My favourite, and one of, if not THE best real-time strategy game is finally coming to Steam. That’s right, Age of Empires II is officially making a comeback April 9th on Steam. To be fair though, it was never really forgotten.
Released back in 1999 by developer Ensemble Studios, and published by Microsoft, Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings became the successor to the original Age of Empires. The Conquerors expansion soon followed adding five extra civilizations, as well as a plethora of maps, fixes, and units among other things.
Age of Empires II became an instant hit, netting easy 90+ ratings and cementing a score of 92% on Metacritic. At the time it was one of the only widely-played games compatible with Macintosh, and one of few RTS’s ported to consoles. With the introduction of Windows XP Service Pack 3, many of the online features were broken, such as hosting games via IP.
The main matchmaking servers over at MSN Gaming Zone finally retired their servers in 2011, while GameSpy Arcade remained active. Two other services in GameRanger and Voobly entered the fray, leading to modern-day support for a game over a decade old. To this day Age of Empires II is one of the most played and popular games on each of these respective services.
However, they have never been very reliable, especially when it comes to game syncing. Therefore, Age of Empires II: HD Edition will be a Steamworks title integrated seamlessly into VALVe’s Steam platform.
While the HD Edition will be the full Gold Edition (complete game with patches and expansions), the developer has changed to Hidden Path Entertainment as the now-defunct Ensemble Studios was closed down by Microsoft soon after the release of Age of Empires III, which while good, was not as great as its predecessor.
Hidden Path Entertainment, who work closely with VALVe, have made critically-acclaimed games in Defense Grid: The Awakening, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Based on current screenshots and videos, they are doing a splendid job rendering Age of Empires II in HD. Although mods have been able to project the game in HD resolutions, there have never been graphical changes made to the original game.
Just to show you how much of a following the game has, a fan-made expansion was released a few months ago after years of work, aptly named Age of Empires II: The Forgotten Empires. Hopefully this unofficial expansion makes its way into the final version. With Steam Workshop enabled and matchmaking back on queue, we will perhaps see one of the only examples where a decade-old game gets updated with new content!
Be sure to pre-order the game on Steam and keep up on news over at Hidden Path Entertainment, the official Age of Empires forums, Age of Empires: The Forgotten Empires, and Steam’s community discussion hub!