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    Age of Empires II: Age of Kings Review

    Usually when games come out, they either do very good, fairly well, or are the type that are known but not played. Then later on, when a sequel comes out, the sequel just plain rocks. A good example of this would be the Unreal series. This is the same case with the Age of Empires series. The first Age of Empires was somewhere out there. Then Age of Kings comes around and just rocks.

    Age of Kings falls in the category of games that are just so damn addictive theyíre hard to stop playing. Other games like this include Starcraft, Half-Life, or Unreal Tournament to name a few. Almost everything is perfect about Age of Kings. Everything has been improved and redone from AoE 1. The buildings are now sized to scale to give the sense of realism. Wonders are completely HUGE! They are maybe 4 times the size of the Wonders from AoE. Other than the below features, everything is just like AoE. You mine food, wood, stone, and gold. You have naval ships and a vast array of units.

    Another great new feature is the new commands. You can now assign units (except naval units) to formations, which include flanking positions, box formation, and staggered formation. These formations are so useful, itís not funny. In the Staggered position, units are spread out but organized, so that siege units wonít take out several units at a time when they are bunched together. In the Box formation, units can surround weak units to protect them like siege units or monks. More great commands include "Find Idle Villager" so that you can get those villagers working and make the best from your economy. Also new is the "Flare" command, which signals your allies to a spot on the mini-map by placing an "X" at the spot where you flared. This is useful if an enemy is about to attack and want to get your ally to your base quickly without typing it in, or making a rendezvous point for you and your ally to group to attack the enemy. Other new commands include "follow", "patrol", and "guard" for maximum military control. If that wasnít enough, thereís even a "Garrison" command, where you can garrison units right into buildings which will then attack from inside those buildings. When the enemy attacks, and you have nothing to defend with, you can protect all your villagers by garrisoning them inside your Town Hall, where they will shoot arrows from and try to kill off the invaders. You can even protect units inside buildings, no matter what building it is.

    Enough of the new commands, lets get to the storyline. Chronologically, AoK starts off right where AoE left off, with the fall of empires and rise of kings around the world (which is mainly Europe and Asia of the time). Campaigns include Joan of Arc, William Wallace, and Genghis Khan. New civilizations include Celts, Byzanites, Goths, Chinese, Japanese, and Mongols. Each civilization has their own unique unit and a feature that balances them with other civilizations. For example, the Persiansí unique unit is the War Elephant (which kicks ass BTW), and the Britonsí unique unit is the Long Bowman. Special features might be that the Persiansí unique feature be that their Knights are +2 attack against bowmen, and also start with +50 wood and food, while the Gothsí unique feature might be that their Barracks build 20% faster and also get +10 population during the Imperial Age. These features, along with each civilizationsí own unique technology tree creates a truly balanced game.

    Even though AoK doesnít employ 3D graphics, even in Software mode, the detail is awesome. Everything has been majorly improved since AoE. It just looks so damn nice. The Wonders are detailed to the very smallest pixel. The Franksí Wonder has stain-glass windows, a balcony with little railings, small spires all around, even a small courtyard with flowers and trees.

    The multi-player mode of the game is perhaps the most fun part of the game. New game modes include "Regicide" where you start off with some extra villagers, a Castle (where you build the unique units) and a King which you must protect from the enemy. Your goal is to kill the enemiesí kings. Along with that there is a "Deathmatch" feature where you start out with a huge stockpile of resources and build from there. However, this was featured in AoE. Otherwise, nothing else new.

    The sound in AoK is mediocre. Itís not the best, and not the worst. However, the sound has been improved since AoE. The heroesí voices arenít that great, but itís better than nothing. The battle sounds, such as sword-hacking, sounds a bit off.

    Overall, this game is a must to get. I guarantee you will be at this game for a long time, since I recently played the game for maybe 12 hours straight at a LAN party I went to. Starcraft may have been the best RTS, but not anymore. AoK comes out just above Starcraft, and excels in beating out the C&C games, and quite possibly any other RTS to come along. But donít get me wrong, SC is still one of the best games Iíve ever played and will forever be.

    << Rating: 95% >>
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    Zalman: ZM-DS4F Headphones

    An affordable, ultra-portable headphone set.
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