"Age of Empires is a real-time strategy game that introduces the glory of medieval combat and economy in a unique and fun way while staying generally accurate to history. As the expansion to the second installment of the series, The Conquerors only adds to the feeling of medieval wonderment, taking everything from the original Age of Empires II and adding a slew of new campaigns, technologies, units, maps, bonuses, and other little quirks that make this game a lot more intere..."
Age of Empires is a real-time strategy game that introduces the glory of medieval combat and economy in a unique and fun way while staying generally accurate to history. As the expansion to the second installment of the series, The Conquerors only adds to the feeling of medieval wonderment, taking everything from the original Age of Empires II and adding a slew of new campaigns, technologies, units, maps, bonuses, and other little quirks that make this game a lot more interesting and challenging to play than the original.
The basic gameplay is the same: you direct a band of villagers to construct your very own medieval civilization while charging them with the laborious task of collecting resources for the economic betterment of your town. With those resources, you begin to amass an army, with which you destroy your enemy using advanced siege or rush tactics.
One of the most appealing aspects of the game is the strategic balance between military and economy. Raids are common, especially on higher difficulties, and without the necessary troops to defend your early village (as walls are rarely available early on), your town can easily get destroyed by an enemy force. This is why it's critical to gather resources as quickly and effectively as possible upon starting out - so you can build the necessary forces and structures to hold off enemy raids. Without this balance, the game would lose many of its critical strategic elements.
Civilization bonuses were introduced in the original Age of Empires II, but The Conquerors expands on it, providing each civilization with its own technology. For example, with their various unique bonuses, British longbowmen gain range rivaled only by special siege weapons, which is devastating coupled with hit-and-run tactics. They literally shoot you as they're retreating backwards, wreaking destruction in the enemy ranks. While fighting them, this leaves many (like me) to yell, "Get back here, you Limey cowards!" at the computer while urging their French knights onward.
The nice thing about The Conquerors is you can still play all the old campaigns, plus the four new ones, with the inclusion of all these neat bonuses. The above example was taken from one of the Joan of Arc missions.
Of course, technology and bonuses aren’t the only addition to this series. Units, too, come to the fore. As well as the unique units provided by the new civilizations, you also get a new “siege” weapon: the
suicide bomber petard. The explosives-laden little guy will happily scamper up to an enemy wall, castle, or foreign army and blow himself up, dealing extensive external damage to buildings and obliterating large chunks of an enemy force. Other units include upgraded pikemen (halberdiers) and upgraded light cavalry (hussars).
Perhaps the only weakness of the game is its combat system. It is... chaotic, to say the least. Commanding an army of 40 or more can be confusing enough, but the AI only makes things worse with its automatic attack system. Upon seeing an enemy, your troops lose all their military discipline and attack like a mob. Fortunately, the user interface helps control this. With four combat stances, you can control how aggressively your army attacks - how much is automatic and how much is manual. Aggressive stance lets your army roam wild, attacking anything and everything in sight, even chasing enemy units far into their own territory. This is the stance that frustrates most, as you easily lose control of your army, turning a well-planned siege into a kill fest, often resulting in more casualties than necessary. The other stances limit this aggressive behavior anywhere from your troops chasing units a few feet before regrouping to your men simply holding their ground, even if your units are being attacked.
One of the greatest things about this franchise is all the different strategies you can use, some more effective in certain situations than others. For example, in the Saladin campaign, there is a mission where they have disabled the construction of stone structures. The way to win is to move swiftly, quickly assign your villagers tasks and use the small army given to you to conquer the region around you before your enemy advances too far to defeat effectively. This is the strategy I have the most difficulty with. I cannot build a large enough army to conduct successful raids AND fend against the Teuton infantry, Byzantine cavalry and British archery all at the same time. My troops get slaughtered defending my town and my resources get depleted trying to replace them until I have no units left to defend and not enough resources to recruit, leaving my base open for easy razing.
Instead of that tactic, I prefer turtling. I like to wall myself in and build towers and castles to defend my town from outside attack. This way I can gather resources in relative safety and easily build an army suitable for both defending and raiding.
The final strategy involves the economy. Called "booming", the tactic calls for starting really strong in economy, spending just enough on military to keep raiding parties at bay until your economy is so huge that you can pay almost anything militarily and not run out of resources. It is these three (and possibly other) methods and the various ways to use them that make this game truly amazing.
With an impressive array of ways to play the game, special attention given to historical accuracy, a friendly, easy-to-use interface, and an almost infinite combination of match-ups, Age of Empires II: The Conquerors is an incredibly fun game to play.
Community review by wolfqueen001 (December 20, 2007)
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