This game is probably is likely the most exciting game of its kind, and definitely the best one I have ever played. It is as addictive as it gets, and I believe that this owes a lot to the simplicity of the interface. Straightforward enough to attract the beginner, the options with which the interface options are enough to provide a large variety of strategies to the more advanced user. The use of hot-keys can make the game play very fast, and gives you excellent control of the armies, something I have felt lacking in, say, Rise of Nations. The expansion has taken the frustration away from the villagers lack of initiative Age of Kings. And the sequel, Age of Empires 3, seemed to me to lack the to ease of control, somehow as the second one. Perhaps adding too many variable makes it more tricky to feel inside of the game.
To explain the idea of what makes the interface superb, someone probably has to play the game a bit. But the great thing is that it does not take long to get used to, and offers great variety to the player. Four kinds of resources to gather produce an economy with logical and practical unit generating buildings (town center, stable, barracks, archery ranges, castles, monasteries, docks, markets, and siege workshops), with two research oriented buildings (blacksmith and university). And the economy is vital to production, especially at the outset of the game. There is the option of starting out the game with more or less resources, which can help enhance the early building of the civilization, and the option of having a lower or higher population limit. Additionally, playing the game against the computer has various difficulty levels, and numbers of opponents, so once you defeat two, you can move up to three, even seven opponents at a time. And map sizes and types offer a lot of selection, along with a variety of game play options.
The ability to play either defensively or offensively is open, as most civilizations can produce a great defense, although some are decidedly offensive only. And the challenge of finding a balance between a defensive and offensive strategy, and being able to switch from one side of the map to the other to be on the defense against the enemy's attack and at the same time attempting to rout his defenses and rid oneself of his ongoing threat, at the same time keeping your economy intact enough to continue the attack, is enough to provide for hours upon hours of play. And this is only in the single player maps.
Having not played the first installment so much, this review covers perhaps all of the features in one. There is so much that the game has to offer in the campaign department too, where you fight alongside historical figures such as Atilla the Hung, Genghis Khan, Saladin, and others. Every one of these is a unique experience and allows you to be right there in battles that decided much of the history of western civilization. The story line only allows you to fight within history, not create your own version, so the experience is quite authentic.
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