As one of the definitive strategy experiences of the '90s--right up there with Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun and Roller Coaster Tycoon--Age of Empires II was, and continues to be, one of the most immersive, challenging and well-balanced games of its kind. The single-player campaigns not only put you in the shoes of great medieval leaders, but also made you want to learn more about their lives. The AI fought tough but fair, and playable civilisations were diverse enough to really let gamers play to their strengths.
With the help of GameCupid's feature-matching wizardry, we have compiled a list of gamesthat are like Age of Empires II, while remaining different enough to offer something new.
The obvious first stop when looking for games like Age of Empires II is to check out other titles in the series, and Age of Empires has plenty to offer in that department.
The original game was set in ancient times, spanning from the Stone Age to the Iron Age. As such, the warfare is relatively simple and somewhat slower paced than in Age of Empires II, but no less engaging. The economy is the most uncompromising of the entire series, with practically no renewable resources at all. This means that in most cases, the player who controls the most resources will win the war. Unit AI and pathfinding are also less sophisticated than in the sequel; a squadron of soldiers will move in the formation of however they happen to be standing at the time, rather than organising themselves into more defensible columns.
Age of Empires III is practically the antithesis to the series' first installment. Set in colonial America, melee warfare has become obsolete and now gunpowder runs the show. This forces a significant change of strategy; whereas cannons and other siege weapons had previously been used largely to hammer enemy walls, now they are an essential part of any land or sea battle, able to either blast apart a tough unit or mow down multiple weak units at once. Resources are now endlessly renewable, and players can call in further supply shipments from their home cities. The campaigns also dump historical accuracy for straight-up fiction, indulging such fantasies as the Fountain of Life, or what might have happened had the Chinese settled America.
Touted as Age of Empires with gods, Ensemble Studios' spinoff series puts a mythological spin on the classic formula.
Taking command of one of three ancient civilisations, players must gather resources to progress through four ages, each of which unlock new options for constructing buildings, raising armies and researching technology.
It isn't just more of the same, however. The addition of gods allows players to tailor their civilisation to their play style, with each major and minor deity providing unique units, technologies and god powers. The new favour resource is also accrued differently for each civilisation, requiring players to factor this into their strategies.
Myth and hero units add new dimensions to the standard "rock, paper, scissors" format of strategy games (e.g., using cavalry to run down archers, infantry to kill cavalry and archers to harass infantry), with myth units dealing extra damage to any human unit, but being vulnerable to hero units. As in Age of Empires II, naval battles--with their own "rock, paper, scissors" format--and siege weapons round out the war chest of offensive possibilities.
Before World of Warcraft consumed our lives and bank balances,Warcraft III was practically synonymous with fantasy real-time strategy.
While it retains the same basic RTS structure of "gather, build, conquer" as Age of Empires II, Warcraft III had plenty of unique features to add new layers to the strategy.
The addition of a day/night cycle makes sneak attacks a viable strategy, as line of sight after dark is significantly reduced. However, day-time adventuring is no safer, with neutral "creep" units that will attack units of any side on sight, to safeguard the precious treasures they guard. Warcraft III also introduced hero units to the series, which gain experience and level up, unlocking new spells and devastating ultimate skills. As such, investing in heroes can often mean the difference between victory and defeat.
A kind of spiritual fusion of the Age of Empires, Total War and Civilization series, Rise of Nations is the game that tries to do it all, and succeeds.
Each of the eighteen playable civilisations starts out in the Stone Age and can progress all the way to modern times. As in Total War, grand strategy is turn-based, while combat plays out in lengthy, highly tactical battles. A solid understanding units' strengths and weaknesses, and the advantages and disadvantages of the various terrains, is necessary to efficiently vanquish your foes.
Civil management is just as important as martial might, however. Citizens--much like Age of Empires II's villagers--are the lifeblood of your civilisation, responsible for constructing and repairing buildings and gathering limitless supplies of resources. With enough of these resources they can construct Wonders, which provide tangible benefits and count toward one of the possible victory conditions. Without careful management of your supply lines or access to enough resources, the war can be effectively decided long before a battle takes place.
Given its science fiction setting, StarCraft II may seem out of place on this list. However, despite all the aliens and advanced technology, at its core this galactic war game has much in common with Age of Empires II.
For example, like most of the games on this list, StarCraft II has a "rock, paper, scissors" format that makes some units strong against one unit class, but weak against another. While there are only two main resources needed to produce units and buildings--compared to Age of Empires II's four--careful management of supplies is every bit as vital for success.
Of course, being a science fiction setting, StarCraft II has a lot to offer that Age of Empires II doesn't. In addition to new unit classes such as air-based units adding layers to the strategy, units also have special abilities such as burrowing, teleportation or rapid movement that when skilfully deployed, can make a huge difference in battle. Terrain and line of sight also require the player's attention, allowing for deadly ambushes and high-ground advantages. Lastly, StarCraft II comes packaged with an editor that lets players create their own maps, mods and campaigns and share them online.