Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion

What can be said of an expansion pack? In the case of Age of Empires II: The Conquerors Expansion, "Hell, yeah!" comes to mind. With new cultures, maps, units, technologies and more, The Conquerors manages to enhance one of the best RTS games around.

The Conquerors improves the existing AOE2 gameplay in a number of ways. First of all, villagers are much smarter. Building walls and getting busy (working not dancing) comes much easier for them. Now, after villagers build a resource structure (like a mill or a mine) they'll immediately start gathering the appropriate resource. The Conquerors adds the ability to queue farms for automatic replanting, allowing for quicker and more efficient development. In addition, naval units now follow the same attack formations as ground units. These simple enhancements make a big difference in efficient gameplay.

Five new civilisations have been added to the mix - the Mayans, Aztecs, Koreans, Spanish and Huns - and each comes equipped with a new unique unit or two. The Aztecs and Mayans have a new Eagle Warrior, a fast ground unit that acts as both scout and infantryman. The Mayan Plumed Archers are quick and very effective in battle, not unlike the Chinese Chu Ko Nu. The heavily armoured Korean Turtle Ship and War Wagons are great for taking down ships and structures. Another great new unit is the Petard, which all new cultures can create from their castles. These units carry barrels of explosives and cause great damage to large structures.

The new campaigns are both challenging and fun. In the El Cid campaign, you must conquer armies, win a trial by combat, and ally with other cultures to succeed in the final battle. You can now relive the great battles of Attila the Hun and lead the Huns to victory over the Romans, Scythians and Persians, or, in the Montezuma campaign, race to capture and protect four ancient shrines. All of these campaigns are a treat after playing the computer in death matches for hours upon hours.

Graphically, The Conquerors Expansion offers new maps, terrain textures, and wildlife to enhance the visual experience. Real world maps such as Texas, Britain and France are now included and all the maps express regional terrain characteristics. You'll march your troops through snow and ice in the higher elevations and explore tropics at lower altitudes. You can now adjust for full-size map screenshots and customise your own random map script. There's little noticeable difference in the sound, although if you let your villagers stray, you may hear the roar of a Bengal tiger pestering them.

Multiplayer and communication elements have been improved. Chat messages are displayed in the players' colours, and you can record chat logs for future reference. The diplomacy interface allows you to see other players' stances toward you and provides improved trading and tribute actions. All these changes help keep up the game's pace and provide more efficient development time.

All in all, The Conquerors Expansion offers a ton of new elements to keep you glued to your screen for hours. Whether playing against the computer or online, The Conquerors improves an already fantastic game.

Product: Age of Empires II: The Conquerors ExpansionDeveloper: Ensemble StudiosURL: www.microsoft.com/games/conquerors/TipsWhen playing the Attila the Hun campaign, collect all the stray horses in advance. Don't eat them, they'll come in handy later!

Garrison your troops in the battering rams when taking on a structure. This increases the speed of the ram and the amount of damage it inflicts.

Queue multiple farms so villagers will automatically replant them while you're busy battling in the field.

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