Age of Empires II is usually touted as the best of the series, and it first came out on September 1999. It was so good that an HD version was released in Steam on April 2013. Seven months later, and 14 years after the release of the original game, an expansion was released. Who would have thought that such an old game would still get an update, but here it is. With Age of Empires Online flopping and Age of Empires III having been released way back on October 2005, this is actually pretty good news for AoE fans as most of them would have grown up playing this game, and having something new to play with their classic game is both nostalgic and entertaining.
Age of Empires II HD: The Forgotten by Skybox is quite the oddity in that it’s an expansion made for a game that’s over a decade old, even though it’s for the HD edition. It used to be called Forgotten Empires, and it’s all about what its name suggests. This expansion adds new empires to the game like the Italians, Salves, Magyars, Indians, and Incas. They have their own unique units, and even unique visual styles for some. It also has balance changes for existing empires so that the game becomes much better on multiplayer. It first began as a mod for the original game, which was then adapted by the developers and made into an expansion.
Each of the new civilizations have their own singleplayer campaigns. There are also other features added in this expansion, including better network play, remastered graphics, improved AI, and Steam Workshop support. Another bonus is that you can play this game in 1440p, so you get to play in Super HD if you want really crisp looking visuals while you play. There is even TwitchTV integration, in case you want to livestream yourself playing the game so others can watch, but couldn’t be bothered to setup online broadcasting software. That’s a lot of new bells and whistles added to a game that first came out just before the 2000′s.
Aside from the campaign and the usual multiplayer modes, there are two new game modes for players to try out. First is the Treaty mode, which restricts both sides from being able to rush by starting off with a ceasefire so you can macro up and build your forces for one epic confrontation once peacetime is up. Then there’s Capture the Relic, which is basically a CTF mode in RTS form, wherein both sides are after a neutral relic and must fight to capture it for a certain period of time. You also get some new map layouts, in case you are bored with the usual ones.
Of course, there are a few flaws to this title. For one thing, it’s not something that young gamers of this generation and the next would gravitate to like how previous generations did. In fact, a lot of the gamers these days are younger than the original game. But then again, if games like Minecraft could become a hit with the kids, then perhaps this could actually catch the eye of some. Also, the idea of an expansion for a really old game may seem preposterous for some, so it’s not really expected to set record sales numbers anytime soon. However, it actually does quite well for what it does, which is to update Age of Empires II for newer systems and audiences.
Perhaps when Age of Empires II HD Edition was released, it did fans of the game a favor by having the developers take matters to their own hands and make the game playable for newer PCs and not have to rely on custom mods to play it. The real time strategy genre may be at a low point these days, with the new Command & Conquer being cancelled and StarCraft II being the only giant on the hill, but updates like these bring hope to strategy gamers.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 8/10