Developed by: Ensemble
Published by: Microsoft
Age of Empires 2 official page: http://www.microsoft.com/games/age2/
Expected Release: October, 1999
The Age of Kings
Age of Empires took the RTS world by storm when it was released two years ago. It incorporated some heady features for its time, like a resource system with 4 different gatherables, a peaceful way to win the game, economic trade, and graphics that scaled up to 1024x768. Indeed, it was AOE’s lush graphics that made it stand apart from all the C&C/Warcraft clones that glutted the RTS market of the time. AOE’s graphics are arguably still the best in the RTS world today. Two years and an expansion pack later, Ensemble is closing in on finishing up Age of Kings, the sequel to AOE. Ensemble has thrown in many improvements and tweaks to the game - many of them based on user feedback from the rabid fans who play AOE.
An English Cathedral
It's even prettier
First and foremost, the graphics have been overhauled. Four tilesets based on Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, and the Mid East will be included in the game. The engine now ranges from 800 x 600 on up to 1280 x 1024 if your computer can handle it. The graphics maintain that same AOE look and feel, with exquisitely rendered details and lifelike animation. This time around, the sense of scale between buildings and units is more evident. Structures like castles will have huge closable gates and doorways that are so large, men and units can walk underneath them. These open and close automatically depending on if the approaching units are friendly or hostile.
A well fortified entrance
Siege weapons are now at believable sizes relative to the infantry. New siege weapons like Trebuchets (must be set up and stationary to fire) and battering rams (immune to archers!) make their appearance in Age of Kings. Ships are also much larger in size than in the first AOE - they're not quite to scale though. Ensemble Designer Ian Fischer explained that in play testing, huge ships proved to be too slow and immobile for practical use. They still look fantastic with their sails billowing in the wind. Remember how one person who took control of the seas could just utterly dominate you? New "demolition" or "sapper" ships have been added that can suicide themselves into an enemy fleet and cause massive damage. The balancing factor is that they're hideously expensive, but such a unit should probably be implemented with great care.