Flash Friday: Age of War 2

So, its been a while. If you remember back to ages ago, I reviewed the first Age of War game before the massive stream of Medieval Cop and Medieval Shorts reviews. Now, I’ve finally finished the entire Medieval Cop series, I can move onto the second game in the series, the aptly named “Age of War 2”. The first Age of War is considered a classic. Back in the infancy of online gaming, Age of War was known by pretty much everybody. However, it can’t be denied that it had quite a few flaws and although it can still be enjoyed today, it doesn’t hold up that well considering how large online gaming has grown. Of course, if a game is popular, it almost always warrants a sequel and Age of War not so quickly got one almost two years later. So, does it hold up better than the original? Is it much more fun to play than the original? Are the various changes good or bad? Join me, today, as I look at the sequel to one of the most popular games on the Internet: Age of War 2.

The most striking difference between Age of War 2 and its predecessor is the upgrade in graphics. By no means, the first game didn’t have horrible graphics but there was this jaggedness to it that hasn’t been kind to it in the almost a decade since it was released. Age of War 2 is much more pleasing to the eye yet doesn’t stray far from the distinctive style of art that made the first so recognisable. Units also have a lot more details and have a much wider variety of body types as you can see in the picture above. The UI is also a lot cleaner, bigger, more practical and overall just a lot easier to use than the first game’s UI. There is also a game speed button and an options menu which are a nice and welcome addition albeit a small one.

As well as that, there are several changes to gameplay too. One of the most obvious changes is the addition of upgrades in the top-right corner. You can upgrade the amount of gold you get from enemies, get an age-specific upgrade to unlock a new unit and the rest of them simply allow you to increase the damage, range and defence of certain types of units. Although the upgrades are straightforward, they add a bit more room for different types of strategies and plans of attack which are sure to please those of you that love being tactical. Needing to pay for an upgrade so you can buy the best unit is an interesting design choice to say the least. It means you have to use up more resources before you can start spamming the best unit like I do(I’m not very strategical).

Unfortunately, there are also some more questionable design changes, mainly to do with special abilities. First of all, it’s starling how samey all the specials of each age are. Almost every single one is just ‘projectiles rain from above’ whether it be meteors or arrows, the only real difference is the damage. The first game suffered from the same problem but at least there was the smallest bit of variety with the Renaissance Age unit buff. As well as that, experience is now also used up whenever you activate your special attack rather than just being used to evolve to the next age. On the one hand, this means that you need to think more about whether it will be worth using it or not. On the other hand, the enemy can also now use specials and it doesn’t look like it has any effect on their invisible experience meaning you may want to just completely ignore specials altogether or risk falling far, far behind in technology.

I have mixed feelings about the enemy AI being able to use specials. In a sense, I suppose it makes the battle fairer and give you a sense of being on equal ground. However, it is incredibly frustrating whenever the enemy uses their special and completely wipes out your entire army in a single fell swoop without losing any experience. It’s no fun to save up money, deploy a massive battalion of units and then instantly lose them all to the enemies’ special. Especially at the start, the enemy seems to activate their special shortly after you deploy your first unit(even though you start on cooldown) meaning my first game ended as quickly as it started after I spent all my money on an attack force and lost them all 10 seconds later leaving me with no gold and no way to kill enemy units forcing me to restart. This was made even worse by the fact that the music seems to glitch; stop playing completely and never start up again which bugged me so much I had to refresh the page to get back the epic, classic tune that accompanies the game like an old travelling companion.

On top of this, the difficulty curve-at least on medium difficulty-is strange and flip-flops faster than a planet that completely changes its gravity every ten minutes. At the start of the game I was barely surviving, pushing back the enemy no more than a minuscule pixel before they finished off all my units and I had to pay for more. By the 4th age though, I quickly gained traction and was eventually more than two ages ahead of them.

It may seem like I’m tearing into this game like it’s the next E.T. but it’s really not a bad game despite all its flaws. The classic, simple but satisfying gameplay is still there and it makes just as much good changes as bad changes. A graphics update means it holds up better in the visual department, the units are more different both in terms of looks and abilities and the upgrades give a lot more opportunity for unique strategy. Besides, the memorable, epic war sounding tune is still there. Age of War 2 takes two steps forward but also two steps back. It both improves and worsens, it is both good and bad in some aspects and it evolves as much as it devolves. If you’re a fan of the first game then you’ll still enjoy its sequel just as much and I suppose that’s all we really needed.

Pros:

  • Free
  • Unit variety
  • Graphics improvement
  • Epic war tune
  • Simple, satisfying, strategic gameplay
  • More room for unique tactics
  • Addition of options and game speed button

Cons:

  • Bad difficulty curve
  • Changes to specials are questionable at best
  • Literally no special variety at all
  • Short and little replayablity

Verdict: 7.5/10

Play the game here: http://www.maxgames.com/play/age-of-war-2.html

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