The point of the game is to shepherd your fledgling civilisation to world domination, using war, trade and exploration. You start with the bare minimum to get going, and you've got to balance your people's needs with your desire to be a little Napoleon. The Age of Kings Gold Edition gives you a ton of new units and technologies to enrich your strategic options. Each scenario is placed accurately within history, but you're also free to create your own.
The multiplayer format is robust, allowing up to nine players to share a world. When battles commence, you can take control of every aspect of your workers and soldiers, sending them running for shelter in the town centre, ordering them to defend a watchtower, or setting their combat stance to aggressive for free-for-all sword smashing fun. When you're not fighting, find your idle peasants with a mouse click and send them back to work chopping trees, rounding up sheep, fishing or mining gold and stone.
As you acquire more resources, you can improve your soldier's gear and skills, start to trade more efficiently and make life better for everyone in your empire. You can choose from 13 groups to manage, from the Japanese to the Teutons and Franks. Each group has unique units and special characteristics, making this a game that changes every time you play it.
The gold edition includes the Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion and will let players wage war on an epic scale with all new civilisations, unique units and technologies and campaigns based on the infamous conquerors such as Attila the Hun, El Cid.
If all this sounds complicated, it is. New players may be intimidated by the range of choices, but the teaching scenarios are very helpful in conquering the controls. Age of Empires II is a sophisticated, gorgeous successor to the wildly popular original. It's a real feather in Microsoft's cap--a world-building game that will hold you captive. --Therese Littleton
However, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty what all of this is done for is so you prepare a lean, mean fighting machine to wage more upon your enemies. The range of units that you can create is excellent and varies with each civilisation - which is neat. Each unit can be upgraded and modified so that when you finally feel up for some aggro you can assemble a pretty fine fighting force.
I played this on a Powerbook 1.42Ghz with 2GB of ram and found it ran pretty well overall. However, if I set 200 as the extent of units allowable then when there was a major battle on there would be a significant slow down of the system and occasional crashes. This could become irritating and it made little difference if I set the detail lower in preferences.
Also, when controlling units it was annoying that I had to select new units to 'stand ground' because otherwise they would roam around the map chasing scouts or other enemy units. This feature is in advanced unit commands and really should be on as default. There is also no way of grouping, say, your archers together so when mounting an attack you conduct ranged attacks and then charge with your cavalry, it's a bit of an oversight I think. Finally, building walls and battlements over uneven ground can result in unsecure perimeters, so be careful!
These quibbles aside, I spent many an hour killing huns and burning cities to the ground and multiplayer is a joy. One of the best stratagy games on the Mac: recommended!