15-Aug-2001 The most anticipated strategy title of all time - it was well worth the wait The original Age Of Empires successfully combined real time strategy with more diverse elements such as the ability to create a civilisation over hundreds of years. Age Of Empires II is essentially more of the same, taking up where the original left off with the Fall Of Rome and spanning some 1000 years from the Dark Ages to late Medieval times. This time around you get to develop fascinating civilisations such as the Celts and the Chinese, building amazingly detailed structures as well as fighting bloody wars. In order to defeat all your enemies in Age of Empires II, you must master a number of skills. Sure, it's fun to build up a massive army and slaughter everyone, but you can't build and maintain that army unless you have enough villagers to gather the resources you need to build barracks and create soldiers. Essentially, there are three ways to achieve success in Age of Empires II.The first way to victory is simply to kill all your enemies. To do this you should concentrate on building up your army and making sure that your town is well fortified so that your enemies don't get you first. Another way to win is to capture all ruins and relics held by your opponents. You can do this either by invading them, or by using diplomacy to form alliances. The last way to win is by constructing a Wonder, such as the Pyramids. To do this, you must gather 1000 wood, 1000 stone and 1000 gold.Age of Empires II is a vast game, but you can chose to play it a number of ways. If you don't fancy tackling a thousand years of sprawling history you can choose a shorter scenario. An excellent tutorial has you playing the part of Braveheart William Wallace. Complete this and you should be ready to get to grips with the full game. Death Match is for those who just feel like getting down to some serious fighting. You start off with all the food and resources you need leaving you free to seek out opponents to fight to the death. Finally Regicide sees you having to defend your own Monarch while attempting to 'off' the Kings and Queens of your opponent. It sounds easy, but it's not!One of the major improvements from the original is the inclusion of smaller set campaigns based on particular events in history. Each one has at least five lengthy sub-campaigns, as well as a polished introductory sequence that explains the history behind the campaign.You get to be on the good side of Genghis Khan by commanding the Mongol hordes alongside him. Another campaign has you fighting for the cause of Joan of Arc during the Hundred Years war. You can also join forces with Saladin, the Saracen King. You must defeat the Franks and stop them from attacking the beautiful city of Cairo.
The graphics in Age of Kings really are beautiful. Some of the buildings look so grand you'll even feel guilty about burning them to the ground! The attention to detail is stunning, with each civilisation portrayed with painstaking accuracy. The breathtaking artwork really adds to the epic quality of the game. And, despite being such a complex game, the controls are very user-friendly and well explained. Most of the time it only takes a couple of mouse clicks to achieve the desired result and sub-screens are easy to get to. Overall, it runs like a dream.