Age of Empires II and its The Conquerors Expansion are coming back in HD glory and will be landing in the hands of gamers pretty soon. Age of Empires II was recently remastered in HD by Hidden Path Entertainment, the same developers who brought us Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and will be released on April 5 for gamers who pre-ordered and April 9 for everybody else. The HD version of the game will bring back multiplayer (previously axed by Microsoft when they ended the MSN Gaming Zone) via Steam, a graphics update and support for various Steam features, including Steam Workshop. While we’re not expecting graphics to be improved tremendously to levels of Crysis 3 or Tomb Raider (Age of Empires II HD will probably, very likely use the same engine as the original 1999 game with some tweaks), here are 5 things we hope that Age of Empires II HD has upon launch (or will eventually have).
Matchmaking and more than matchmaking
One of the most awesome things I’ve missed for a couple of years, multiplayer, is coming back. It’s hard to profess in words how delighted I am and how many good memories this brings back from all those LAN parties and countless player-versus-player deathmatch games. I’m hoping that we will be given not just the choice of matchmaking for quick and easy searches, but also the freedom to manually select and join specific games from a list of servers.
Custom units, techs and civilizations
With the addition of Steam Workshop which will almost certainly support custom made maps and campaigns, I’m also hoping that we will be able to create custom units and civilizations via Steam Workshop. There has previously been various unit editors that allowed you to edit unit stats and pick from various preset animations and unit sprites in the game, such as Genied, and it would be a huge boon to map/campaign makers (I’ve made a few in my time) to be able to easily tweak and add units, civilizations and perhaps even technologies.
Increased population limit
Age of Empires II multiplayer (especially after The Conquerors Expansion) really spoiled me when they increased the population cap from 75 to 200. Personally, it’s painful to play with such low headroom (though some people will argue that this puts certain strategies to the test)… just try out singleplayer and you’ll know what I mean (75 is the typical limit in the singleplayer campaigns, though The Conquerors did raise this slightly). There’s certainly lots of space in maps and plenty of possibilities to create more chaotic battles in Age of Empires. Perhaps our Pentium processors were limited back in the old days, but with most of us rocking much newer hardware, even on laptops, I don’t see any reason to not raise population limit options up to 300 or even 500 (remember this is a selectable option in the multiplayer lobby; you’re not forced to play in giant 500 pop maps if you don’t want to… just like how there are 4v4, 8v8 and 16v16 choices in certain FPS games).
Improved map editor
The map editor in Age of Empires II was comprehensive but the interface itself was not too user friendly and certain things such as triggers were tedious to implement. Here’s to hoping the HD version will offer an improved map editor, with at least more tooltips for beginners, so we can see more and better community-made maps.
Let’s face it, if you’re not reading this on an Apple machine and/or if you’re not a fan of Macs, at least a couple of your friends probably DO use Macs, some of them as their only computer. It might be a chore for Hidden Path to port the game over to Mac, but it’s been done before by Valve themselves with games such as Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead. It will certainly be appreciated by Mac gamers and PC gamers with friends who use Macs if we could all get along and rush one another’s cities with pikemen and cavalry archers, without having to learn how to Bootcamp Windows first.