Microsoft’s unlikely high-definition remaster of Age of Kings II is available today on Steam. It’s an interesting historical relic, but some genres stand the test of time better than others. I’m not sure I’d ever choose to play this over more recent RTSs. In theory, I love that there are walls. In practice, walls are always a tough balance to strike. I don’t get the sense that Age II fussed much with striking that balance. I also love the relic victory condition, whereby your monks can set out to collect all the relics on the map and ensconce them in a monastery for 200 years. I was particularly delighted when the AI did this, which meant I had to go kick over his monastery. It’s nice to have a compelling reason to do that sort of thing.
But the interface is killing me. For instance, is there really no attack move? Lord knows, I complained bitterly about the lack of attack move in Age III during the time that it was cut. If I’d known it was a tradition, I might have been a little more understanding. And can I not shift queue certain orders in Age II? If it’s an option, I haven’t figured it out yet. Once my villagers are done building a lumber yard, they then stand around it instead of going to chop trees like I thought I told them to do. And I don’t miss having to replant farms one whit.
But what really kills it for me is the pacing. So little happens for so long. Modern RTSs have worked wonders at dropping you into important decisions early on (Starcraft II) or at least giving you some engaging busywork before the important decisions come along (Age of Empires III). If I wanted a drawn-out build up, I’d play a turn-based game! I love that Microsoft has made this game available again for hardcore retro RTS fans. But I’m afraid I’m not a hardcore retro RTS fan.