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Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion

by Mish.

When I found out that Microsoft was releasing an expansion pack for age of empires, I knew that my life had definitely taken a turn for the better. When I look back at the time when the original Age of Empires first came out, my reaction at the time was a lot different. Being a young punk at the time, I had no desire to learn anything about the game and I judged it harshly after playing it for a mere five minutes.

But then an 'angel of Microsoft' (if there is really any such thing) appeared to me promoting the second coming of Age of Empires, and it was called The Age of Kings. Still skeptical, I installed what I expected to be a waste of hard drive space. Four hours later I walked away from my computer a new woman. I had witnessed the miracles of Ensemble Studios.

For those of you who have not been blessed with the opportunity to play Age of Kings, let me tell you a bit about the game. First of all, to be blunt, it is a real-time strategy game. Duh. But unlike many real-time strategies out there, you can choose any of many civilizations to play-keyword being 'many'. You are not restricted to two or three teams that are so alike that you mistake the enemy as one of your own. There was balance, and there was enough difference between the numerous sides to keep the playability alive. Still is too.

You can play in multiplayer mode with another person across a modem or in the MSN gaming zone or you can play single player skirmish mode. Then there is the campaign mode that usually attempts to recreate historical battle situations in a multitude of ways. Before each campaign there is a little blurb or story that gives you a background history to the event that you are about to take part in and from there you are given your objectives and then left to your own gaming resources. Sometimes the objectives change, especially if you fail the initially given objectives, but personally I find the coolest part of the game is to build a wonder. Castles are just so blasé after you have built a wonder.

Not too long ago I reviewed the Cleopatra expansion to Pharaoh. The stark reality I faced in terms of the differences between a Pharaoh-type game and an Age of Empires type game was shocking. I was expecting my houses to de-evolve but thankfully they did not. I had to get out of 'pharaoh mode' and do it quick…cause Age of Kings tends to see a hell of a lot more action.

So, the time came when I had to install the expansion pack. I was anxious to play but I have to be honest, I was a tad afraid that I would be disappointed. What could they possibly add to such a great game? (i think i felt like this with the Cleopatra expansion at first too) Well, they added five new civilizations: Aztec, Mayan, Spanish, Korean and Hun. With these new civilizations also come new technologies, warriors and architecture. There are new maps to play on or edit if you so choose and of course there are some real world locations. There are also four new campaigns to check out: El cid in Spain, "Montezuma" in Central America where you have to capture relics to keep the god happy, "Attila the Hun" where you must ensure that Attila lives to lead the army, and the fourth , called 'Battles of the Conquerors' which has about 8 campaigns to play, including Hastings, Tours and Agincourt.

Two things I want to make a note of. First, I am impressed with the villagers. Maybe I am just crazy but I feel that the villagers now actually do work and do not need to be babysat. When I put them to building something, they do it and they do it until it is done. I recall getting really p-oed at the villagers for just standing there like they needed daytimers or something...ok so I am exaggerating, but I have noticed a change in their attitudes as of late.

The second thing that I wanted to mention was regarding the new campaigns. Now I am not a fan of campaigns. In fact, take twenty bucks off my RTS game purchase in general and keep the campaigns, just leave me the multiplayer! But to my delight I must say I am really impressed with the campaigns in this expansion pack. The first one that I played I lost in less than two minutes. But no! I did not give up! I picked up my shattered pride and stuffed it in pocket to play that game a second time. And yes, I kicked ass! What is that stupid little saying we were all taught in school? If at first you do not succeed…well....yeah.

Now I am not saying that I have been converted into a campaign loving gamer, but this experience will stay in my mind the next time I pass by the campaign button without trying it out. The only other thing I can really say here (since it can often be challenging to fill a review page on an expansion pack), the balance of the original Age of Kings might have been thrown off a bit with the addition of the new sides, so keep an eye out for that. Otherwise, this expansion seems certainly worthy of purchase for an already avid Age of Kings player and it will breath more than enough life into an already great game to keep the battles waging.


FINAL MARK

New sides introduced, but the balance has gone a little awry as a result.

New campaigns are actually quite decent and fun to play...bringing even non-campaigner types like me out to play.

92%

 

Age of Kings was never cutting edge in terms of graphics, but still, they were and are still nice to look at while playing.

 

Town centers are still the same...but the villagers don't seem to need babysitting as much anymore.

 
This just looks like a mess actually. But hey, it was fun playing. You AOE freaks will love this expansion for sure.