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Reviewed: Age of Empires II - The Conquerors
Author: Mike Zeldenrust      Date: November 27, 2000
Page: 2
The Conquerors adds a wealth of new material to the game, almost more than you can mention in a brief review.  The most obvious and important addition is the new civilizations.  The Conquerors adds five new civs, each geared towards different play styles.  The new civs, namely the Spanish, Huns, Koreans, Aztecs and Mayans, each come with a unique unit appropriate to their historical and geographic location, as did civilizations in AOK.  However, each civ also now receives a unique technology as well, again historically appropriate, which generally further emphasizes one of that civs strengths.  The original civs weren't neglected either; Ensemble carefully looked at balance issues with the original civs and tweaked them accordingly.  Certain civ attributes were removed, or strengthened; many units and technologies from the original game were also subtly changed to correct imbalances.

The result of all this attention is that all of the game's civilizations are nearly perfectly balanced - at the time of this writing, some three months after release of the expansion, hardcore players have yet to agree on the strongest civ, or even the strongest five.  There are fast raider civs like the Mongols or Huns, economic powerhouses such as the Mayans or Chinese, stalwart defenders ala the Teutons or Koreans, technologically advanced civs like the Byzantines or Turks...  The list could go on.  Each civ has it's unique strengths and weaknesses, but none are clearly outclassed or vastly superior.  The number of combinations and permutations of units, technologies and tactics in the game are endless, and throwing vastly different strategies against each other to see which will prevail is the basis for the underlying fascination the game inspires.


A horde of Mongol cav archers massacres the first line of Hun defense. The horde heads for town, but runs into an obstacle... The Huns launch a counter attack against a Mongol castle.


Further additions to the game include new technologies like Bloodlines (mounted units get hp bonus) or Thumb Ring (archers become 100% accurate), new units such as the halberdier, hussar and petard, and even new game types.  Wonder Race, Defend the Wonder, and Deathmatch all help to add variety to the standard game.  While the game shines in multiplayer, you can play any one of these game types versus as many computer opponents as you like.  Ensemble also fixed some of the little annoyances of AOK - farms can be queued up, to prevent you from having to rush back to your town in the middle of a heated battle to do some replanting, and villagers are smart enough to go do their chores without being told after building a work related building. 

One thing to note is that the documentation that comes with The Conquerors, while detailed and informative, looks terrible.  The original game came with a must have fold out reference card, as well as a decent manual.  For some bizarre reason, the manual that comes with The Conquerors looks like a photocopied and bound together school project.  There's also no handy reference card with the additional techs or civs on it.  When I first saw this manual, I immediately assumed that it was because I had a review copy of the game, but it seems the retail version of the game comes with the same terrible manual.  Why Ensemble would pull out all the stops on the game itself and then scrimp on the documentation is a mystery to me.  It's a fairly minor thing, but it is puzzling.


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Added:  Monday, November 27, 2000
Reviewer:  Mike Zeldenrust
Page: 2/5

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