-cavalry camels that deal ranged attacks.
- Turks - Gunpowder: Free access to superior gunpowder units (in Imperial age) and access to the most powerful hand cannoneer, the Janissary.
- Chinese - Ranged: Strong economy, starting with 3 extra villagers, and cheap technology upgrades. Unique unit Chu-Ko-Nu, archers that fire multiple arrows per shot.
- Japanese - Infantry: Infantry attack faster, buildings are cheaper, and towers are extra strong. Unique unit Samurai, infantry which have bonus against other unique units.
- Mongols - Ranged and siege: Cavalry archers fire faster, have best light cavalry, and faster moving siege weapons. Unique unit Mangudai, cavalry archer that fire quicker with bonus against siege.
The music was composed by Stephen Rippy. It is in one large track on the game CD and each track is separated by brief silences. There is no publicly released soundtrack, but occasionally Ensemble Studios will give away audio CDs to competition winners.
Age of Empires II was well received by critics, garnering an average score of 92% at Game Rankings. Many reviewers were impressed with the 2D graphics and superior pathfinding of units, but it was noted that the unpatched game saw AI occasionally surrender at the beginning of a match for no apparent reason.
Age of Empires II was filled with many glitches and balancing issues at launch that made online multiplayer almost unplayable. It wasn't until August 31, 2000 that a standalone patch was made available to fix these bugs, more than a year after game shipped. Ensemble Studios claimed their publisher, Microsoft, and the lack of a proper patch process prevented them from releasing it sooner.
List of glitches:
- Setting a waypoint at the southern most point of the map crashes the game. Sore losers would often crash the game instead of allowing other players the victory.
- Fishing boats could construct buildings on coast lines which allowed a player to create armies behind their opponents.
- Teuton town centers if used correctly were overpowered. A teuton town center has a longer range of attack when civilians were garrisoned in it then other town centers. A crafty player could build their town center just out of range of the other players town center at the beginning of the game. At this point their opponent does not have the resources to build a barracks or offensive units. A teuton player had only to garrison his villagers and watch as their opponents town center and villagers were destroyed.
- A player had limitless pauses which would stop the entire game. If a player was losing they could continually press pause to annoy their opponents and aggravate them into leaving the game.
Age of Empires II also had an expansion named The Conquerors, which added five new civilizations (the Aztecs, Huns, Koreans, Mayans and Spanish), four new campaigns, eleven new units, twenty-six new technologies, new gameplay modes, new maps, and different minor tweaks to the gameplay.
PC System Requirements
- OS: Windows 95/98/NT4
- Processor: Multimedia PC with Pentium 166 MHz or higher processor
- Memory: 32 MB RAM
- Graphics: 2 MB VRAM
- DirectX®: 6.1
- Hard Drive: 90 MB
- OS: Windows 95/98/ME/NT4/2000
- Processor: Pentium 166 MHz or higher
- Memory: 64 MB RAM
- Graphics: 2 MB VRAM
- DirectX®: 7
- Hard Drive: 90 MB
Age of Empires II HD
- OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8 Pro+
- Processor: 1.2GHZ CPU
- Memory: 1 GB RAM
- Graphics: Direct X 9.0c Capable GPU
- DirectX®: 9.0c
- Hard Drive: 2 GB HD space
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