Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition – Review
Follow Genre: Real Time Strategy
Developer: Forgotten Empires, Tantalus Media, Wicked Witch
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Platform: PC
Tested on: PC

Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition – Review

Site Score
Good: Strong minor adaptations that are good for the gameplay
Bad: Another edition that's separate, feels overdue in time passed
User Score
(6 votes)
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Rating: 9.3/10 (6 votes cast)

Age of Empires II, one of the most influential games in the RTS genre, turned 20 years old. In 2013 we already saw an HD remaster that got new content over time as well. Because of the anniversary, another remake made its way to the field. Obviously it’s not only time to check this out, but also to see what’s the difference with the 2013 remake.


Age of Empires II originally has the subtitle ”The Age of Kings” which sums up the game pretty well. Every bit of the campaigns that are available is about strong, powerful men and women who either rule lands or rise against oppressors. To some, these campaign stories are the best stories with the textual cutscene in-between each mission. To others, the best stories are all about raising a base camp in a free environment where you are allowed to grow, build, and battle just the way you like it. There’s nothing new compared to the 2013 HD remake.


The first thing you will notice with the downloadable HD texture pack that’s added to the Definitive Edition is that not only the game itself looks more polished in general, but even the menu and overall the user interface is different. It looks way more modern, like a true remaster. Then when looking at the in-game content, you will see the animations seem to be a lot smoother. The sprites and textures didn’t just get a simple update, but you can tell they really looked at how the outlines of the sprites can pop out better and how to create more fluid animations without destroying the original models. Add some (optional) stuff such as extra layers of fog on the map, and the game already feels like a proper remaster.


You know a game does its sound right when you can easily not play it for ten years and still remember the tunes it has. Age of Empires II definitely is one of those games, where each nationality you play with has its own voice set and the background music is incredibly recognizable. This new version does have an “upgrade” to those background tracks though, much like the rest of the game got its tweaks as well. The tracks have been remade into some orchestral versions which just make everything that little bit more fresh, like reinventing the proverbial cherry on the cake by adding some whipped cream as well.


Age of Empires 2 basically needs no introduction as it has been (and still is) a unique take on the Real-Time Strategy genre. You can choose to play the numerous campaigns that track a variety of historical figures such as Joan of Arc where you will take back France from the English, or the conquests of Atilla the Hun. This version of AoE2 includes every expansion that the HD release from some years ago brought with it, and you don’t have to play through every campaign to unlock others as you can instantly decide which one you want to play.

Such small adaptations as opening up all the campaigns seem like nothing, but the game has a lot of them which really feels like a heart-warming fan-service in a way, where the game has been reworked based on player’s critiques and modern times alike (which would also make it better for possible future, yet unlikely console releases). When playing the Skirmish or Multiplayer mode as an example, you might know about AoE2 that you will start with gathering resources and creating villagers. These resources are wood, food, gold, and stone, and at the start, you will mostly need food to progress. This is why, as you grow your base, you will quickly start building farmable squares of land which previously needed to be manually queued to automatically reseed themselves when depleted. Now you got an option at your mill (a food processing building) to toggle automatic reseeding.

This tendency continues in multiple aspects such as smarter troop selection and such viable options that, once veterans get used to them, actually make the game more enjoyable and put the focus on what makes AoE2 unique: going through multiple ages and upgrades with a specific race of people as you try to use your tactical skills to smite your enemies. This also is the biggest reason to buy the definitive edition, but by making it a separate game with separate achievements, it also comes short in this aspect. The game is still the same and one can wonder if it’s passing by the fans who already bought the previous HD remaster and its expansion sets from the last few years. As for now, the owners of those games simply get a 25% discount, which doesn’t feel like a lot.

Everything that the definitive edition has feels like it could have already been included in the previous HD version, but that’s the biggest minor “flaw” to be found. Since Age of Empires 4 is also announced, it’s a safe bet that this definitive anniversary edition of AoE2 will still sell plenty. Some will just buy the game feeling slightly annoyed.


Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition is the same Age of Empires that people got to love, but with some improvements that arguably should have seen the daylight at the last HD remaster. That being said, the improvements work, look, and sound great, and it’s a nice version to have if you want to have Age of Empires at its best or didn’t play the expansion sets yet.

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Rating: 9.3/10 (6 votes cast)
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Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition - Review, 9.3 out of 10 based on 6 ratings

I'm a game designer, developer, and reviewer. I've been reviewing for since 2017.

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