Age of Empires II Definitive Edition – Our opinion on the Xbox Series X|S version

Iconic episode of the license (and of the strategy genre) if there is one, Age of Empires II offered a return with great fanfare on PC in November 2019, in the form of a Definitive Edition whom we welcomed rather warmly in our columns. A little over three years later, the title is preparing to land on Xbox Series X|S. A port that is scary, since the RTS remains, historically, very linked to computers and their handling.

But don’t panic, the developers have thought of everything. If you are familiar with the PC versions of age of empires, you can connect a keyboard and a mouse to your console. But that’s not all, of course, since the handling has been redesigned to allow those who swear by the controller to find their marks. Don’t believe us? Well let us tell you about this portage which does not lack qualities.

Test conditions: We played this console version for about twenty hours on Xbox Series X. The time to try out the scripted content, complete the tutorials, but also to carry out several solo skirmishes (multiplayer not being not yet available at the time we were testing the game). Note that this article was written by a novice on the series.

learning curve

You have to say what is, Age of Empires II remains a reference in the middle of the RTS, even today. He has known many mods, and his version definitive combines a simply gargantuan content, in terms of available civilizations and possibilities, not to mention the mods. If you are new to the series, and even to the genre more generally, then you will need to go through the tutorial boxotherwise you will quickly be lost.

Tutorials that are provided by the software, and rather well done moreover. If the first minutes are obviously tedious, the time to teach us the fundamentals, the rest is fortunately more playful. This does not prevent this succession of playable guides from lasting quite a long time, too much for the least patient players, who will soon embark on a solo skirmish (or in multiplayer for the more daring).

Which would be a monumental mistake, of course. The learning curve is not easy to measure in the first place, and some players will inevitably be tempted to skip these long didactic sequences. But without sufficient knowledge of the game and its possibilities, impossible to enjoy on Age of Empires II Definitive Edition. And it would be a shame to miss out on the experience if we had any chance of enjoying it.

Is it necessary to remember that Age of Empires II is a strategy game offering you to confront a large number of civilizations? And not only in stupid jousts to the death, although this is what a large part of novices will logically tend towards in the first place. The title offers an astronomical amount of parameters to take into account, modifiable as needed for a game, allowing you to make each skirmish unique.

And that’s good, because despite the different configurable objectives, we would be tempted to think that we always do the same thing in Age of Empires II, despite the change of civilization. But if it is true that a routine sets in once a certain number of hours has been acquired, it is also true that the addictive aspect of its clashes makes it much more enjoyable than it first appears. But also that the learning curve of the mechanics does not stop at the end of the tutorials.

Thus, there are many hours to spend on the software before being sated, which is a great thing. Some players may criticize its too pronounced multiplayer aspect, and the absence of a scripted solo campaign worthy of the name. It has many historical missions, with dialogues and a defined progression, but their interest remains limited. That said, once you put your finger in the gear of his skirmishes, it is difficult to remove it…

PS2 / Xbox Series, same fight?

age of empires ii definitive edition xbox

Everything we have just said, finally, you could learn it by reading an article on the PC version of the game. But what interests us more specifically here is of course its porting on consoles. It is good to remember that Age of Empires II knew, in the year of grace 2001, a PlayStation 2 version. Version with reduced possibilities, it is an undeniable fact, but allowing those who did not have a computer (or not powerful enough) to discover this license apart.

And in good conditions too! Certainly, this PS2 version lacked ergonomics, and the fact that its screen is separated between game space and information (which makes me strangely think of what DOOM and Wolfenstein 3D, who knows why) made the experience less digestible than on PC. That said, everything remained perfectly playable, provided, once again, to put a few hours into the tutorials.

22 years later, the Xbox version is doing immensely better than its elder. Forget this ugly screen, roughly separating action and information, and say hello to an interface that is ultimately closer to what the PC offers. Adapting its very typical menus via wheels of actions and constructions that are very reminiscent of what we find on the console editions of Tropic 6, for example. A shot to take, which works very well once integrated.

The most complicated remains, ultimately, the use of the joystick, which is sorely lacking in precision compared to a mouse. Which would probably have been less of a problem without this rigid isometric view, which sometimes prevents having a clear vision on the ground, despite highlighted elements to help the player find their way around. This is a problem above which we pass quite quickly in solo, since it is still a blow to be taken, but we have no doubt that in multiplayer it will be different.

That being so, there are few complaints about this console version, which sincerely tries to make our lives easier. In addition to its various specific action wheels, it should be noted that there is also one allowing you to send your units to a given point without having to click on it, or that it is possible to quickly sort types of units via the directional cross. It is also possible to select the desired units via the A button which, when pressed for a long time, draws a circle on the ground.

Simple ideas but generally work quite well. And if this is not enough for your taste, there remains, as we told you above, the possibility of connecting a keyboard and a mouse. Something to satisfy everyone, even the most demanding players, or those who know the PC license well, or even play competitively. Too bad we haven’t had a chance to try our hand at multiplayer yet, by the way!

In conclusion

Age of Empires II Definitive Edition remains true to itself in this console version. Its visual aspect has aged well, its soundtrack is still very appreciable, and its content gargantuan. We will welcome the presence of mods (although we have not yet been able to verify which are available), which will add multiplayer content, and perhaps solo. And if we sometimes complain about the inaccuracies due to the joystick, this version is doing admirably.

Better than that, it warns you when the options chosen at the start of the game are likely to alter in-game performance. Which, to our surprise, only happened to us once, during a game that was perhaps too ambitious, with far too many units on the screen, and a map of ridiculous size. We hope the same is true on Xbox Series S, despite the lesser capabilities of this driveless model.

Finally, to whom can we recommend this Age of Empires II Definitive Edition on Xbox? In the first place to any RTS enthusiast of course, not having the PC to run the current tenors of the genre. Nostalgic people too, who will find here a beautiful piece of history, nicely dusted off. Finally, for neophytes, who have here a great way to discover the genre, with a game of great richness, with adapted mechanics, which can quickly become addictive.

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