|Borrowed Copyrighted Content|
Age of Empires II: Age of Kings (1999) is a historically based real time strategy game developed by Ensemble Studios and published by Microsoft Games. While it's predecessor, Age of Empires, was set in Ancient times, AoE2 is set in the Middle Ages and covers a wide selection of cultures - thirteen in all. These civilizations share four sets of graphic styles, and their character is revealed by the way they play on the field. AoE2 has a decidedly outdoor feel and a nice sense of "realism". AoE2's expansion, The Conquerors adds four new civilizations and some extra historical characters (Attila the Hun and the Aztecs spring to mind), but unfortunately I just haven't had time to get around and look at it. Many of the major AoE2 fan sites will help you out there.
Although still pretty much a Warcraft style RTS, AoE2 nonetheless feels less stylized through art direction and use of scale: castles are huge, while mines and houses are small, and the human and animal characters themselves are properly sized and proportioned. It has the clean cut, mainstream look you would expect to see in a Microsoft product (no airbrushed chrome, top heavy cyber chicks or nasty psycho killers) and even goes as far to be "educational" (and thus, family safe!) by adding all sorts of historical details and facts on the CD. Oddly enough, I can't think of a single person who's actually bothered to read any of it, although there are a few fan sites on the web that have included these details in their info sections on the game.