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Age of Empires 2: The Conquerors Review
developer: Ensemble studios
PII-200, 64 MB RAM, 450MB HDD, 8MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Aug 05, 00
|» All About Age of Empires 2: The Conquerors on ActionTrip|
Branislav "Bane" Babovic
Some of you may not like how Microsoft handles their business, but you don't have to be a Sherlock to deduce that the company is rolling out one hit after another. Age of Empires II is one of the few remaining RTS games, able to compete with today's 3D hardware hogs, with its crisp and detailed 2D graphics. It is no wonder then that the new expansion pack The Conquerors (AoE2: TC) does exactly what it's intended to--enhance features, fix bugs in the sequel and provide new options. AoE2: TC should serve as an example for other companies how an expansion pack should be done.
Many players complained of numerous faults and bugs (for example: slowdown in games) in The Age of Kings (AoE2: AoK). Ensemble Studios programmers promised a patch, but it never came; at least not a patch that actually fixed something. Instead, The Conquerors Expansion was released a year later, and it had the cure for all those bugs plus a lot more. The waiting paid off...
Where do I begin, the expansion pack features a whole slew of interesting new features... First, there are five new nations added to the 13 old ones: Aztecs, Huns, Koreans, Spanish and Mayan. Each of these nations has different strategic methods on their way to success and victory. Also, they have unique assets in regard to others. Aztecs and Mayans each have a unit called Eagle Warrior that is an infantry and scout unit. Aztecs have an elite combat unit Jaguar Warrior that can stand its ground against any unit in the game, since it is heavily armored and stronger than any other infantry unit. The Mayas have their Plumed Archers, which are fast and efficient in combat, although not as good as the famous Chinese Chu Ko Nu units. As you've probably noticed, the Mayans and Aztecs have infantry units only, so the players that choose these nations will have an interesting strategic position when facing nations with cavalry. Korean Turtle Ship and War Wagon are ideal for conquering enemy ships and objects because of the armor they provide. The Spanish have their Cavalry Conquistadors which are hand cannoneers, and they neutralize infantry units easily, especially the Monks. They are expensive for production and insufficient against rapid units. Then we have the Missionaries, which are Monks on donkeys, with lesser conversion and sight range, but they are a much quicker unit. They receive all monk upgrades, but they cannot carry relics. My favorite new nation is The Huns. Their elite unit is Tarkan Raiders - Cavalry that are swift in destroying objects. The manner in which they are animated is great, especially the little torches they carry in their hands. The thing that will make these crazy nomad barbarians popular is the population increase regardless of the number of houses-it is not necessary to build houses to increase the number of villagers or military units. (They make babies in the streets, dammit! - Ed.)
All new civilizations can produce Petard units. They are some kind of kamikaze. This slow infantry unit carries an enormous barrel on its back (some kind of explosive, or what...?). When ordered to attack, it explodes blasting everything around- and it is very efficient against large buildings. Many players complained of killing their own units which enemy priests convert. There is a Heresy option now, by which the unit dies when converted. (A popular religious asset, no doubt! - Ed.)
The boosted AI includes siege weapons that don't fire on friendly units, as was the case before. Rams can be stationed with other troops and they provide better protection for the infantry, as well as more speed when they move in formation. Naval Units finally received an option for creating formations, which increased the ships maneuverability. This element was missing in AoE2: AoK, and that made naval battles a little too simple: go there, shoot that and all over again... There are three new campaigns and one set of scenarios. The campaigns in AoE: TC are extremely involving and provide hours of intense gameplay. Attila the Hun, El Cid, and Montezuma campaigns are rich in scenarios, consisting of sub-objectives, which are influenced by the ongoing plot developments. If you, for example, pick a different route than the one recommended in the scenario, the objectives can be changed. All scenarios have voice-overs by narrators, and there is a lot of artwork to provide the best possible background of the scenario. Each of the campaign's scenarios/missions lasts quite a bit, and is spread across large maps:
Attila The Hun Campaign allows you to play the role of the great barbarian leader, which begins with him killing his brother Bleda and assuming leadership of the Hun tribes. The rest of the campaign is interesting, since it provides fierce fighting with Roman Legions all over bleeding Europe.
In El Cid campaign, the player is in the role of Rodrigo Diaz, a.k.a. El Cid. The plot is set in Spain and deals with the clash of the Christian kingdoms to the north and Moorish kingdoms to the South. El Cid lives in Castille, and gains notoriety as a brilliant general and heroic crusader. He's so popular among the peasants and soldiers that the distrustful King kicks him out of the country. The campaign begins with the murder of the evil Kings brother --- it's necessary to forge as many alliances as possible in order to form your own kingdom, and the army to protect you from the Muslim onslaught.
Montezuma Campaign deals with the Aztec attempt to unite and gather as many troops as possible in order to defend themselves from the Spaniards (Cortez Conquistadors) hungry for gold...
As mentioned before, there are three main campaigns and there is a set of scenarios entitled, The Conquerors. Certain names of men and women that shaped the world ring down through history. Battles such is Agincourt, Menzikert, and Hastings are remembered as turning points in world history, and names such as Henry V, Yi Sun-shin, Duke William ("the Conqueror"), and Erik the Red are etched forever as great conquerors.
The excellent gameplay of AoE: AoK was re-inforced with some new functions in the expansion, and with better gameplay balance. One of the biggest flaws in leading your civilization had to be babysitting your farmers. In the Aoe: AoK 2, the player had to manually order farmers, after the crops are depleted, to sow their land. Now, it is possible to reseed the farms by Mill queue. Naturally, this option wastes a lot of wood, but it is more than welcome since it nicely balances out the gameplay. So, now you can wage war on the other end of the map to your hearts content, while the peasants produce food at home. Another important improvement of villagers AI was made: when they build some resource structure (like a mill or a mine camp), and the resource is nearby, villagers won't wait for you to give them orders, they will automatically collect that resource. So by building a gold mine nearby a location, means automatic mining with the completion of the mine. This improves the game speed significantly, and lets you concentrate on the tactical aspects, while the micromanagement is more self-regulating.
The AoE: TC graphic design is improved mainly by new terrain textures, maps, and wildlife creatures. The enhancements subtly improve the overall visuals, without redifining the standard (classic) design.
Finaly, as a bit of a novelty, AoE: TC includes maps of Texas, France and Britain, with their regional terrain characteristics... No gunslinging cowboys yet, but you never know... I wonder how Billy the Kid would do against Attila The Hun?
5 new and improved nations, improved gameplay and game patches;
One more campaign wouldnt hurt...
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