Last Tuesday, Age of Empires II HD was released via Steam from Hidden Path Entertainment (and of course originally from the now defunct Ensemble Studios). For those of you who don’t know what Age of Empires is… What did you do as a kid? This was the game of my childhood. Sure, I’m an odd case, and not really a gamer in any strong sense of the word, but I played this game a lot and I was ridiculously excited to play it again. I had also unfortunately experienced a failed attempt to create a virtual LAN with a friend in Melbourne last year when we were feeling nostalgic for the good ol’ days. Nothing a game of Regicide couldn’t cure (if it had played ball).
Now it’s back… and better than ever? Well, not really. ‘HD’ in this sense just means higher resolution. They haven’t changed the graphics themselves (at least not much), so the game looks relatively the same. Sure, there are a few differences. The resource logos have changed, the farms look slightly different, and according to my eye-for-detail partner, so has the fire animation. So much for my powers of observation… it looked pretty much unchanged to me.
What are the other cool new features, you may ask? Not a hell of a lot. But that isn’t why I bought it, so I don’t mind. They had been promising ‘dual monitor support’. This is a tad on the creative side of the truth. It supports ‘windowed’ play, which can be ‘stretched’ across two monitors. Some might call that cheating (in living up to promises, not gameplay…). The main reason I wanted to get AoE II HD was the multiplayer support, so I could go back to playing with my friends back in Oz. But even this has problems. Private and friends only games are letting any old hooligan join in. I wanted to buy a multiplayer game to socialise with people I already know… not to make new friends! Geez!
There are lots of other small bugs reported, but Hidden Path are ‘fully supporting’ the new release, so they should be taken care of soon enough. Meanwhile there are mods for almost everything you could possibly want. You don’t like the new icons for resources? Use the old ones! You miss the old farms? You crazy kid you, go get them!
At the end of the day, this game, for most of us anyway, is about capturing that feeling we had back in the day. It is all about the nostalgia factor, so you can’t blame users for wanting to hold on to how it was. I am loving the new version. I wasted an entire weekend on it! And why shouldn’t I? I’ve always been terrible at the game, so it couldn’t hurt to practice, right?!
If you are new to Real-time strategy games, I can’t recommend AoE II highly enough. Go on, give it a go. If you’re a seasoned veteran, you’ve probably already bought it!