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A solid 4 out of 5
I bought Age of Empires when I was looking for something to play on my laptop on vacation and figured that from the packaging and the game description, I would enjoy the game. Well, I loaded it on my computer and played for a bit and found that while I thought the game looked easy, it really wasn't. It is almost a real time strategy game, where you actually control everything that your people do. There are so many different aspects to this game that it took me a bit of free play to learn where everything is, how to play, and what to do to win. Once I learned some of the major aspects of the game itself, I quickly learned how to change my strategies to win the games and scenarios that the games have installed on them. So, here is my review of the game and it's features so you will know exactly what you are getting when you buy either I or II of the Age of Empires PC games.
Graphics - Well, of course II is better than I, but not really by much. The basics of the graphics aren't nearly as good as say, some of the MMO games on the market, but they really don't have to be. You don't need a detailed facial profile of every villager that you have to tell them where to farm, where to chop down a tree, or where to fight. The buildings are pretty good for a PC game that is really detailed when it comes to game play, and each time you hit another "age", your buildings will all change accordingly. The terrain and the other aspects of the game are pretty well designed so that you can easily determine what things are. Overall, I would give the graphics of the Age of Empires PC games I and II a 3.5 out of 5.
Interface - The game's interface is really easy to learn. You pretty much click on a building and then you see your options in picture form in front of you. When you mouse over the pictures, a description pops up of what that button will do and what it takes to do it (such as 100 food or 100 wood). As you progress through the game, you will learn to use the "Diplomacy" button to make friends, or enemies, with other villagers in the game. These are usually played by the computer, and you can choose how many there will be in free play mode, and in story mode, there will be a set number. Overall, I would give the interface of Age of Empires PC games I and II a 5 out of 5 just because it is so easy to use.
Game Basics - The basics of the game is this: build up your village, progress through the ages, build a Wonder of the world, and win. Sounds easy right? Well, it's not as easy as it sounds. During your play (in either mode), you will have to create individual villagers and military members. For every 5 people (including military, ships, and trade carts), you will have to have at least 1 house. As you progress through the ages, the number of villagers increases per house, but not by much. Now, as you gain villagers, you have to assign them jobs. You need some to gather, hunt, or farm food, some to chop wood, some to mine stone, some to mine gold, and some to build and repair buildings. Now, you have to make sure that you have plenty of each item (food, wood, stone, and gold), as each different action takes some of each item. For example, you have to have 50 food to create 1 villager, 35-65 wood to create 1 house, and so on. Gaining military members will take more resources along with your food, such as wood, stone, or gold. You will need to put equal villagers on gathering different materials in the game so that you will always have more coming in. You will also need to stockpile food and other resources to move up to the next age.
There are so many different aspects to the different modes that you can play in. Free play mode is pretty self-explanatory, you play until one of the different peoples win. In the story modes, or campaigns, you will be fighting against a set group and you will have a specific goal. These range from simply building certain things first, killing out a tribe, or holding your land against an invasion. There are so many different campaigns that I even haven't beaten them all yet and I've had both versions (I and II) for over a year. So, there is plenty in the game itself to keep you busy and keep you interested in playing.
Overall, I give both the versions of Age of Empires I and II a solid 4 out of 5 due to the fact that the game itself is easy to learn, but still hard enough that it will challenge players for a long period of time.