Jack Crutcher looks back at the breakthrough RTS Age of Kings
Age of Empires was already an established real-time strategy game in 1999 when the second instalment in the long running series was released. Age of Kings was positively received by critics and is now recognised as a major breakthrough for the strategy genre.
In Age of Kings the player takes control of one of thirteen civilisations, including the Mongols, the Franks and the Vikings! Custom mode offers the gamer a choice of which age to start in, allowing beginners to start playing during an advanced age, while letting more experienced gamers start in the dark ages; the earlier the age the harder the challenge. Along with an impressive choice of civilisations the game offers a clear visual improvement on other real-time strategy games released at the time. Every civilisation has its own unique look and distinct units, allowing gamers to distinguish between their own team and the enemy through more than just what colour armour people are wearing.
A few detailed features were added to the game for the first time. Gamers could forge alliances and trade deals with other teams (up to 4 teams could compete on one map) and pool resources before attacking a stronger enemy with a more powerful combined force (any strategists’ idea of heaven). The game also takes on a maritime flavour, with island maps requiring the player to construct navies and engage in sea battles as well as land invasions.
Age of Kings provides an enjoyable campaign, facilitating a gentle progression in difficulty so players have time to hone their strategic skills. Online play is also on offer allowing friends to play online and create game-based communities. Age of kings is innovative, looks great and most importantly of all loads of fun – a must play and if you haven’t you’re only 13 years late!