Magnificent, a must for those who like the franchise
This and Red Alert were some of the very earliest of the genre that I ever played, and they remain fantastic to this day. After the original, and its expansion pack, The Rise of Rome, that deserve credit as well, the first in particular, for their efforts in this field, and for offering an alternative to the straight-forward "make a base, gather your forces and annihilate that of your enemies"(for while they can surely be fun, developing them further is great when done right) ones, by adding researching, upgrading and four types of resources to get, this was released, near the end of the millennium. Taking place during the Middle Ages, not the ancient world or the Holy Roman Empire, this brought with it tons of features and improvements, and changed certain things from the others to make it more fair and evened out. You can now garrison men, for their protection, healing, and, oh yeah, they can actually return fire(with one possible exception). This can be done inside Towers, including the new kick-ass Bombard Tower(and it's not the only thing this has that's armed with a cannon, you get a ship that is, as well, in addition to being able to create ones pushed by one person each, and Hand Cannonneers, which are essentially riflemen), and one or two others, including the Castles. Yup, you now get to construct those, and they are responsible for so much pure cool-ness and fun in this that it might have been called Age of Empires II: Fortress. It fires a multitude of arrows simultaneously, it's where you train the unique unit for every civilization(including Throwing Axemen, War Elephants...), and it lets you make Trebuchets, and these are the ultimate siege weapon(although definitely not the only one, the Rams, for example, are excellent) of the "new" time, hurling one stone at a time a massive distance, and they are a force to be reckoned with. The Town Bell, when rung, will immediately signal all Villagers to return to the Town Center, thus keeping them safe and supplying a measure of resistance to thine enemy that ought not to be underestimated. And no building or man is neither impossible to defeat nor useless, one may have to experiment to discover either of them, and combinations are by far the greatest method to go with. The amount of different strategies is impressive. There are, if not many, bad things to this... there are a few bugs and glitches, though I've only encountered one that was major. The voice acting is reasonable, but the accents are overdone and silly. Meanwhile, the score is incredible, and sound work in general is, as well. And the story-telling is quite interesting, and stronger than that of the previous titles in the series(obviously, since those were all text on the screen) and I never tired of it. Only one cut-scene is in this, the intro movie, however, it's enormously well-done. The campaigns are marvelous and always well-done, authentic, based on real-life occurrences. The level design is almost beyond reproach, there are a couple of shortcuts taken, that's all. And if you want to try your hand at putting together your own missions, there is a Scenario Editor, and a Campaign one, so you can string them together, too. And you don't have to, if you just feel like playing, because there are plenty already done, and you can simply use Random Map to customizably spawn a fresh one instantly for you to use. The mode of Regicide is also seen here, making for another kind of experience, as you are now out to find and eliminate one specific character per foe, whilst protecting your own from them, instead of the entire base. There are still several different difficulty settings, so anyone should both be able to play, and be challenged. This has the prior entries beaten in complexity. There is additional info in this, itself, for example, you are able to read about history in it. The stats of each individual game still show after completion, and they're elaborate to a grander extent than before. The interface is better, and I'm not merely talking about the stances(Aggressive, basically meaning that the selected will pursue until what they've spotted of the opposition until they're dead, Defensive, where they'll return to their position and not follow all that long of a distance, Stand Ground, where they'll attack if possible from where they are without moving, and No Attack, that says exactly what it does, and is extremely useful for those people under your command that can hurt your own, and/or if you simply prefer to leave them near what isn't on your side, without attempting to tear it to the ground), the three abilities, Follow, Guard and Patrol, or the formations that allow you to flank those you fight, or scatter so that catapults won't hurt as many of them at once. There are options that weren't in AOE before, and you can define the so-called, and mighty helpful, hotkeys, to name one. You can set Rally Points for production facilities, so they'll head where you tell them to, rather useful for assembling an army. The culture implemented is extensive, and the artwork is detailed and *gorgeous*. The LOD is impeccable. The AI is varied, and always good. Your opponents will behave in ways, not limited to one, so as to decrease the chance of this ever being predictable. Multi-player is countless hours of entertainment available to you, and no cost beyond the retail price for this is necessary. Wage war with or on your friends, perfect strangers or a mix of the two. And that's apart from all the joy of battling the PC, if you are without an internet connection(in fact, if that's the case, congratulations on somehow managing to find this, given the situation), not part of a Local Area Network, or, heck, if you enjoy that. I know I do. I recommend this to any fan of RTS. 8/10
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