One of the greatest exponents of management and strategy games returns to the world of desktop consoles from Forgotten Empires and Microsoft Game Studios. An adaptation that compiles almost 25 years of content and works on adapting its ambitious control system in the best way to the peculiarities of the console controller. Have they achieved their goal?
The return of a classic
The border between consoles and computers has always been a reality. Even in times like the present, in which both markets share more and more games in their common catalogs, the experience and memories of our gaming childhoods differ based on which platforms we had in our childhood. We are all very aware of the role of Mario, Sonic, Jak or Link in the evolution of videogames within the scope of consoles, but the PC world does not always see recognized outside its borders the great milestone that titles such as Civilization, UFO Enemy Unknown, the Tycoon saga or the game that we see today occupies: Age of Empires.
Age of Empires, the first, the original, was born by Bruce Campbell Shelly. After working on the board game 1830 and creating the acclaimed Civilization and Railroad Tycoon with Sid Meier, Shelly would adapt the rules of the physical game to the video game in a new title that focused on great battles, supplies and her love of history. . Age of Empires would become one of the most beloved works by lovers of the strategy of the moment, launching a large number of titles, expansions and spin-offs on PC and seeing the light of day on platforms as disparate as the Playstation 2, Nokia N-Gage and Nintendo DS. Now, more than 25 years after the birth of the franchise, Age of Empires II Definitive Edition once again crosses the borders of the PC and enters the Xbox One and Xbox Series catalog with a large number of successes and changes that make playing on consoles is just as enjoyable as your original experience on PC.
The conquest in your hands
After so many years working on an interface focused on the use of the keyboard and mouse, adapting all that work and bringing its complexity to the buttons of a controller like the Xbox seemed like an impossible task. Go ahead, you can calmly use your mouse and keyboard by connecting them to your Xbox and playing as usual, but since the performance of the pad is one of the most controversial points of this adaptation, I have wanted to play all my campaigns with the controller to see how they have solved the ballot. Age of Empires II Definitive Edition includes, in its Xbox version, a complete set of very well thought-out mechanics, shortcuts and controls that ensure that the gaming experience does not suffer at any time or lose agility even if you are playing with the included base controller with your console.
A new tutorial featuring William Wallace and his campaign helps the player take their first steps in their conquering career starting with the basics and continuing until they master more advanced and complex maneuvers. Control of minions and military units is as intuitive as on PC, including some novelties such as the possibility of accessing your units with a simple touch on the crosshead, select all units of the same type with a couple of taps, and quickly access your armies, your town center and your peasants instantly. We also find novelties in the action menus with the insertion of new mechanics that allow you to collect and farm resources without having to select a free peasant beforehand.
Construction has also evolved, allowing all you have to do is select an empty box to choose what you want to build without having to search for free builders. Once the work is underway, we will be able to allocate more personnel to the construction quickly and easily. A spirit to speed up the action that is maintained in all the individualized menus which we can access during the game and which allow access to the options of each unit and building quickly and easily. Create troops, build, improve buildings and units… everything works quickly and makes us not miss the mouse and keyboard. As if this were not enough, by advancing in the game and getting the hang of using the controller we can activate advanced mode and customize all the controls and menus to further streamline the experience.
News and improvements
The work to adapt the action to the controller is one of the elements that stands out the most in Age of Empires II Definitive Edition on Xbox, but before learning to master all the possibilities it is necessary to play the tutorial that, as we already mentioned, comes disguised in campaign form. Bringing William Wallace and his troops and his allies to glory against the ‘English dogs’ is the best way to get the hang of all the new implementations of this version for consoles. But if for some reason we get confused or haven’t played for a while, the pause button will allow us to move through the mapping, receive extra information about units and locations, and access all the shortcuts and controls to refresh our memory.
Along with control improvements, more intuitive tutorials and new menus, Age of Empires II Definitive Edition on consoles includes a new AI that will allow us to choose what we want our peasants to focus on. Through the use of a priority wheel that we can activate, deactivate and customize at will, the peasants will know at all times what we expect of them and what is the best way to please their leaders. It is important to emphasize that it is not a question of letting the peasants decide for us, destroying the strategic component, but of telling them what we prefer them to do – look for meat, wood, mine, hunt, cultivate… – in order to avoid repetition and to be able to focus in managing our rising empire. The best thing is that, like the controls and menus, this wheel is customizable and once you get the hang of the new rules of the game you can take advantage of the advanced mode to give it your own touch.
More than 1,000 years of history
Beyond the controls, Age of Empires II Definitive Edition covers 1,000 years of human history through a large number of expansions and extra content included in the base version of the game. A set of extra content that includes more than 200 hours of gameplay and that will allow you to contact 35 different cultures and participate in key moments in the history of humanity. Twenty years of expansions concentrated in a single title which also includes the option to buy new campaigns, create your own scenarios and enjoy the campaigns of other players both solo against AI and online in cooperative and competitive modes.
Content aside, and seriously, the large number of campaigns and modes that it includes is devastating, Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition more than meets the mark in its adaptation to consoles with graphics that denote its intention to adapt to the new times and a 4K resolution on Xbox Series X and 1440p on Series S. We are not talking about visual madness that will take our breath away, but as we already mentioned in our analysis for PC, the destruction effects and elements such as smoke and fog come together with highly elaborated animations and attention to detail that make this version of the game for consoles a product more than up to the level of its previous version on PC.
Age of Empires 2 continues to perform as well on its Definitive Edition for consoles as it did over 20 years ago on its original release. The visual changes, the technical improvements and the outstanding job they have done adapting the gameplay to the peculiarities of the controller versus the use of the keyboard and the mouse show that Mr. Shelly’s strategy and management formula has aged as well as the best of wines. If you haven’t played the game for a long time or you’re starting for the first time, get ready for an adaptation to the height with lots and lots of content that will keep you busy in your conquests while you improve your town centers, plan your attacks and fortify your positions before the arrival of the enemy. Some plans of conquest that will not have to wait long, since tomorrow you will be able to discover how Age of Empires II Definitive Edition runs on consoles through Game Pass, buying it in stores and digital platforms or taking advantage of its cross buy, which includes the free version Xbox if you already bought the PC and vice versa.