Age of Empire II: HD Edition

[Review] After more than 15 years, the classic strategy game gets a HD make-over and a brand new price-tag to match. Is it worth the pennies?
The Details
  • Title: Age of Empires II: HD Edition
  • Web: Official Site
  • Developer: Hidden Path Entertainment
  • Publisher: Microsoft Studios
  • Released: 10 April, 2013
  •  
  • Platforms: PC
  • Reviewed On: PC

Age of Empires II was a classic real-time strategy game originally released back in 1999, back when games weren’t quite so stale. I remember it (and its predecessor) very fondly as they were some of the first PC games I ever played (I was 10 when the first game was released). It was a compelling, fast paced game that had a lot of depth to its game play, but was easily accessible, even to small people. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, if not, go and educate yourself.

So, this is the “HD Edition” and I’ll confess, I’m not a big fan of these so called “High-Definition” remakes, as most of the time, they’re just lazy ports, patched up to work on newer hardware and operating systems. For the most part, Age of Empires is a straight port, but some things have been improved, mainly the user interface, but not to a standard that I personally think is acceptable for the price tag it currently carries (£14.99). 

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The user interface has been improved to work on new widescreen displays, stretching along bottom to hold significantly more units than it did in the original. The mini-map in the corner has also been enlarged, preventing you from straining your eyes. However, the buttons along the top of the screen have stayed their original 20*50 size, which makes them minuscule on a modern display. To top it off, the screen scrolls when the cursor gets within about 10 pixels of the edge, so attempting to click the top menu buttons (used for diplomacy and such) takes your screen hurtling upwards. And God help anyone with a display DPI above 72, navigating those buttons would be something of an impossible feat. It just seems silly and lazy to leave something like that in, especially after they’ve taken the time to update the lower info bar.

Whilst we’re on the topic of things that look different, the shadows seem slightly, odd. Some shadows are transparent and smooth, whilst others are solid black and disgustingly jagged around the edges. I’m not sure what’s going on with them (or if was the same in the original game), but they’re the same in the official screen shots (see this one here. The walls have smooth transparent shadows, the cavalry have solid black shadows). It just looks odd and spoils the overall look of the game, which is a shame as everything else looks lovely, despite its age!

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Something else that’s been added is a new unit limit. The game now allows you to set a unit limit for your match and it goes all the way up to 500, which is excellent and gives opportunity for epic battles. The screenshot above is my small army, there’s about 200 men there in total, so there’s still space to grow. There’s a new AI option as well, though I’m not sure what it actually does? I tried the new AI out, and it was underwhelming to say the least. I played 2 v 2 (partnered with a computer player) and the enemy stormed my AI partner quite early on, decimating him base. After that though, they just sent the odd (by that, I mean singular) unit to die at my defence towers. When I eventually stormed their bases, their units were set to “hold ground” stance and wouldn’t attack unless I attacked first. This may have been a crazy glitch, or something that I set in the match settings, I’m not sure, but I’ll have a play around when I have more time.

Overall, the HD Edition of Age of Empires II is every bit as good as the original game. Anyone who played and loved the original game will love this new version just as much. I do think £14.99 is a pretty steep price though for the minimal work that went into this game, but the game is stable, looks good and even has some new expansions to bring something fresh to old game. Grab this one when it’s on sale, it’s worth it.

 

Judgement
Pros:
  • Nostalgia! So many fond memories in this game.
  • Classic game play that still tops most modern strategy games.
  • The Extra bits added are great (bigger unit cap).
  • Stable, from what I can tell. I've had no problems running it.
Cons:
  • Menu icons are seriously small on new, high res monitors.
  • Nothing HD about it, it's just a screen resolution fix really.
  • Not sure if the new AI actually works.
  • Quite a large price tag for what it is.
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NaytoE
Web Master at CoupesCorner
Nathan is lumbered with all the technical stuff behind CoupesCorner. If stuff breaks, it's always someone else's fault, but he'll fix it, because he's a pretty awesome guy.

Nathan loves tactical shooters, RPG's and Bro-Ops games. Some all-time favourites of his are Black and White 2, Postal 2, the Rainbow Six series and Pokemon. He also loves playing guitar and fishing with his dad, when Lozzy isn't busy making him do stuff...
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