Age of Empires II

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Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings
Age of Empires II - The Age of Kings Coverart.png
PC box cover
Developer(s) Ensemble Studios
Publisher(s) Microsoft (Win, Mac)
Konami (PS2)
Designer(s) Bruce Shelley[1]
Programmer(s) Angelo Laudon
  • Brad Crow
  • Scott Winsett
Composer(s) Stephen Rippy
Series Age of Empires
Engine Genie Engine
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, PlayStation 2
Genre(s) Real-time strategy
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings is a real-time strategy video game developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft. Released in 1999 for the Microsoft Windows and Macintosh operating systems, it was the second game in the Age of Empires series. An expansion, The Conquerors, was released in 2000. A PlayStation 2 version was released by Konami in 2001, and a Nintendo DS spinoff, Age of Empires: The Age of Kings was developed by Backbone Entertainment in 2006. A Dreamcast port, by Konami, was canceled.

The Age of Kings is set in the Middle Ages and contains thirteen playable civilizations. Players aim to gather resources, which they use to build towns, create armies, and defeat their enemies. There are five historically based campaigns, which constrict the player to specialized and story-backed conditions. There are three additional single-player game modes, and multiplayer is supported. Despite using the same game engine and similar code to its predecessor, development of The Age of Kings took a year longer than expected, forcing Ensemble Studios to release Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome in 1998 instead. The design team focused on resolving significant issues in Age of Empires, but noted on release that some problems remained.

Reception of The Age of Kings was highly positive. The significant number of new features was praised, as were the gameplay improvements. Some reviewers, however, were critical of the presentation of units—they were seen as bland and uninteresting—while others considered The Age of Kings to be too similar to its predecessor, Age of Empires. Three months after its release, two million copies of The Age of Kings had been shipped, and it topped sales charts in seven countries. The game won multiple awards and is today considered a classic of its type, having had a significant impact on future games in its genre. Both the original Age of Empires II and the expansion pack were later released as "the Gold Edition".

In April 2013, Age of Empires II: HD Edition was released on the Steam digital distribution platform for Windows operating systems. The HD Edition includes both the original game and the expansion The Conquerors, as well as updated graphics for high-resolution displays. It also supports user-generated content through the Steam Workshop and multiplayer games provided through the Steam servers. Three expansions have been released for the HD Edition: The Forgotten in 2013, The African Kingdoms in 2015, and Rise of the Rajas in 2016.


The Age of Kings focuses on building towns, gathering resources, creating armies and ultimately conquering opponents by destroying their units and buildings. Players conquer rival towns and empires as they advance one of 13 civilizations through four "Ages": the Dark Age, the Feudal Age, the Castle Age (being the High Middle Ages), and the Imperial Age, reminiscent of the Renaissance—a 1000-year timeframe.[2] Advancing to a new Age unlocks new units, structures, and technologies, but players must first build certain buildings from their current age and then pay a sum of resources (typically food and gold).[3]

Civilian units, called "villagers", are used to gather resources; they are either male or female—gender does not affect their abilities. Resources can be used to train units, construct buildings, and research technologies, among other things; for example, players can research better armour for infantry units. The game offers four types of resources: food, wood, gold, and stone. Food is obtained by hunting animals, gathering berries, harvesting livestock, farming, and shore fishing and fishing from boats. Wood is gathered by chopping down trees. Gold is obtained from either gold mines, trade or collecting relics in a monastery, and stone is collected from stone mines. Villagers require checkpoints, typically depository buildings (town center, mining camp, mill, and lumber yard), where they can store gathered resources.[4]

Each civilization can purchase upgrades that increase the rate of gathering these resources. Players can construct a marketplace for trade; players can trade wood, stone, and food for gold, and use gold to buy other resources. Market prices fluctuate with every transaction.[5] Furthermore, markets and docks can also generate gold by using trading carts or cogs which are used to visit foreign markets and ports; once they return to the player's market/dock, gold is added to the stockpile. The amount of gold a trade unit earns on each trip is related to the distance it had to travel to a foreign market; more gold is earned on longer trips. It is possible to trade with enemies' markets or docks, but the player's trading units may be attacked or destroyed by enemy units in the process. Players do not need to keep trading manually, as once they select the port or market the trading units infinitely continue to trade.

There are five campaigns in The Age of Kings, containing historically based scenarios such as Genghis Khan's invasion of Eurasia, Barbarossa's Crusade, or Saladin's defence of the Holy Land. In the Joan of Arc and William Wallace campaigns, the player can control a unit based on its namesake; in others, players take orders from guiding spirits representative of the army's commander.[6]

Additional game modes are available to the player in The Age of Kings.[7] One mode, random map, generates a map from one of several randomly chosen map generating scripts, with players starting in the Dark Age with a Town Center, three villagers (or more depending on civilization), and a scout unit. The game can be won through military conquest, by constructing a special building known as a Wonder and keeping it standing for a certain amount of time, or by obtaining control of all relics on the map for a set amount of time. Deathmatch mode allows players to begin with large amounts of resources, creating a focus on military dominance, while in the regicide mode each player is given a king unit, winning by killing all of the other monarchs.

Units and civilizations

The Celtic civilization in the Feudal Age. The Town Center is visible and has several farms surrounding it; villagers of both sexes work there and elsewhere to gather resources. A scout on horseback is also at the ready. Military buildings such as the barracks, archery range, and stable are visible, as well as economic buildings—the market, blacksmith and mill. The right-bottom corner of the screenshot shows the player's walls and a gate.

Every player has a limit to the number of units they can create—a population limit—but may not immediately use the entire potential population.[5] The population capacity, which can be capped at anywhere between 75[8] – 200 in intervals of 25,[9] is based on the number of houses, Castles, or Town Centers—the main building in a player's town—which have been built. The Age of Kings introduced two significant new features for unit management: the idle villager button, which helps players identify villagers that have not been assigned a task, and the town bell, which sends all a player's villagers into their Town Center, Castle, or tower for safety;[10] units garrisoned within these three buildings, especially archers, increase the building's firepower (towers fire more arrows with units garrisoned inside) including the town center, which cannot fire anything at all without someone garrisoned there.

The Age of Kings also includes five types of military units: infantry, archers, cavalry, siege weaponry, and naval units. Certain types of infantry, archers, and cavalry are "counter units" with special defenses against other types of unit. The three human classes of military generally follow a rock-paper-scissors model. For example, infantry are generally powerful against buildings but weak against cavalry, thus the infantry counter units—spearmen and pikemen—have attack bonuses against cavalry.[11]

Each Civilization in The Age of Kings has one or two special units that are exclusive to that Civilization. For instance, the Britons have access to longbowmen, an archery unit with increased range. These Civilization-specific units are generally more powerful, but still follow the basic rock-paper-scissors model. The monk is a special kind of military unit that has the ability to convert enemy units to the player's civilization, and to heal allied units. Monks are also used to collect relics; relics accumulate gold once held in the player's monastery—the more relics are captured, the faster the gold is accumulated. Collecting all relics on the map is one method by which a player can win a random map game, depending on the victory setting.[12] Once a player has all in their monasteries, a timer is shown to all players. If an opposing player does not destroy a monastery holding a relic after the set time, then that player wins.

Players choose to play as one of 13 civilizations split into four architectural styles—Western European, Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and East Asian—that determine building appearance in-game.[13] The civilizations have varying strengths and weaknesses with regards to economics, technology, and battle, and each has access to a different, very powerful "Unique Unit".[14][15] Additionally, each civilization provides an individual team bonus in team games.[16] To add variety, each civilization has a set of sound bites in its native language that are uttered by units when selected or instructed to perform a task.[17]


The buildings in The Age of Kings are split into the economic[18] and military buildings categories.[19] Buildings can research technologies and upgrades that increase economic, military or unit-based efficiency, as well as provide resources for the player.[18]

The most important economic building is the Town Center, where villagers are created, all types of resources can be stored, some technologies are researched, and the player can advance to the next Age. The Town Center can fire arrows at enemy units within range if villagers or archers are garrisoned while under attack.[20] Other economic buildings available include storage buildings for resources, farms, docks (the dock may also produce several military ships), and houses to support a higher population.[21]

Military buildings include unit-producing buildings such as barracks, archery ranges, stables, and castles, as well as defensive buildings such as walls and towers.[22] Military buildings can perform research to improve the abilities of military units, increasing their strength, defensive capabilities, or other attributes.[19] Castles are a key offensive and defensive building as they can build trebuchets, train the civilization's "unique unit/s", and a hail of arrows at enemy units within range, with garrisoned units firing extra arrows.[23] Castles can only be built after a player has reached the Castle Age, although in some game options, players begin with an already-built castle as early as the Dark Age.[24]

After advancing to the Imperial Age, players can also construct a Wonder, an extremely expensive non-military building. On many gameplay modes, building a Wonder triggers a victory countdown—unless it's destroyed within a certain timeframe, the building player wins. Every civilization's Wonder is in the shape of a landmark unique to that historical culture—the Temple of Heaven for the Chinese, for example, or Notre Dame for the Franks.

Single player campaigns

"The Age of Kings" originally shipped with five extensive campaigns: William Wallace (Celts), Joan of Arc (Franks), Saladin (Saracens), Genghis Khan (Mongols) and Barbarossa (Teutons). The Campaigns are sorted numerically to distinguish difficulty—The William Wallace Campaign being the easiest, and Barbarossa being the most challenging.

William Wallace

The Campaign of William Wallace acts as a tutorial campaign, much like the original Age of Empires game, and emphasises on how to move units, collect and gather resources, obtain and store holy relics and defeat the enemy, which in this Campaign is presented as the English during the Wars of Scottish Independence, commanded by the evil, torturous but skilled commander Edward Longshanks.

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc puts the player in command of the battered, bloodied and demoralised French during the Hundred Years War against England. At the beginning of the campaign, nearly every major and decisive battle fought by the French has always led to defeat to the English. In France's darkest hour though, a seventeen-year-old girl—Joan of Arc intends to save France by the command of God. She intends to drive the English from France forever. Her presence at the Siege of Orleans earns her the nickname 'The Maid of Orleans', and she earns the confidence of the uncrowned Dauphin Charles VII by being given command of the entire French Army, although the Dauphin's advisors begin to plot against Joan of Arc. At several turning points in the Hundred Years' War, namely the Loire Campaign where the entire English and Burgundian forces were cleared out, hope for a free France begin to inspire more men to join the fight under Joan of Arc.

However, the crowned Charles VII's advisors convince the King not to send the promised reinforcements to Joan at the pivotal Siege of Paris. Joan of Arc retreats to the Castle at Compiègne where the English and Burgundian troops lay siege. Trapped outside the safety of the Castle, Joan is captured by the Burgundians, trailed by the English as a heretic, and burned at the stake. The final campaign mission, the Battle of Castillon, has one of Joan's most trusted Lieutenants muster a huge force of vengeful French troops, and utterly destroy the English and Burgundian forces around and in Castillon, ending the Hundred Years' War and expelling the English from France, spare Calais.


This campaign takes places years after the events that led to the First Crusade and capture of Jerusalem. Saladin (who the player acts as throughout this campaign) is first tasked with establishing himself in Egypt and removing the Crusaders there, in order to become Sultan of Egypt. A villainous Crusader by the name of Reynald de Chatillon has continuously violated the fragile peace between the Crusaders and the Saracens, causing great concern to Saladin. Raids by Crusaders in the Red Sea are eventually suppressed by the Saracens. At the Battle of Hattin, the Saracens win a decisive victory over the combined strength of the Knights Templar, Knights Hospitallers, Jerusalem and the English Crusaders, capture Reynold de Chatillon (who is the only prisoner executed by Saladin personally) and obtain a piece of the True Cross as an important relic.

With the strength of the Crusaders now heavily reduced since Hattin, Saladin launches the Siege of Jerusalem to free it from Crusader control. However, the Saracens must take great care not to destroy the Monasteries within the holy city, and must also deal with Templar and Hospitaller encampments that flank the city. The Siege is successful, the Holy Land now once again in Saracen control, spare the Crusader states of Tiberias, Tyre and Ascalon, but are subsequently captured by Saladin. When the Pope is informed of the Crusader defeat in the Middle East, the Third Crusade is launched, threatening to undo Saladin's conquest. The final missions tasks the player with defending a heavily fortified Citadel from constant Crusader attacks, most notably King Richard of England, as well as constructing the Great Mosque of Samarra, the unique Wonder building available to the Saracens in game.

Genghis Khan

The Genghis Khan concentrates on the rise of the divided, constantly warring tribes of Mongolia into the mighty, fearsome Mongol Empire. Early missions of the campaign concentrate on uniting the several steppe tribes whilst also dealing with the 'Kara-Khitai', sworn enemies of Genghis Khan. With the other tribes either united or destroyed, Genghis now sets his eyes on world domination. The vast riches of the Khwaremia domain in Persia would be the obvious choice, but despite a pledge of support to the Mongols, the technologically superior Chinese Kingdoms have refused, thereby setting another example where Genghis directs his next campaign. With the entirety of China now under Mongolian rule, the Mongol horde now has the technology capable of knocking down the fortifications of Persia, and beyond.

The following conquests of Khwarezmia and the Russian Principalities, the latter by Subutai leaves Europe as the last continent yet to be conquered. However, Genghis Khan who is now 80 years old, dies before the conquest can be complete. His son, Ogatai, promises to continue the war, marking Poland as the first target. The Mongols, using numerical superiority alone are able to defeat the mounted Knights of Poland, Bohemia as well as the several German Duchies that rally to Poland's support. The final mission of the Genghis Khan campaign focuses on Pax Mongolica, the term used to describe the height of power enjoyed by the Mongolian Empire. The last major power in Eastern Europe, Hungary, is all that stands in the way of Mongolia's further incursions into Europe.


This campaign focuses on the expansion of the Holy Roman Empire by integrating the squabbling German duchies under the rule of Frederick Barbarossa, the first Holy Roman Emperor. The first campaign missions sees the player establishing Barbarossa's dominance over the Central European powers of Austria, Saxony, Bavaria, Bohemia, Burgundy as well as Swabia by collecting relics. Although having established dominance, Barbarossa still finds rivals to challenge his Empire's power in the form of Poland, as well as Henry the Lion, a respected ally of Barbarossa. Henry is spared his life and titles as long as he promises to fully declare allegiance to Barbarossa.

With Central Europe now under the Empire's dominance, Barbarossa turns his attention to Italy, namely Milan and the Pope. The rise of the Holy Roman Empire has challenged the power of the Pope in Europe, hence why Barbarossa must be able to subjugate the Italian realms who plot against him. Once again, Henry the Lion betrays Barbarossa, only this time he is stripped of his titles and forced into exile whilst Barbarossa is able to ascertain his superiority in Italy. The Third Crusade begins in the Middle East, and Barbarossa pledges his Empire's support to the coming campaign. But the Holy Roman Empire's army is far too strong for any Navy to carry, forcing Barbarossa to march his troops through hostile Constantinople and Anatolia, which is crawling with Seljuk Turks. During this march, Barbarossa drowns by the weight of his armour in a river current, leaving his army to continue to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem with their dead Emperor to fulfil his wishes.


The Age of Kings supports multiplayer over the Internet, or via a local area network (LAN). Up to eight players can take part in one game, with all of the single player game modes available. The MSN Gaming Zone supported the game until the service closed on June 19, 2006.[25]


Prior to the completion of Age of Empires, Ensemble Studios had signed a contract with Microsoft for a sequel. The design team chose to set The Age of Kings in the Middle Ages as a logical progression from the ancient era setting of Age of Empires. The design team was conscious of attempting to capture the broad appeal of the first game without making the game's design too similar. Nonetheless, they attempted to appeal to the vast demographic who played Age of Empires.[26] The Age of Kings's design team intended to complete the game within a year by using code from the original and reusing the Genie game engine.[27] Several months into the process they found they would not be able to complete a game of the quality they sought in that time. Ensemble Studios informed Microsoft they would need another year and instead created Age of Empires: The Rise of Rome, an easily developed expansion pack of Age of Empires, as a compromise which could be released for Christmas 1998.[26] To help meet the next year's deadline, additional programmers, artists, and designers were employed.[28] To overcome another significant objection to Age of Empires—that of path finding—the team completely redesigned the game engine's movement system.[28]

The original Age of Empires had been criticized for its artificial intelligence (AI). Because the original AI did not "cheat" by attributing itself extra resources or using other techniques the human player could not, it was easier to defeat than in many other real-time strategy games.[29] For The Age of Kings, Ensemble Studios attempted to develop a more powerful AI system that did not compromise by cheating. Industry veteran Mario Grimani led Ensemble Studios in the creation of the new system. The Age of Kings saw the introduction of a triggers system for its scenario editor. The triggers allow messages to be displayed, or actions to take place, based on pre-set criteria or "events".[30] The scenario editor was also improved by the new AI system. The AI and trigger systems interacted regularly in the single player campaigns.[31]

The team was less successful in resolving other issues; programmer Matt Pritchard complained following the release of Age of Empires that there was still no process by which patches could be issued. Extensive cheating in multiplayer games of Age of Empires came as a result of several bugs in the game, which resulted in Microsoft promising Ensemble Studios there would be a patch process for The Age of Kings. On release, there were several bugs that needed immediate attention, but the patch process was not yet ready. The first patch was released 11 months later.[32][33]

Ensemble Studios developed a new terrain system for The Age of Kings, with 3D presentation capabilities that were vastly superior to those of Age of Empires. Pritchard noted an improvement in the team's artistic abilities following their work on the past two games, and he is noted as saying that "AoK became a showcase for their improved talent".[28] However, he complained about the lack of an art asset management tool, while other departments gained new tools and automated procedures to assist in design and play testing.[28][32]

The soundtrack for The Age of Kings was directed by Stephen Rippy, who has since taken that role for all games in the Age of Empires series. Music for the game was split into two categories. For "in game" music, Rippy's team took musical elements from a variety of cultures and combined them to create a mixed sound. "Pre-game" music was designed to be unique to the civilization in question. Campaigns based on historical figures would include "a theme that will at least be rooted in [the character's] culture".[34]

A demo of The Age of Kings was released on October 16, 1999.[35] It featured the learning campaign, a sample of a random map game, and the ability to play via the MSN Gaming Zone.[33] Much to Ensemble Studios' disappointment, numerous incomplete versions of the game were leaked. These were picked up by warez sites, and sold illegally throughout the Pacific Rim; warez versions of the game were even sold outside Microsoft's offices in South Korea.[32]

High-definition remake

In 2012, Hidden Path Entertainment began working on a high-definition remake of Age of Empires II, an effort spearheaded by Matt Pritchard, an original Ensemble lead programmer. On March 7, 2013, its release was announced, branded as Age of Empires II: HD Edition. It has improved graphics, widescreen support and new multiplayer options through Steam. It was released on April 9, 2013, and there was a pre-order available on April 5.[36]

Definitive Edition

On August 21, 2017 at Gamescom, Microsoft announced a remaster titled Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition is in development.[37]


Aggregate score
Aggregator Score
Metacritic 92/100[38]
Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 4.5/5 stars[39]
CVG 9.0/10[40]
Edge 8/10[41]
Eurogamer 9/10[17]
GamePro 5/5 stars[10]
Game Revolution A–[43]
GameSpot 9.1/10[14]
GameSpy 89/100[42]
IGN 8.8/10[44]
PC Zone 9.0/10[45]

The Age of Kings received "universal acclaim", according to video game review aggregator Metacritic.[38]

According to Eurogamer's Geoff Richards, "the list of new features and improvements over the original game is over a page long".[17] GamePro's review similarly focused on "new additions to the genre itself" which it argued made The Age of Kings outstanding. These included the idle unit button and town bell.[10] GameSpy's Carlos Salgado was appreciative of other features; he praised the ability to create individual profiles for different players and to customize hotkeys.[42] Meanwhile, IGN appreciated the new abilities given to the villager unit—the review stated villagers "now play an important role not only in the collection of resources, but also in town defense and even in combat."[44]

AllGame's Michael L. House enjoyed the use of sound bites in civilizations' native languages, which he said was "very influential in developing an era-enhancing atmosphere".[39] Eurogamer said this feature "gives [villagers] a personality, rather than the standard 'Acknowledged' grunt of military RTS games", also stating that the use of female villagers provided a good variety.[17] Game Revolution's review explained that by being set in a more recent epoch of human history, The Age of Kings was able to "add character to an otherwise impersonal style of gameplay".[43] Computer and Video Games approved of The Age of Kings' use of shorter, more focused campaigns, compared to its predecessor,[40] while Game Revolution noted that even in slower sections of the campaign, the historical narrative helped maintain player interest.[43] GameSpot said that with the screen full of units, "you can begin to imagine how their historical equivalents once prospered",[14] while GameSpy said The Age of Kings presents "realism rarely seen in the RTS genre".[42] IGN staff argued that while the strengths and weaknesses attributed to different civilizations made the game more realistic, the fact that they were still mostly the same prevented The Age of Kings from "delivering the same battlefield impact of StarCraft or Tiberian Sun".[44]

House also praised the gameplay interface, which he said "couldn't be simpler", as well as the advanced grouping and path-finding systems.[39] Nash Werner of GamePro said that the formation tools were wonderful, and complained only that they could not be assigned to naval units.[10] Computer and Video Games generally agreed, stating that "the controls are very user-friendly and well explained".[40] GameSpot's Greg Kasavin wrote that despite the game's improved graphics, "there's nothing foreign about its appearance" and that most game features will be "immediately recognizable if you've played a real-time strategy game before".[14] PC Zone agreed, but in a negative sense—it argued that The Age of Kings "is essentially an update of a two-year-old game".[45]

Richards was surprised by the quality of The Age of Kings' graphics, considering they were all bitmapped.[17] However, AllGame complained that units were sometimes difficult to tell apart, a point numerous reviewers agreed on.[14][45] It also called the sound of The Age of Kings as a negative, but not something significant enough to draw players away from the game's overall quality.[39] IGN stated that cutscenes were somewhat bland, but that overall the graphics added "an amazing amount of detail to the actual game".[44] IGN's main criticism was for the in-game speech used in campaigns; it rhetorically asked "why can't they just find a Frenchman to do a French accent?"[44] Alex Constantides of Computer and Video Games rated the graphics highly, saying that some in-game buildings are "so grand you'll even feel guilty about burning them to the ground".[40] Werner agreed; "the most noticeable graphical advancements", he wrote, were "the sheer size and scale of things".[10] Game Revolution stated "AOE2 is the best looking of the 2D RTS games out there right now".[43]

In January 2000, three months after its release, Microsoft announced that they had shipped two million copies of The Age of Kings. The game topped sales charts in the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia, and South Korea.[46] It would spend the next two and a half years on top 20 sales lists.[47] The Age of Kings was top selling game in October 1999,[48] and the fourth highest selling game in 1999.[49] In North America, it sold 442,318 units and earned $19.56 million from January through October 2000, according to PC Data.[50] It received a "Platinum" sales award from the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA),[51] indicating sales of at least 300,000 copies in the United Kingdom.[52]

The Age of Kings won GameSpot's Strategy Game of the Year in 1999,[53] and was a nominee for Game of the Year.[54] GamePower also named it Strategy Game of the Year, while PC Gamer and Computer Gaming World gave it Editor's Choice awards.[46] The editors of PC Gamer US named it their 1999 "Best Real-Time Strategy Game", and wrote that it "takes everything we know about the real-time strategy genre and polishes it, and polishes it, and then polishes it some more."[55] The Age of Kings won Strategy Game of the Year and Computer Game of the Year at the 2000 Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences awards. It was also nominated for Game of the Year, Outstanding Achievement in Animation, Outstanding Achievement in Game Design, and Outstanding Achievement in Game Play Engineering.[56] IGN ranked The Age of Kings the 53rd best game of all time in 2005,[57] and the 10th best PC game of all time in 2007.[58] GameFAQs users placed it 56th in a poll of the best games ever.[59]

The Age of Kings was highly influential on its genre. Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds, a 2001 game by LucasArts, shared The Age of Kings' game engine, and was heavily influenced by its mechanics.[60] Empire Earth's design was also similar to that of The Age of Kings; GameSpot said it "borrows most of that game's controls, interface features, and even some of its keyboard shortcuts".[61] Rick Goodman, designer of Age of Empires and The Rise of Rome, designed Empire Earth.[62] GameSpot's Scott Osborne argued that the gameplay of Cossacks: European Wars was heavily based on The Age of Kings.[63]

HD Edition

Age of Empires II: HD Edition received mixed reviews with aggregate review website Metacritic assigning a score of 68 out of 100 based on reviews from 20 critics.[64] Critics agreed that the HD Edition changed very little from the original game. Daniel Starkey of Destructoid added that the reluctance to change the game features encourages "a much more aggressive, and obsessive style of play". He highlights the fact that many of the problems of trying to run the original game on a modern computer are gone, and calls its compatibility with Steam's Workshop "an amazing bonus".[65]

Paul Dean of Eurogamer was less forgiving; although he agreed that the Workshop compatibility was a good addition and praised the players in the online community as "remarkably calm and friendly", he thought that the game should have been updated more, citing its "boring campaign" and poorly-aged gameplay mechanics: "It just doesn't play very well, and its flaws are more blatant than ever before". Underscoring his criticisms of the lack of significant changes to the game, he described it as "a mouldy time-capsule that will likely mar your memories of the original".[66]

Expansions and sequels

An expansion for The Age of Kings, The Conquerors, was released in 2000. It introduced numerous new game features, including unique technologies for each civilization, and five new civilizations. Two of these, the Aztecs and the Mayans, represent the New World and have new distinctive architectural style. Other new civilizations are the Spanish, Huns, and Koreans. Age of Mythology, released in 2002, broke away from the historical trend and instead focused on Greek, Egyptian, and Norse mythology. It shared many gameplay elements with The Age of Kings and was considered a spin-off of the main Age of Empires series.[67]

The third historical game in the Age of Empires series, Age of Empires III, was released in 2005. The game portrayed the European colonization of the Americas. Aside from one significant feature, the home city, the game's design was similar to that of its predecessor.[68]

In 2012, a free-to-play title was released in the series, called Age of Empires Online. While the game was freely accessible, it featured premium content which could either be earned through gameplay or purchased, enabling the player to use higher-tier equipment and new game modes. Active development of the game ended on January 1, 2014, when executive producer Kevin Perry stated that adding new content was "no longer cost effective," and announced that the game would be moving from "development phase" to its "support phase".[69] The game servers were subsequently shut down on July 1, 2014.[70]

Age of Empires II HD: The Forgotten

In August 2013 an expansion pack was announced for Age of Empires II HD, entitled The Forgotten. It is based on the fan-made expansion, The Forgotten Empires. The Forgotten introduces five new civilizations: the Italians, Indians, Slavs, Magyars, and the Incas. It includes new maps, campaigns, and units, a new game mode, and numerous balance and gameplay adjustments.[71][72]

Age of Empires II HD: The African Kingdoms

A second expansion pack for Age of Empires II HD was announced on April 9, 2015, and released on November 5. The African Kingdoms introduces four new civilizations: the Berbers, Ethiopians, Malians, and the Portuguese. It includes new maps, campaigns (Sundjata, Francisco de Almeida, Yodit, and Tariq ibn Ziyad), and units, a new game mode, and numerous balance and gameplay adjustments.[71][72][73][74][75]

Tariq ibn Ziyad

711 AD: Tariq ibn Ziyad of the Umayyad Caliphate leads a Moorish invasion of Iberia, facing off with King Roderic of the Visigoths at the Battle of Guadalete and destroying the castle in Córdoba. 712 AD: He then proceeds to take over the city of Toledo and from there launches an assault with reinforcements from Musa ibn Nusayr on the surrounding cities of Talavera, Guadalajara, Mérida, and Seville. 713 AD: Tariq decides to split up his forces with Musa, and dealing with the resistance of Pelagius of Asturias, he destroys the castle in Zaragoza and Musa destroys the castle at Narbonne, consolidating the conquest of Septimania and the Ebro valley. Tariq and Musa are ordered by the caliph to return home to Damascus. 732 AD: The Umayyads unite under Al-Ghafiqi to seek vengeance against the Franks who had defeated the Moors ten years previously at Toulouse. Al-Ghafiqi leads the troops through the Pyrenees. One month after that, al-Ghafiqi advances into Aquitaine to settle his score with Odo of Aquitaine, doing so in a massive razzia on the city of Bordeaux, conquering the city and leaving the Umayyads poised to invade the rest of Europe...


Sundjata starts the campaign by fleeing the city of Niani and the clutches of Sumanguru. He wanders through the wilderness, acquiring supporters along the way and eventually ends up encamping in Kangaba, from where musters his forces to destroy the Sosso scouts' forward base. He then seeks to undermine the power of Sumanguru with his allies, Tabon and Wagadou by taking a sacred relic cart to his enemies Niger, Sangaran, Labe, forcing these villages to submit to his rule. He then cuts off Sumanguru's resources by plundering gold from the city of Djenne; following that, he then takes over the Niger River and destroys all of Sumanguru's military camps in the region, acquiring the allegiance of Sumanguru's former vassals Fakoli and Mema. Sundjata finally assaults the enemy base in Koumbi Saleh, killing Sumanguru once and for all and establishing his sovereignty over the Malian Empire.

Francisco de Almeida

The campaign starts in 1476 as Francisco leads Portuguese troops under Prince Juan to victory in the Battle of Toro by destroying Aragonese military camps and capturing Cardinal Mendoza and the Duke of Alba. He then launches raids on supporters of Queen Isabella. In the end, the battle is indecisive, but King Afonso receives assurances from Spain that the African coast and eastern waters are a Portuguese domain. Thirteen years later, in 1489, Francisco serves the now-King Juan, in a mission to consolidate Portuguese control of Tangiers at an island outpost in the Loukkos River led by Afonso de Albuquerque, defending the area from Barbary pirates. He is then appointed Viceroy of Portuguese India by King Manuel, and sets sail for his new post. He plunders the Swahili coast along the way there, razing Mombasa. He then establishes Portuguese India in Cannanore and Cochin and confronts the Zamorin of Calicut who intends to undermine Portuguese rule of India, and who has suborned the allegiance of Kolathiri Raja with gold; Francisco then plunders the Malabar coast. He then moves to the Gujarati coast. Afonso de Albuquerque is sent by King Manuel to relieve Francisco of his post and send him to Portugal to face accusations of misconduct in the Indies. Francisco hears of the news of his son's death at the hands of an Egyptian fleet led by Amir Husain and refuses to return until he avenges his son's death. He converts Afonso de Albuquerque to his side and then takes revenge on his enemies in the Battle of Diu in 1509, including the Egyptian Mamelukes and the Ottomans. This being done, he sets sail for Portugal, being slain by Khoikoi warriors in modern-day South Africa while gathering water.


This campaign starts as Yodit attempts to flee from her nephew Gidajan, who has framed her for theft. She then seeks the hand of the Syrian prince Zanobis in marriage and performs several deeds to increase her reputation, having to deal with the Beja tribes, Nobatia, and the Ikshids. Then she defends the pass of Darginda from the army of Dagnajan, the king of Aksum, and his allies, the Begemder, while also dealing with Alodians and Orthodox monks, killing the king before he makes it through the mountain pass. Following this, she takes the fight to Gidajan and takes control of several stelae in the region surrounding the city of Massawa before taking the city itself. She pursues her nephew to Aksum itself and destroys his palace in the city.

Age of Empires II HD: Rise of the Rajas

Rise of the Rajas was released December 19, 2016.[76] It is set in Southeast Asia, and adds four civilizations (Burmese, Malay, Khmer, and Vietnamese; each with its own fully voice-acted campaign: Bayinnaung, Suryavarman I, Gajah Mada, and Lê Lợi) as well as a new map type with environments, units, improved AI and more.[77]

Gajah Mada

The campaign starts with a mission explaining the origins of the Majapahit Empire, wherein Raden Wijaya leads the Javanese to victory against the Mongols, the Singhasari, and the Kediri. Gajah Mada proper then appears on the scene to rescue King Jayanegara from the city of Trowulan, which is surrounded by rebels. However, Jayanegara is dissolute and is soon assassinated. His sister, Tribhuwana, takes power and appoints Gajah Mada as her prime minister. Gajah Mada then swears his famous Sumpah Palapa oath to unify Nusantara, whereupon he will not eat any food containing spices until the whole Indonesian archipelago is unified. The Majapahit empire then proceeds to expand settlements to the islands of Bali, Sulawesi, and Borneo, and has conflicts with the Sunda, Dhamasraya, and Temasek. The queen regent then abdicates to let her now-matured son, Hayam Wuruk, ascend the throne, and the Majapahit Empire then expands to the east by destroying the Docks of Makassar, Kutai, and Luwu. The sole group which remains are the Sunda, and Gajah Mada manipulates them into a trap by arranging for a marriage between his king and a Sunda princess. Whereas the Sunda believe that the marriage will result in an alliance, Gajah Mada has written into the contract that via the marriage, the Sunda will submit to Majapahit rule, unbeknownst to Hayam Wuruk. The result is the Pasunda Bubat Massacre, wherein all the Sunda princes are killed and Hayam Wuruk's bride commits suicide out of grief. Gajah Mada is then summoned to the king and exiled for his actions.

Suryavarman I

Suryavarman starts by launching a campaign against and killing King Udayadityavarman I in the city of Angkor. Following the successful crushing of a rebellion led by Jayaviravarman, who is killed in the battle, Suryavarman sends an envoy through hostile territory to the Chola, offering lavish gifts in exchange for an alliance against the Tambralinga. The Chola and Khmer then launch a two-pronged attack against the Tambralinga and the thalassocracy of Srivijaya. After defeating these two powers, Suryavarman then deals with domestic threats from the Dai Viet, Cham, Indrapura, and Lavo, which have sought to take advantage of the king's distraction with foreign conquests.


1538 AD: Bayinnaung starts out as the loyal follower of King Tabinshweti. Together, they march against the Hanthawaddy who harbor the Mon king, Takayupti, and capture the city of Prome, in spite of the raids led by the Shan. 1543 AD: At this time, Bayinnaung assists the king in the conquest of Ava by the killing of its king, Hkonmaing, and fending off opposition by the Shan and the Rakhine. They must amass a sufficient sum of gold in order for Tabinshweti to be crowned in the religious city of Pagan. 1550 AD: Tabinshweti encounters a Portuguese merchant who leads him into alcoholic habits, leading to Bayinnaung acquiring increased authority as first minister. Tabinshweti is ultimately killed on orders of Smim Sawhtut, and Bayinnaung must avenge his death by putting down the rebellions led by the possible pretenders, including Smim Sawhtut in his stronghold of Pegu, Rakkate, Thado Dhamma Yaza, and Smim Htaw. 1563 AD: Bayinnaung, now Cakkavati and King of the Toungoo Empire, seeks to expand eastward by bringing relics to the neighboring kingdoms to show his devotion. He faces the Ayutthaya, led by King Chakkraphat, Bayinnaung's vassal Lan Na, and Lan Xang along the way, in addition to various nats. 1580 AD: Bayinnaung ends the campaign by entering into a meditative state as his sons Nanda and Thinga Dathta lead the conquest of the Rakhine city of Mrauk U, and lead him to the four Buddhist temples in the region.

Lê Lợi

Lê Lợi is the leader of an uprising against the Ming Empire. The campaign starts in 1418, where Lê Lợi is leading a guerrilla band in destroying all the Ming towers in the Vietnamese villages, with the help of the Trịnh and Nguyễn families. He then defends a fort in Chí Linh with the help of Lê Lai, who disguises himself as Lê Lợi and sallies forth to lead a suicidal frontal assault upon the enemy, giving his life so that Lê Lợi and his troops can escape, once they have destroyed the towers to the east. Lê Lợi then advances upon Hanoi and succeeds in capturing the city. Afterwards, he marches towards the Ming capital of Nghệ An, but finds himself on the way there obliged to deal with a fortress garrisoned by Cam Banh, a vassal of the Chinese. The Chinese send in their veteran general, Wang Tong, to relieve the fortress, but he is too late to stop Lê Lợi from capturing it. Lê Lợi then splits his forces into three groups: Dinh De to lead the cavalry upon Đông Đô to keep Wang Tong occupied, Le Trien to move north to intercept the Chinese reinforcements under Liu Sheng, and Luu Nhan Chu and Bui Bi to Nghệ An. Miraculously, this triple plan works, prompting the Ming to accept a peace deal. However, the local Vietnamese vassals of the Ming will not accept this, prompting a final showdown with Wang Tong. Peace is finally concluded, and Dai Viet is allowed to exist as a tributary state of the Ming.


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