- The Age of Empires team has also announced Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition and Age of Empires IV. I will test them in Parallels Desktop as soon as they are available. Let me know in the comments about your experience with any of the Age of Empires titles or other games that you play (or want to play!) in Parallels Desktop on your Mac.
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As I‘ve written in earlier blog posts, Age of Empires is my most favorite game of all time. So, you can imagine my dismay when Microsoft announced in 2008 that they were shutting down Ensemble Studios, the development studio for all the Age of Empires titles. It would appear that Microsoft has reconsidered the decision to end the Age of Empires line, as they’ve recently released two significant updates—Age of Empires: Definitive Edition and Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition.
These updates improved the graphics quality and also moved to DirectX 11 as the graphics library upon which the games are based. I wrote about Age of Empires: Definitive Edition and Parallels Desktop in an earlier blog post, and in this post I will discuss Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition.
Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition celebrates the 20th anniversary of one of the most popular strategy games ever with stunning 4K Ultra HD graphics, a new and fully remastered soundtrack, and brand-new content, “The Last Khans” with 3 new campaigns and 4 new civilizations.
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I won’t keep you in suspense any longer: because Parallels Desktop™ for Mac moved to Apple Metal and now supports DirectX 11, Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition plays great in Parallels Desktop on my MacBook Pro. You can see this for yourself in this short video:
Video1: Some short gameplay of Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition in Parallels Desktop
Of course, the most important variable in-game performance is the specs for your Mac. The basic specs for the Mac used for Video 1 are shown in Figure 1.
Note: There does appear to be a small bug in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition. Its check for video memory in a Parallels Desktop virtual machine is incorrect, and you may see the dialog shown in Figure 2. Just ignore this warning as it does not appear to affect gameplay at all. (I have reported the bug to the Age of Empires team.)
The Age of Empires team has also announced Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition and Age of Empires IV. I will test them in Parallels Desktop as soon as they are available.
Let me know in the comments about your experience with any of the Age of Empires titles or other games that you play (or want to play!) in Parallels Desktop on your Mac.
Download a free 14-day free trial to try Age of Empires and Parallels Desktop yourself to see how it works for your Mac set up!
The Age Of Empires series is becoming something of a trusty old dog. You've enjoyed its company for a few years now and you've grown comfortable with it. Not only does it look just like all the other dogs in the neighbourhood (no fancy 3D shenanigans from this beast), it's also somewhat predictable, and the last thing you'd expect it to do is learn any new tricks. But let's face it, that's what gives this series its appeal. It might only sport a tired old three-quarter isometric view, but then again you don't have to readapt your old flight-sim keyboard claw just so you can move the game camera and give orders at the same time. And, unlike some young RTS upstarts I could mention, it still has a healthy dose of resource management, which, believe it or not, some players still enjoy.
On the evidence of the beta version we received, The Conquerors sticks firmly to that tried and trusted formula. It would be wrong though to assume that this expansion CD is just more Age Of Kings campaigns given a bit of spit and polish. As was the case with the Rise Of Rome expansion for the original Age Of Empires, Ensemble has packaged up a smorgasbord of enhancements and extras that will have seasoned fans salivating from the moment they read the box blurb.
So What's New?
The most obvious addition, as you'd expect, is a set of four single-player campaigns. While the Age Of Kings campaigns focused very much on the underdog (William Wallace, Joan of Arc, et al), Conquerors turns its attention to some of history's more successful bullies. So this time you get to play with the likes of Attila the Hun and EL Cid. As before, the campaign games are strung together with a series of vignettes outlining the story in a 'Meanwhile, back at the farm...' kind of way. Unfortunately, the actors providing the voice-overs have once again all been hired from the Dick Van Dyke School of Crap Accents.
In Search Of New Civilisations
New campaign games are all well and good, but let's face it, they don't add that much longevity. Fortunately, Conquerors adds some spice to the standard single and multiplayer games by sprinkling in a mix of new races, units and technologies.
One of Age Of Kings's strengths is that the civilisations are distinguished not just by different colour schemes and graphics, but also by the technologies and unit types available to them. This is also the case with the five additional civilisations (Aztecs, Huns, Koreans, Mayans, and Spanish) that are included in Conquerors. Huns for example, on account of their being nomadic and preferring to sleep on their horses (or with them, depending on their personal preferences), do not have the ability to build houses. Instead they begin each game with a pre-set limit to their total population. The net result of these differences is that playing each civilisation is a unique experience, and you really do have to use your brain to take advantage of their strengths or overcome their weaknesses. Of the new civilisations, only the South American races are blessed with new graphics.
What's really going to breathe new life into your multiplayer games though, are the new game types. King Of The Hill places a monument at the centre of the map and has the players ranged round the outside. To win, all you have to do is capture the monument and hold it for 500 years. Simple? Well, not quite. The monument is always difficult to get to in the first place. It might, for example, be on an island in a large expanse of water. So first you have to figure the best way to get to it. Then defending it isn't quite as straightforward as it might at first I appear either. That's largely because you are not permitted to build in the immediate vicinity of the monument, so you can't simply capture it and wall it off.
The other two new games seem to have been designed for those who love resource management and those who don't. Wonder Race does away with combat altogether, and has everybody living in peace and harmony. Well, almost. There's still something of a competitive spirit among neighbouring civilisations as they race to be the first to build a wonder and win the game. It's all about how quickly you can gather those resources and how well you spend them.
If you're an aficionado of big battles and the Wonder Race game sounds as if it will bore you to tears, then Defend The Wonder was made for you. In this game variation every civilisation begins in the Imperial Age, and all with a ton of resources to encourage rapid build up of forces. One player though, begins in a walled-off area with a wonder at the centre, and has to protect it for 500 years. Meanwhile, the other players are doing their level best to get together some heavy siege machinery with which to break in and spoil the party. Because of the high-tech level everybody starts at and the lack of any need to research advanced weaponry, this game type makes for some truly spectacular battle sequences.
New And Improved
So, you can see that there are a lot of clearly visible additions packed into Conquerors. What is likely to really make a long-term difference to extending the life of AOK are the improvements that have been made under the bonnet. There are 16 major areas of improvement over the gameplay and features in AOK.
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Some of the improvements demonstrate Ensemble Studios' commitment to playing its own games to destruction and ironing out the wrinkles. For example, let's take the situation in which you have grouped together infantry with a heavy weapons platform. How often have you watched in horror when, on first encountering an enemy group, your HWP stupidly joins in the action, wiping out half your own infantry with friendly fire. It's an AI oversight that many RTS designers are guilty of. In Conquerors, siege weapons like Mangonels will hold their fire if they are likely to injure your own troops.
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Speaking of sieges, these become both more realistic and more complex. You can now garrison foot soldiers inside battering rams, which has the dual benefit of giving the ram more oomph and providing your troops with protection during the approach to an enemy wall.
There are some interesting additions to the resource management side of things too. Now, when a villager has finished constructing a building, instead of idly standing around watching everybody else working, he'll set off and perform an action appropriate to that building. So, in AOK you might have set a villager to work chopping trees and subsequently had another villager building a Lumber Camp. Now you simply get the first villager to build the Lumber Camp near the tree line, safe in the knowledge that as soon as he's done he'll begin chopping away.
One major time-saver is that, once you have built a Mill, you can queue farms, so that any you already have will be automatically replanted, even if you are tending to a battle on the far side of the map.
As you can see then, Conquerors stretches the term 'expansion' somewhat. The Age Of Empires series might be a bit of a trusty old dog, but it can still surprise you every now and then by getting itself over a few fences rather than just looking on pathetically at all the younger dogs on the other side. As to whether AOE will finally get itself onto the 3D bandwagon - well, I guess we're going to have to wait for Empires III to find that out.