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Age of Empires II: HD Edition

By Leigh Cobb01-05-2013
Bobfish (editor)
StuntmanLT (editor)

The Defence

Ensemble Studios / Hidden Path
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Pentium 4 1.2 GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 8400
AMD equivalent
1 GB
2 GB

The Case


I'm a big fan of the Age of Empires series, so was pleased to hear that they were re-releasing Age of Empires II as an HD Edition. This was going to be a difficult thing to get wrong, considering how the game's original incarnation already had the RTS formula down to a fine art. Is an HD remake worth your time and money though? Or should you just stick to your old copy of this classic hit? Read on to find out.

The Trial


The first thing I'm going to do, because this is a special case, is refer you to my Age of Empires II retro review. The things I spoke about there regarding gameplay, such as the perfect balance between nations, the rock-paper-scissors variety of combat and the ease of entry into a world of base building, resource gathering and fighting with multiple units, all remain true this time around. In fact, there isn't that much to talk about with Age of Empires II: HD Edition, because you're basically playing the exact same game (with all expansions and updates).

Hiding Town Center in a farm field still doesn’t work.

Hiding Town Center in a farm field still doesn’t work.

You see, the improvements that this HD Edition brings to the table aren't related to the gameplay, or even so much the graphics as its 'HD' title would imply. No, what's been done here is that this old classic has been kitted out for the modern age. Hidden Path, the developers behind this remake, have integrated it very well with Steam, allowing the AOE multiplayer component to run on Steam servers, making it easy to invite friends to games and, likewise, join their games. This is a great addition as multiplayer and server support for older titles can often wane and, eventually, die. So with this, AoE II will have life in it for many years to come on the online scene.

The second of the big additions is Steam Workshop support. Like in games such as Skyrim or Team Fortress 2, the HD Edition can download user made content from the workshop and put it seamlessly into your game. There are already around 1000 pieces of new content on the Workshop, but I must confess, I am disappointed.

You see, the new graphical improvements to this HD remake consist of some new water textures, new fire animations and a couple of other, smaller re-textures. This is not a game that looks substantially better than its predecessor, in fact, you will be hard pressed to see any difference at all even when looking at two images side by side. If you've been wanting to buy this for improved graphics, then you may want to hold back. On the other side of this, there is now full support for widescreen, HD resolutions. So let me say, seeing Age of Empires II in glorious 1920 x 1080 is a sight to behold, if only because it's not boxed in by black bars anymore.

Which brings me back to my Workshop concerns. The idea is sound and, I'm sure in time things will improve, but right now most of the top rated mods are re-textures. Most of these re-textures are mods which aim to return the HD remake to the game's original state. If this strikes you as rather illogical, I'm glad to hear I'm not alone. Why buy an HD remake and then change what little improvements there were back to the game's original, 1998 state? But, as I've said, I'm sure that in the coming months more, better, mods will be available, which add something more interesting than farm re-textures (gee modders, way to go on that one.)

One can only wish units had as big of an ‘HD update’ as the buildings.

One can only wish units had as big of an ‘HD update’ as the buildings.

So, let's recap. We've got support for modern monitor resolutions, a very, very slight improvement to a very, very small number of textures, support for multiplayer through Steam and support for Steam Workshop. These are undeniably good things, so why am I hesitant to recommend this remake to you? Simple - the price. At time of writing it is £14.99 on Steam, which is far too much an asking price for what is essentially a 15 year old game with the most minimal of updates made to it.

The Verdict


You're really going to have to ask yourself, is £15 a reasonable asking price for one of the best RTS games of all time, updated to stand in the modern age? If the answer is yes, then you'll enjoy the classic gameplay the same as ever, except with proper resolution support and ease of playing with your friends. If not, then you can just as easily go back to your old copy of Age of Empires II and probably have just as good a time.

Case Review

  • Untouched By Time: it's still the same, classic AOEII gameplay, which is still as fun and appealing as ever.
  • New Res: The support for modern monitor resolutions is a key addition, and really improves things for your new fangled machines.
  • Let's Get Steamy: Steam support is well implemented, download mods and access MP easier!
  • What Graphics?!: The graphical improvements are near non-existent, but I guess the game still retains its charm.
  • The Price Is Too Damn High!: Seriously, £14.99 for this is a bit steep. Consider sticking to your old copy for the same game at no cost.
Score: 3.5/5
It's still the game you love, but the price is high for the limited improvements made.


I’ve been playing Age of Empires 2 all the way since the original release in 1999. Just from time to time, mainly to have fun with my friends, but still, the game is a huge part of my gaming history. I even have the cool printed guides attached to the collector’s edition of the original, so you can imagine how excited I was to learn that an HD remake is under development. There were two things I expected from it – possibility of playing on newer systems without problems and improved multi player, allowing me to realize my childhood dream and play freely with people from around the world. Well, AoE 2 HD did not disappoint!

I can sure understand some people who address the game as not worth the price, nor have improved enough, but all those things derive from an incorrect assumption – Age of Empires II HD is not a new game developed in 2013. It is a remake of a classic title, supposed to allow freaks like me to waste another few hundred hours on castle building and catapulting the forests. Plus, it allows us to do this through a stable multi player connection. Even with the core elements unchanged, the game still amuses with its complexity and the amount of fun it provides. The graphics, the unforgettable tunes and lots of content at our disposal (come on, 18 well differentiated nations is a lot, even for today’s standards) ensure that anyone who buys the title will be satisfied. Or rather should be, as long as they do not expect a middle ages StarCraft which plays itself with you just watching. This is an old school game and I really appreciate the fact that the remake’s devs did not try to meddle with the gameplay. And this is it – treat AoE II HD as a remake of 1999 blockbuster and suddenly it turns out to be perfect!

Score: 5/5


Certainly a lot of HD remakes and ports coming out these days and Age of Empires 2 HD is one of the latest of these. First of all, what is Age of Empires 2 HD? It is a simple port, which makes it possible for Age of Empires 2 to run on Windows 7 and at resolutions we have today, such as 1920x1080. The reason I say simple port is because very little has been touched at all from the core game. Even its low resolution (and buggy) launcher has been ported over! The main menu is also the same and thus still very pixelated. But none of this is necessarily a bad thing, however the laziness in porting is shown as a bad thing within a barren options menu. There is a complete lack of visual settings! You can’t even set the resolution you want to play at nor choose between windowed or fullscreen modes.

In addition, many other HD ports/remakes at least do some work to the UI, textures, and/or animations so it maintains the classic look and feel, while running smoother and better on new PCs and just looking that much more enticing. This was sadly not the case for AoE 2 HD. As for the game itself, well if you have played Age of Empires 2 previously, then do not expect to find anything new here except for a revived multiplayer community, which is definitely neat to say the least. Besides the multiplayer nothing else has been changed to the game itself, if you have never played Age of Empires 2 or are simply missing the classic game then Age of Empires 2 HD is still well worth purchasing. It is just too bad they hardly did any work when they ported it.

Score: 2.5/5
Comments (3)
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Posts: 596

The main issue is just that they did so little and yet are charging so much... I don't get where the price tag comes from...

The Duke Nukem Megaton edition has had a lot of work done to the core of the game and the engine, while with AOE2 HD nothing has been done to it.

Posts: 1548

Actually it looks really nice. Feel tempted to boot it up again

Posts: 596

Quite the variety in scores given :P