Game Reviews

Age of Empires 2 HD Review

The phrase ”obsessive nostalgia” is used to describe a medical condition that can easily get cured with a good leeching. But today, it seems that when we get nostalgic, we treat it using an increasingly meaning-less phrase called HD. It’s like messing with art, and this can be a very tricky affair.

We’re in the era of gaming nostalgia, and it feels bitter sweat than other forms of nostalgia. Interactivity in modern gaming seems to induce a set of complex emotions we can’t explain.

The overview and history of the game

The Age of Empires 2 was originally released in the year 1999. Today, it’s considered one of the most influential titles in the strategy games category. If you feel nostalgic about the early version which didn’t include HD features, you’re not alone.

But the timing and release of the HD version also says a lot more about the state of affairs in the gaming industry. After the creator of this game disappeared the same year they produced Age of Empires, fierce competition emerged among fan editions, and this prompted Microsoft Inc to seize the rein.

Fast-forward to December 2012, fans were served with Forgotten Empires¬†which emulated what happened in Age of Empires. However, it added a bit of civilization, campaigns and units. The developers also worked their way around to produce a game that would use high-resolution display — a trait that is fast becoming popular among widescreen users.

The changes

Fans of Age of Empires II love the fact that the graphics engine has been upgraded, meaning the game is now compatible with most modern machines. What’s more, it has been overhauled to take advantage of clear HD displays in conjunction with multiple monitors.

However, there’s an interesting bit about this re-release. It’s the score, which the developer has lovingly remixed. The audio evokes a complex mood that didn’t exist before. This is something that has contributed to the great feel of the game when playing it.

It’s worth mentioning that the latest twist of the title has added elements of water, fire and earth, and this gives an appealing look to the terrains. But even though these elements have been added in moderation, the general impression is that of a refined look that doesn’t stimulate boredom.

The landscape boasts of some major changes that any die-hard user will notice. The mesh system of the terrain now gives a more even landscape to play on.

The developer has decided to eliminate 256 colour UI elements. Instead, the icons have received a makeover to acquire that rustic feel that goes hand in hand with the softer 32 bit color scheme.

Age of Empires 2 HD has a platform that supports social features. It’s a multiplayer instead of the original single-player version. Furthermore, the existing gaming framework now lets players come with their own network firmly tucked in place.

The drawbacks

The latest edition of the Age of Empires game consists of The Conquerors expansion, meaning fans who are yearning to replay the campaign will find many familiar scenarios. But these haven’t been updated quite well. You see, the scripting system is not at par with other titles, especially if you compare Age of Empires II with titles like Warcraft III and so on.

There are also many instances where victory, and perhaps activation conditions are obviously scripted instead of seamlessly fitting into the gameplay.

These changes have been received quite well though. However, if you play at high resolutions, the cracks within the engine will begin to reveal. This is the same thing that happens when playing other classics like Red Alert II and Empires. The games feel very small on modern machine resolutions. As a result, the player tends to feel like a distant deity giving command to tiny human forms. In fact, without a zoom feature here, you’ll totally distance yourself from all the action.

In conclusion

Strategy games have come a long way in the last decade. After the release of Age of Empires II, the game franchise took different directions — to success and also to failure. In short, the changes are subtle, and they seem intentional with the promise of being admirably executable. The HD face-lift is something that will make fans indulge in this nostalgic experience. But if you’re new to the system, you will feel frustrated by the lack of responsive hot keys.

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