First, an apology to Hidden Path. Back in 2013 I slated the first remaster of AoE 2, Age Of Empires 2 HD, as being little more than a widescreen upgrade for the game. Granted it did have Steamworks integration for multiplayer, but on launch the game was plagued with bugs and desyncs and so at the time I didn’t see the long-term value of an AoE 2 with a modern multiplayer backend. Hidden Path kept at it, however, fixing those bugs and shoring up the game and providing a base for another studio, Forgotten Empires, to release their own campaigns and civilization packs. A couple of years back I discovered that Age Of Empires 2 now has a thriving esports community with some of the highest viewer counts on Twitch during major tournaments; I have enjoyed watching many of those matches myself, and that’s something that probably wouldn’t have happened without the efforts of Hidden Path and Forgotten Empires1. However, while Age Of Empires 2 has certainly aged more gracefully than several of its contemporaries, there was no getting around the fact that the HD Edition was just that – it upped the resolution while doing nothing to update the underlying look of game, and that’s been a bit of a problem as the modern obsession with 4K displays and 144Hz refresh rates intensifies. Given that Microsoft is going through one of its more consumer-friendly phases at the moment, and given that there’s a proven audience for Age Of Empires out there, it’s not that surprising that they’ve taken a stab at a full remaster with Age Of Empires 2: Definitive Edition.
What is a little surprising, though, is just how outstandingly good this remaster is.
- I will be honest and say that I’m having difficulty figuring out who exactly is responsible for what. Hidden Path did the base HD Edition and Forgotten Empires were involved in the new expansion campaigns, but there’s also a third studio credited on all of the releases, Skybox Labs, who are part of Microsoft Game Studios and who appear to do support work for a lot of Microsoft games. If I had to guess I’d say Skybox took over responsibility for maintaining the HD Edition from Hidden Path at some point while Forgotten Empires developed the new content. ↩