Age of Empires: Definitive Edition Review

One of my first real interactions with a PC was back in 1997, not long after the original release of Age of Empires. Sure there were real-time strategy titles that came out before, but Age of Empires was genre-defining – capturing the hearts of gamers everywhere through their use of real world history. It has been described as Civilisation/Warcraft hybrid – a combination which recently warranted a revamped, Definitive Edition to be released.

I want to be clear that I’ve not experienced any of the crashing and non-loading issues that so many people seem to be reporting. Sadly, these issues have prompted a maelstrom of negative reviews of the game – from salty individuals who have paid their money but haven’t been able to play it yet. I love Age of Empires, but consider this a disclaimer that if you decide to buy the Definitive Edition off the back of this review, you may run into similar issues.

Let’s go through the game in terms of graphics, sound, gameplay and updated features.

Graphically, Age of Empires: Definitive Edition has had a welcome overhaul. The new textures are rendered in at 4K for all those with swanky new monitors out there. The game is full of fantastically designed textures that stick true to those from the original release – in other words it still feels like Age of Empires for all those veterans out there.

The Definitive Edition also contains a whole host of new animations, such as collapsing buildings, blood-spilling and water-swishing. These new updates have absolutely ushered Age of Empires into the current era of gaming. It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a “classic mode”, where you can play the game with the original graphics, but simply scaled up to a higher resolution for today’s PC monitors.

Age of Empires: Definitive Edition boasts a totally overhauled soundtrack. The original was epic, but the newly recorded music has been shown some serious love – receiving a fully orchestrated revamp that invokes a heroic nostalgia amongst new and old players alike. The campaign narration has also been re-recorded, with a Peter Dinklage sound-a-like setting the scene for each dramatic foray into historical empire-building situations.

As far as I can tell, the game sounds have also been reimagined, but sticking closely to the originals. Don’t worry, wololo still sounds mystically mesmerising.

In terms of gameplay and updated features, I have one issue with the Definitive Edition – the AI. This was always notoriously bad in the original Age of Empires, with groups of soldiers spreading too thinly and being picked off by enemies – or sometimes just taking the longest route to get to the rally point. This appears to have not been addressed in the Definitive Edition, which is a shame, but I understand if the developers wanted to stick to the core mechanics of the original. That said, they have included new features such as unit ques and rally points – both welcome additions for anyone who played Age of Empires 2.

The game essentially plays the same as the original, which is a blessing and a curse in this age of modern RTS’s. The simplicity of the gameplay is a humbling throwback and a reminder of how complex strategies can be borne out of a set of simple systems, but for some players Age of Empires: Definitive Edition may not scratch that itch we’ve all come to know as complex RTS strategies.

Age of Empires: Definitive Edition is an awesome reminder of the level of content crammed into this game however. The number of missions in the campaign alone is staggering, let alone the replayability of the title through the custom game skirmish mode – the bread and butter of the Age of Empires series. It’s also worth noting that Age of Empires: Definitive Edition includes the Rise of Rome expansion – the only expansion pack released for the original game. There are even rumours of potential for mod support and further expansions, such as in the case of the rerelease of Age of Empires 2.

In my eyes, the Definitive Edition is a welcome revamp for a title which still has a huge amount of life and potential in it. It’s understandable that with issues around the launch, people are angry and are destroying the reputation of a solid remaster, but overall Age of Empires: Definitive Edition confidently and competently modernises the strategy gaming classic, for veterans and newbies of the series alike – you’d be a fool to miss out on this one.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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