Occasionally here at Player2.net.au, we will play something that deserves your attention but probably doesn’t need a full review written for it. Be it DLC for the latest AAA title, a little indie game or even an Android/iOS title. We play these titles for a blockbusting amount of time (2 – 5 hours) and report back to you the reader on what we found. So grab your popcorn and settle in for the latest episode of Blockbuster Gaming.
Blockbuster Gaming – Age of Empires: Definitive Edition
Back in the day, RTS games used to be all about the unit rush. Mine resources, build units, send a massive army at the enemy, repeat. That was the essence of titles like Warcraft 2 and Command and Conquer. That was until Microsoft and Ensemble joined the game and reinvented exactly what an RTS could be. Gone were the futuristic and fantastical units and in their place were historically accurate warriors, archers and cavalry. Trading and cooperating with other factions became a viable strategy. Worrying about your faction’s religion, economy and infrastructure was just as important as worrying about your military force. Considering more than just destroying the opposition was a must. Now many, many years later Age of Empires is back in a fancy new Definitive Edition but the question remains, does it have the same impact today?
Well, of course, it doesn’t silly, it’s an old game. In fact of all the Age of Empires games (including Mythology), it is clearly the worst. But Age of Empires is a watermark moment in gaming and this re-release does the classic title justice. All of the original content, plus the DLC has been bundled together in one rather reasonably priced package that will be tempting to all fans of the franchise.
There have also been some improvements. The most obvious one is the graphics. Widescreen resolutions (up to 4k) have been added and all of the game’s sprites have been cleaned up with a sharper look. Don’t get me wrong, it still looks like an old game, but it is now a good looking old game. The plus side is also that Age of Empires: Definitive Edition should run on just about any computer that still works, so if your teacher/boss isn’t looking, it will be totally fine to sneak a game in on your crappy work laptop. There are some other nice changes that help to modernize the game too. You can queue unit builds, group armies with hotkeys and zoom out from the action a bit further, all things that are expected in this day and age so playing without them would have been a nightmare. The sound has also all been re-recorded and spruced up, with a new orchestral score and spoken mission briefings. It all adds up to a wonderful remaster that retains the original’s essence while making it palatable for the modern day.
This really is a restoration job and not a remake however and that means there are still the same old issues that plagued the original game. The most notable is the unit pathfinding. It is bad, like getting-stuck-on-a-single-tree-bad, which means that players have to babysit the units way more than they would like. There is also a massive difficulty spike between the Tutorial Egyptian campaign and the Greek campaign which follows it. It is quite brutal and brought me undone more than a few times until my old muscle memories kicked in. These are things that old AoE fans may have forgotten, but they come rushing back almost as soon as the game is loaded up.
Really, Age of Empires: Definitive Edition is a love letter to the AoE gamers of old. This is not a remaster aimed at recruiting new fans, this is a wonderfully spruced up version of a classic game for long time players. It looks great, sounds excellent and has had some slight modernisation touches without ever losing the feeling of the classic AoE experience. People looking for innovation or an entry into the franchise will be better off waiting to see what Age of Empires 4 has to offer but if you have any fond memories of using villagers to beat back axemen in a last stand, Age of Empires: Definitive Edition is for you.