Gaming Made Me: Age Of Empires II

Hello! Gaming Made Me is a new weekendly series that continues the theme of our previous Gaming Made Me excursions, which is a theme about the games that made people who they are today. In this new and fresh series various RPS chums will be invited to talk about their formative gaming experiences. This is the first one, with an Ages Of Empires II retrospective from Brendan Caldwell. Take it away, Mr C!

I like that it still comes in a box, with words on and everything. I like that the guy on the front of the box looks only moderately severe. He isn’t rabidly baring his teeth, straining his neck so hard you could strum Dragonforce on his ligaments. No, no, no. That’s not this guy’s scene. Just take a look at him. He’s wearing what is essentially a balaclava made of metal (!) then he puts a crown on it. That’s how confident he is. He doesn’t need to look gung or ho. He just looks like he’s dropped his dinner and he was really looking forward to that dinner because dinner tonight was stag fillet and you don’t get stag fillet that often in the Holy Lands let me tell you, peasant.

But you know what? Doesn’t matter. ‘Cause with a reasonably miffed look he can just order a lowly serf to go and kill another stag. It’s the middle ages, boi. This how we be.

Age of Empires II: Age of Kings occupied the same space – mechanically speaking – as Command and Conquer. Base building and unit research was big part of it. Only instead of Scorpion-tailed architecture you built a plain-looking archery range. Or maybe a castle – but only if you had the stones. Which brings us neatly to the game’s resource management. Instead of a truck groping around for a single universal resource, groups of strapping men and women mine away at gold deposits, or deforest a screen full of oak trees. They pick at stone quarries or farm crops or act as shepherds or hunt deer. This is the game’s spinal cord – them tharr working classes.

But this ain’t no anarcho-syndicalist commune. This is the feudal system. Villagers won’t just get on with it. They really, really need to be told what to work on. Otherwise, they’ll just stand around looking gormless until a sassy Frenchman on horseback comes and skewers them. As sassy equestrian Frenchmen are wont to do. I like that Frenchmen do this. But then, I like a lot of things about Age of Empires II.

I like that it taught you about Saladin years before Assassin’s Creed uninvented history. I like that it doesn’t make me nail my suspension of disbelief to the wall by the hooves (my suspension of disbelief is a Satyr) and torture it for fifteen hours, like AC: Bros in the Hoodz does, with its ridiculous unending enigma stringing you along, repeating Lost’s greatest crime.

That said, Age of Kings did take some liberties with history. But only as a matter of simplification (the research was done in a public community library and most of the reference materials came from the children’s section). So yeah. It took liberties. It took exactly four liberties:

1. They didn’t talk like that.
2. There were probably more than 75 people in Saladin’s army at any given moment.
3. They didn’t write chronicles using MS Paint. And if they did, they wouldn’t have chosen that font size.
4. Some other stuff I can’t remember.

AoE II’s history lesson is like having a really insightful conversation with a stranger while you’re hopelessly pissed. It’s not as deep as it seems. But it’s a good introduction. So when the Crusaders go dilly-dallying through a desert with a piece of the True Cross I know it’s very likely not a piece of the True Cross. But AoE II tells me that’s what it is because that’s what they believed at the time. Ha ha. Suckers.


Well, no. Ha ha. No.

Hmm. Well, there’s no way to be sure one way or the other. I suppose it could be a piece of the true cross. Ultimately, who are we to say? I mean, no. That was just common medieval superstition. Right?

See. I like that it makes you do that.

History can be handled gracefully in RTS games. Okay, maybe not gracefully, as such. Perhaps chivalrously. Between Starcraft’s future wotsits and Red Alert’s over-the-top bastardisation of the Cold War, there lies Age of Kings.

Age of Kings! You see that? Ensemble didn’t call their game that for nothing. It was good at treating history with almost monarchical respect. For the simple reason that, more than any old king or queen, history deserves a wee bit of respect. Because that’s what history is. Majestic. Regal. A bit stabby. Sometimes inbred. But mostly noble. The Total War series might have rejuvenated the real-time strategy genre by giving the player a Risk-like game of positioning and micro-management to play between battles (Mwah! Love you, Medieval) but it never had that same reverence for history as it happened. Things got invented at about the right time by the right people, sure. But according to most of my games, the Moorish capital city is Dublin, the Scots invaded Rome in 1495 and the English are a fucking myth or something ‘cause I’ve never seen ‘em. Nope. Don’t know what you mean, sir. No English here. Try Antioch or whatever. Imperialist SWINE.

I like that the game is recommended for players three years old and up and clearly prides itself on being somewhat educational. I like that, after it lures in its young players, it launches a volley of angry trebuchets at them, ruins their base, kills all their villagers and then just stands around looking incredulous. Even on the Easy setting, the later campaigns are challenging. How could a toddler deal with this? They’d have to be a Napoleonic prodigy. Twice the strategic genius, twice the tiny stature. One thing you could say for AoE II was that it didn’t patronise its audience. It screamed “This. Is. LEARNING.” Then kicked you down a well.

Okay, so it wasn’t a hundred percent accurate. Like, when Saladin lops off the sconce of the captured Raynald de Châtillon, it omits reports that another knight-dude called Guy de Lusignan was present as well. And that Saladin gave Guy some icy water to down, out of respect of a worthy adversary. And that Raynald took some of this water, without it being offered him. That’s not how Saracens roll. Ray was being a cheeky wee bastard, so Saladin chopped his head off. Natch.

There were other ways it was imperfect. But these were endearing more than anything. I like them too. I like that a building being repeatedly struck with swords and pikes will gradually burst into flames and eventually implode. I like that it boasted you could win the game by demonstrating your economic or cultural power, even though no regicidal maniac worth his enraged steed would take those routes. I like if you got bored you could just hit enter and type “how do you turn this on” and get a sports car armed with machine guns. What’s that you’ve got there Egypt? A mangonel? Face the wrath of my Shelby AC Cobra, you common shisha-pedlar!

Despite these wonderful hiccups, AoK was just that. A-okay. It is the kind of game they should teach in schools. Sadly, if you go to an Irish Catholic school, chances are they never will. They would like the William Wallace campaign. They might even like the Joan of Arc campaign.

They would not like the Saladin campaign.

Okay, let’s dismiss with any semblance of neutrality here. Let’s get personal. This is one way gaming made me. It showed me that there are things our teachers aren’t going to tell us. Whether it’s through lack of time or lack of desire, they just won’t. It showed me that you don’t need Father Angryface to learn history – even if all you learn is trivia.

I only know that Zimbabwe was once called Rhodesia thanks to Metal Gear Solid. That I know the Red Army called a truck-mounted rocket launcher a “Stalin Organ” is because of Battlefield 1942. That I took any interest in the crusades and the Middle East at all as a kid is because of Age of Empires II. We might only know little things outside the curriculum thanks to games. A little thing. A “trivial” thing. But at least we know something.

And I like that. Don’t you like that?


  1. Adriaan says:

    Exactly how I feel about this game! I started playing the AoE series when I was 7, it really made me interested in history. I still play it regularly with friends on a LAN, building up our cities over hours and hours, each game culminating in a massive clash of our formations of little men at arms, longbowmen, paladins and what not. Truly a classic!

    • Shrewsbury says:

      We weren’t a rich family. Although I had been using and loving computers for much of the previous decade, my computer use was through the school’s BBC Micro and Archimedes computers. Later they threw them all out, much to my chagrin, and replaced them with Windows boxen. Even to this day, I’ve never really been much of a fan of Windows.

      The time came that we needed a computer in the house. PC World promised us a whole load of software to come with our lovely new desktop, but didn’t provide any of the discs we asked for. (We also got scammed out of a RAM upgrade, the thieving bastards). So actually, AoE II was a substitute for Civilization II, which I played obsessively at school during lunch breaks.

      So one day I was sitting at our new computer, idly browsing files. I couldn’t use the Internet much, because it was dialup and tied up the phone line. So I opened the drawer full of discs and happened upon Age of Empires, and installed it.

      By the time we got our second computer, my little brother would sit and watch me play. He always asked to play it himself. We always said that he wasn’t allowed to until he learned to read. I still maintain it was AoE that got him reading, not least because he showed little interest in it until Age of Empires arrived. Plus it put him onto history in a very big way, an interest he still maintains today.

      We’ve still got the original disc. We still play it, 10 years later. Given a few widescreen patches, this game could last forever.

  2. Sarlix says:

    I like that!

    Excellent read Sir Caldwell – Thanks.

    And now for some music: link to

  3. Inigo says:

    AoE II taught me that medieval kingdoms could summon armies of nigh-invulnerable building destroying apes by screaming “FURIOUS THE MONKEY BOY” repeatedly.

  4. crainey92 says:

    The first AoE made me a gamer, was the only game I really played when I was young. I had just started Secondary school, I made friends with my now closest friends whom I talk to everyday by striking conversation about AoE, if it had not been for this conversation I may or may not be an enthusiastic gamer. We were discussing past times with gaming the other day and one of my friends mentioned that in his first secondary school he attended before ours he and a group of classmates organised a big LAN party in one of the computer rooms featuring Age of Empires, we have had Halo LAN’s in school since and more recently League of Legends.

    I also have a keen interest in history and study history at A Level in my school, AoE could also be responsible for this interest.

  5. JibbSmart says:

    I never got into the campaign, but this game was a huge part of my upbringing. The first time we had more than one computer in our house, Dad set up LAN and then looked online (on dial-up) for good games for LAN. He bought AoK and the Conquerors expansion and didn’t tell my brothers and I it had arrived until he’d practiced it for 2 weeks.

    We played some campaigns to learn how to play, but then it was Feudal Rush after Feudal Rush, Spearmen versus Militia, Tower Rush, Castle Rush, so many houses, so many Samurai, a decent chunk of War Elephants… In only 6-way games would anyone reach Imperial Age without having already figured out who was going to win.

    We’d find replays of fights between the best online and study their techniques.

    We’d fight over the manual and work out strategies on paper.

    Mum banned us from talking about Age on Sundays so she could get some peace from those discussions.

    AoK + Conquerors made me more than any game, but for different reasons.

    • Dozer says:

      Yes. This. AoEII (and the Medal of Hono(u)r: Allied Assault Multiplayer Demo) were the only two games we could ever get to work over our cobbled-together home LAN. If we were lucky we’d have three PCs in the house capable of playing those games. Good times. I have five younger siblings – all of them could play AoE to some extent.

      I was absolutely staggered, this week, when I was able to share a directory on one housemate’s Windows XP system and be able to access it from her Windows 7 Starter netbook with less than three day’s semi-random hammering of Network Configuration pages and NetBIOS settings and manual IP addresses. Only took fifteen minutes! It never used to be like that. AoEII had enough archaic network connection options that we could generally get a game working using one of the older protocols, and we loved it for that!

      Also, if I remember right, you could run it in multiplayer client only mode without the game CD, and it didn’t hate you and refuse to play if all the PCs had installed the game from the same disk. That was also ace.

      Fond memories of hiding a line of cavalry just beyond the line of sight of my brother’s village. I could see what he was up to because I had a scout cavalry in the mix, but he didn’t know they were there until I sneaked in after his army had gone to attack me. And the match where we agreed in advance – no trebuchets! So I build bombard cannons in the endgame XD XD XD

      Come to think of it, after not very long at all they all refused to play against me because I would always win…

  6. LimEJET says:

    I never actually played AoE 2. I prefer the first one. Mostly because it feels more “pure”, since it’s one of the first games I ever played seriously.

    I remember seeing AoK for the first time and thinking “Wow, the graphics!”

    • moxpearl says:

      You prefer the first one … yet you have never played the second one ??


    • Heliocentric says:


    • Bhazor says:

      No AOE II is definitely the better game,

      It has the Scottish in it for a start. Complete with the prerequisite hilarious accents.

  7. Brumisator says:

    Good read!

    I for one learned most of what I know about norse mythology from Age of Mythologies. An under-appreciated gem, I think.

    • SkiDesignS says:

      Damn right. AoE was such an amazing game, especially the Titans expansion!

  8. westyfield says:

    AoE2 was probably the first game I played, and definitely the first RTS I played. I played it obsessively, and I think it sparked my interest in history as well. The cheatcodes and soundtrack are ingrained in my mind to this day.

  9. NauravaNakki says:

    Loved this when I was younger, gotta say that it looked much better back then :)

  10. Pointless Puppies says:

    I love Age of Empires II. That said, in my childhood it was kind of an enigma, because I only got my hands on the leaked alpha version (anyone remember that?) and didn’t get the real deal until about 3 years later. When I got the real one, though, it was glorious.

    Too bad Age III never amounted to the same awesomeness.

  11. McDan says:

    In soviet Russia you make game!
    Wait a minute…

  12. omicron1 says:

    And yet its subject (Medieval Europe) is somehow so much less enticing to me than that of Age of Empires’ tales of Egypt, Greece, and ancient China. I was playing through the tutorial campaign again recently (having acquired a slightly-bent-up boxed copy of the original game that says “Designed for Microsoft Windows ’95” on the side – man, those big game boxes are nostalgic nowadays) and noticed that one of the missions, dealing with the Egyptian campaign into Canaan, accurately (for its engine capabilities) depicts the Israelite shephelah (low hills and canyons). That impressed me more than any of the knights-in-shiny-armor machinations of its successor, and my fondest wish is that Microsoft would turn around and do right by the original game’s setting, in a proper successor to Age of Empires 3.

    I miss finding Discoveries and ancient Stonehenges, and wheeling around blue carts that you daren’t touch lest your face melt, darnit!

  13. OldRat says:

    Tsk, Tsk, mister Caldwell. That “balaclava” is called a coif. Specifically, a mail coif.

  14. Garret says:

    “Elephants (check)
    Castles (check)
    Boat-murder (check)”

    Was this supposed to make me think of the epic Dwarf Fortress tale of Boatmurdered?

  15. Miked says:

    Great piece Brendan, it brought back some great memories. Seeing the sports car photo made me laugh! Ah, I’d forgotten about that one…

  16. Ateius says:

    Oh hey, one of these pieces deals with a game I played!

    I loved – still love – AoE2. The history stuff aside (I am a history nerd) it was the first game to, well, wean me away from cheating. In prior RTS’s (Warcraft and Starcraft, basically) the resource management was too boring and tedious for me to be bothered with. Cheat! Resources! Sometimes, God Mode! But in Age of Empires, the resource management was just deep enough to draw me in, while still being shallow enough to let me deal with it in my noobish way. Suddenly cheating was the boring part, and a deep and abiding love for strategy games (beyond the previous fascination with the spectacle of “the mans fall down”) was born.

    Thanks, Age of Kings.

  17. I_have_no_nose_but_I_must_sneeze says:

    This game devoured my dad. When I lived with my parents, our house was often filled with the sounds of sheep, the cries of agony of wounded men and various taunts such as “Start the game already!” and “All hail! King of the losers!”. In fact, to this day this is still the only game he plays.

  18. pipman3000 says:

    gaming made me and it can unmake me.

  19. mod the world says:

    That was an interesting read. I hope this series is continued next week from a different perspective:
    “Gaming made me an unemployed high-school dropout.”

  20. Jambe says:

    If this were available on Steam I would purchase it just to have it in my library despite the fact that I still own the game on disc (and the expansion). Still confused as to why Microsoft isn’t selling it on their new Marketplace. I bought AoE III from them when it was a dime (was it a dime?) but I’d still rather have bought it on Steam. Consolidation, dammit. Microsoft is kinda stupid not to be selling their back catalog on Steam in my estimation.

    Nice article Mr Caldwell. Always fun to stroll down memory lane.

    • Zaphid says:

      The game doesn’t play well with modern systems, the colors are wrong and no wide screen patch is a pain

    • Adriaan says:

      If on Vista, you can often fix the colors by either alt-tabbing or changing the resolution (you might need to do it a few times). On Windows 7 it can be fixed by changing the Theme to Classic (the old gray windows theme) and opening (and leaving open) the resolution adjustment screen on your desktop.

      The new Windows Aero theme doesn’t really work well with the limited palette of old games, usually.

    • Theory says:

      You can have Windows do all of that itself through the program’s compatibility settings.

      Like a lot of people here, AOK both got me into gaming and gave me an interest in history. I never touched multiplayer though: I was 100% into playing and creating custom campaigns. Tamerlane, Ulio, A Man Alone…and of course my own, a medieval tribute to Ground Control. Good times! :)

      Edit: holy shit, AOKH hasn’t changed at all! And it’s still so active!

  21. DarioSamo says:

    AoE 2 is the first game that made me incredibly interested on map making. I used to dazzle hours and hours with it, making campaigns and whatever came up to my mind. Sadly, barely anyone played them, but it was still a good kick to see that I liked creating “games” so I could play them later…

    Regarding multiplayer, I’m unable to have some fun since my friends can’t take my Flush + building on their base for more than some minutes. :( I can’t control myself of not doing that!

  22. Wolf Hongo says:

    Woo, Age of Empires 2! I was 8 when this game came out. I told my mom it was educational and I’d be able to learn about historical events we didn’t cover in school. I didn’t really learn that much about history (Cobra Cars leave no history to be recorded), but I did substantially improve my typing skills.
    cheese steak jimmy’s cheese steak jimmy’s cheese steak jimmy’s cheese steak jimmy’s robin hood robin hood robin hood robin hood robin hood rock on rock on rock on rock on rock on rock on lumberjack lumberjack lumberjack lumberjack lumberjack

  23. Pliqu3011 says:

    For this game, it’s easier to count my playtime in days than in hours.
    I liked the first (first game I ever played btw :) ) and LOVED the second. Too bad AoE 3 was such a letdown, it just didn’t feel like AoE anymore. I finished the campaign, uninstalled it, bought the expansion (even more of a disappointment) and then deleted it from my hd again. I doubt I will ever install it again.
    Also, a quest for the fountain of youth?! I had a facepalm-mark on my forehead for three days after I first heard one of the characters say that.

  24. The Pink Ninja says:

    Oh man, I recognised that mission the moment I saw that screen-shot

    Last mission of the Saracen’s/Saladin Campaign where you have to build a wonder and defend it from seven crusader states.

    “Geonese Warships sighted!”

    • The Pink Ninja says:

      Except that army is in Blue and Saladin’s Turk’s were in green…


      It was still a great mission

  25. Silver says:

    heh, just held my first home lanparty on friday evening (im ill and can’t go out with my bros n hos)
    there was my 10 y.o sister + me playing AoEII til 1am. pretty neat , I really liked this game back ago, those cannoneers are the most epic unit imho :)

  26. Lightbulb says:

    Write more here. Made me laugh out loud several times. :)

    • JB says:


      “It screamed “This. Is. LEARNING.” Then kicked you down a well.”

      Moar pls.

  27. Davie says:

    This was the first game I ever owned, and my god I loved it. Great bit of writing; really sums up the best things about it.

  28. malkav11 says:

    I always felt the franchise lacked flavor and personality. Even in Age of Mythology, where one literally flings divine power around and summons hellbeasts from the darkest corners of major mythological settings, it never felt like I was doing anything more exciting than I was in Age of Empires with its staid historically inspired unit types. It was a game of numbers mashing on other numbers, bookended by dry historical summaries, where games like Starcraft and Command & Conquer had high (somewhat silly, in C&C’s case) drama and carnage.

    Edit: The DS games, which are basically isometric Advance Wars with research and a heck of a lot more unit variety, are pretty rad though.

    • Dozer says:

      Did you play the Star Wars derivative? It were hilariously not-at-all-different from AoEII. Same resources (different names), same buildings, flying units added, and all the unit characteristics swapped around into something loosely Star Wars-y. Monks gained melee attacks and became Jedi, archers got tougher and became stormtroopers . Cavalry became tanks. The battering ram and trebuchet remained unaltered – very WTF.

  29. Premium User Badge

    Joshua says:

    Age of Empires 2 beats Starcraft in… just about everything. Yet somehow, everybody likes SC better :(./

    • Thants says:

      They’re very different games. There’s room enough for both of them.

    • jefftron says:

      There is? Seems to me the AOE franchise is dead while Starcraft is more popular than ever.

    • Nova says:

      That’s not directly because of StarCraft. There is generally less room for traditional RTS’ these days and Ensemble messed it up with AoE 3 (link to

    • Xocrates says:

      As someone who loves both Sc and AoEII, let me say that I agree with thant.

      The problem is that no other Age of… game reached the heels of the glorious AoE2, though Age of Mythology was a valiant attempt.

      And of course SC being significantly faster paced, varied, and more casual friendly might have helped.

  30. Jimbo says:

    AoE3 was a steaming pile of shit though. I remember something went horrifically wrong during my AoE2 installation, eventually forcing me to nuke my PC back to factory settings, yet it was *still* a better experience than playing AoE3.

    AoE1 and Mythology were pretty great too. The AoE1 box even has a guy with an icecream on his head! That beats a metal balaclava any day of the week.

  31. pizza65 says:

    Can’t believe nobody else has thought to bang on about Cossacks, and how much better it is. Bigger maps, huge armies, more detailed economy, nice animation, it’s brilliant. It lacks some of the weirdness that made AoK so much fun the first time you played it, I admit, but it is a much better *game*.

    I read somewhere on the internet that the comparison between Age of Kings and Cossacks is like the comparison between Call of Duty and Stalker. Depends what you like.

  32. wootles says:

    I coined the term for this game as Pimps and Hoes, as it was the first game that I could remember that had both female and male peasants. I even remember that being a big deal in one of the previews. Age of pimps and hoes. It was a glorious game, and the byzantines cheap troops were my most favored way to ruling on Microsoft’s Zone Network. Yea, those were the days. This is a game that should have had its own battlenet built within. I bet if it had we would still see its popularity rivaling that of Starcraft.

  33. XDravond says:

    Haa god ol AoE I must have spent hundreds of hours playing it probably first “real” PC game I’ve ever played loved it and still love it just light enough and a from 3 year rating helped in convincing mum into letting me play it, got real sad when i fired up my Win 7 laptop and it didn’t work, lucky me i found a way to play it on that site you have no idea how to use “wink wink” ;-) and some old nostalgia pop up.

    Since AoE II I’ve found any game so easy to plow down so much time (one of very few games i played for about 4 years) so why have it taken them so long to make another AoE (the online version ive seen some talk about hope it will be as good as AoE) don’t get me wrong Age of Mythology and AoE III were great games but not just as good must be the nostalgia spooking….
    /XD out

  34. F33bs says:

    When I was a kid, I remember spawning like 50 Cobra’s to wreak havoc upon everything. That or like 50 petards. God that game was legend.

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      Ah, yes, cheats were more like eastereggs back then, i remember them fondly in the age of empires and early blizzard games. What was that cheat in AoE1 where you got a huge baby on a tricycle swinging a shotgun? that cheat had only 3 letters, and i could spew these out so that they covered the whole screen.

  35. ezekiel2517 says:

    I have some similar feelings. I now enjoy history because of what Age of Empires II started. I played this game almost every day for 2 years and I didn’t even try the multiplayer. This game didn’t just make me a gamer, but it made me a PC gamer. I never looked at my N64 the same way after this.

    Those screenshots make me want to play it again.

  36. Zaboomafoozarg says:

    I loved AoK for the TTC rush. YEAHHHHHHHHHH

  37. Carra says:

    I dabbled with a few RTS games before AOK. But AOK got me playing online for a whole year.
    -> Great campaigns.
    -> Great multiplayer.
    -> A lot of great singleplayer and multiplayer mods.

    For me, one of the best games ever made and often underrated.

  38. PseudoKnight says:

    This is the first game of which I got into the online multiplayer. So many great memories.

    8 “All hail, king of the loooosers!”

    Shout-out to all the forumers at AoKH back in 2000!
    (especially those that migrated to SPSW)

    I could go for a shimo style game right about now. :D

  39. Lord Byte says:

    Best time I had in AOK was Shimo-style! Me and Shimo basically had a community around us (I set up the groups, sites,etc,… Shimo had the idea and the personality :) I did refine the rules a bit (added vassaling and such).
    Basically Shimo style was “Regicide” mode, but everyone sets each-other at neutral at the start. Only ONE person can win, but you could temporarily change stances (ally, enemy, …) That’s the basics. Apart from that you basically role-played (you could do a meeting of Kings, which was dangerous as when your King was killed you lost. If you got wind of a meeting you could send in assassins, you could drop “accidental” tells that seemed like you were talking to someone else, I even started a religion and Holy war in one game,…
    It was awesome! And then there was the vasalling where you’d surrender to a King and you’d send your King to sit in their castle (if you went rogue he could toss the King out where he would get shot by the Castle). If you were clever, quick and lucky you could sometimes even double-cross them and get out of that pickle (cleverly placed trebs, him forgetting to put a wall around the castle)…
    Best time I ever had, and the games would last for hours (longest lasted 12 hours, since most players were US players I could only start past midnight… good times!)

  40. frenz0rz says:

    AoE2 was, alongside Diablo 1 and Doom 2, my first true taste of gaming, at the age of about 9-10. And it was good. What else can I say? I remember frustrating my parents endlessly by playing it before going to school – just a quick skirmish, it wouldnt take long! Ah… and what seeds it has sown for my life a decade later. Here I am, 21, in my last year of university, and I still want my life to be exactly the same; that one quick game before school, the pure excitement and glee of randomly generating a new map, looking forward to nothing but coming home and playing to my heart’s content. I wish the real world were not so tiresome and complicated. But what can one do, eh? Oh, now you’ve got me started…

  41. Bhazor says:

    A fantastic read. I’ll definitely have to read that blog you didn’t link to. So I’ll link it instead.
    link to

  42. Hybrid says:

    I played TONS of this when I was younger, mostly Skirmish, but also dabbling in map making. It’s truly an amazing game and one that furthered my interest in history, allowing me to invision the units and architecture of the game during class when we talked about various civilizations. Probably my biggest influence in becoming a PC gamer and one that everyone should recognize as something important.

  43. Blackberries says:

    It’s my favourite strategy game of all time, I think. I still play it today when I can. I’d take this over Civilization, much as I adore that too.

    I honestly think it played a big part in igniting my love of history, which I now study at university. I would happily sit just reading through the history section, or watching the lovely sequences between campaign missions explaining what was happening. A 10-year old me knew more about Saladin, Genghis Khan and Attila than my mum. Not to mention its being a wonderful strategy game in its own right; I’ve still not mastered it.

    Thank you, AoE II.

  44. Real Horrorshow says:

    AOE 2 is one of my first PC games ever (along with Unreal Tournament, can’t remember which was first).

    Classic, classic stuff. Spammed samurai ftw.

  45. Arvind says:

    The campaigns in AOE2 and Conquerors were some of the bestest RTS fun I have had ever. Me and my friends play it to this day on LAN.

  46. bill says:

    I never played this. I think I played a demo once. But for me, the idea of an RTS game with MORE THAN ONE resource has always been a bit of a nightmare. I guess I always enjoyed the combat and tactics over the resource gathering and base building.

    But, maybe now that i’m older, this actually sounds really interesting now. Whereas i once wanted realistic battles, now the idea of learning some history, some diplomacy or building an empire with trade and resources sounds much more interesting.

    With this new approach in mind, i finally bought a Civ game recently. Now i just need time to try it.

  47. TheCentralGovernment says:

    Six of us have played this (3v3) for two straight days (interrupted by only classes and meals) sustained by insane defences, trade carts and market trade …

  48. Crimsoneer says:

    The fact that Zimbabwe was once called Rhodesia was one of those perls of wisdom I was incredibly proud of knowing back when I was 13 :)

  49. cw8 says:

    Played AOE2 for a little more than 2 years. Never really got tired of it.
    Learned more medieval history from it more than any book.

  50. terry says:

    Great article. Fond memories of AoE2 flooding back. I think the only thing that bugged me was the combat focus of the games – I always wanted to be a peaceful king and oh god leave me to grow my fields :( how do fields even go on fire like that oh god now the ballistas