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The second game in the Age of Empires series, Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings was released in 1999 and lauded as a very improved sequel. With 13 civilizations (Britons, Byzantines, Celts, Chinese, Franks, Goths, Japanese, Mongols, Persians, Saracens, Teutons, Turks and Vikings) it was set during The Middle Ages, from Dark Age Europe to The Renaissance, and has campaigns based on William Wallace, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, Saladin and Barbarossa.
The expansion, Age of Empires II: The Conquerors, has the arrival on America, and includes five new civilizations (Spanish, Huns, Koreans, Aztecs and Mayans), three new campaigns (Attila the Hun, El Cid, and Montezuma) and a campaign made of various historic battles. (Including the Horny Vikings and Medieval Japan).
In 2013, the game received an HD Updated Rerelease, followed by three new expansion packs: The Forgotten, (originally a fan-made mod which adds the Incas, Indians, Italians, Magyars, and Slavs), The African Kingdoms (which adds the Berbers, Ethiopians, Malians, and Portuguese), and Rise of the Rajas (which adds the Burmese, Khmer, Malay, and Vietnamese). Another updated version of the game, dubbed the Definitive Edition, was released in November 2019 with updated graphics and all of the expansion packs, plus a new one, The Last Khans (which added the Bulgarians, Cumans, Lithuanians, and Tatars).
Age of Kings and The Conquerors give examples of:
- Adipose Rex: The King of the Regicide mode.
- All There in the Manual: Each building, technology and unit in the game gets a detailed historical description.
- Anachronism Stew:
- In the Spanish campaign in The Conquerors, El Cid, in the 11th century, enlists the help of Conquistadors... Who in the game take the form of a cavalry unit firing shotguns from horseback.
- At one point in the Attila the Hun campaign taking place in the 5th century, you destroy a Roman city guarded by bombard [cannon] towers.
- Anti-Cavalry: Spearmen and Camels.
- Anticlimax Boss: Once you've reduced China, Persia and Germany to ashes in the Genghis Khan campaign, conquering Hungary turns out to be too easy.
- Arch Enemy: Count Berenguer and Yusuf for El Cid, Cortés and Tlaxcala for Montezuma, Edward Longshanks for William Wallace.
- Arrows on Fire: the Chemistry technology.
- Artistic License: Yes, the Scottish lost the Battle of Falkirk, the Mongols were unsuccessful in Europe, and the Barbarossa campaign ends with a group of crusaders smuggling their dead emperor's body to Jerusalem - an attempt which failed miserably in real life as they didn't manage to preserve the body. But the campaigns wouldn't work with failures. It's clear that the developers know that many aspects are inaccurate.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Genghis Khan, Henry V, William The Conquerer, Harold Hardraade, El Cid Campeador, Atilla, Erik the Red, and numerous others. Averted with the King in Regicide mode, who has absolutely no attack whatsoever.
- Automatic Crossbows: Chu-Ko-Nu.
- Awesome but Impractical:
- The Trebuchets, when used against units. While immensely powerful, they are tragically inaccurate, fire slowly, and have to be manually unpacked and repacked to fire and move, respectively. They are extremely effective against buildings, though, to the extent of being Awesome Yet Practical when it comes to destroying an enemy's defences. The Japanese in The Conquerors have a technology which makes them even more impressive, by firing and (un)packing incredibly fast.
- Petards in The Conquerors, at least most of the time. Available in the Castle Age, and capable of dealing out huge anti-building damage quickly and easily. However, if you're using them around towers or castles, you're gonna lose two or three before they get there, and it's easy to run out of gold before you breach fortifications.
- Awesome Yet Practical: Each civilization has its own unique unit (the Vikings, Spanish and Koreans each have two). Some of them are a bit specialized, while others are very useful.
- Badass Normal:
- The Spanish villagers become outright dangerous once you research their unique technology, Supremacy.
- Any civilization with the "sappers" technology can do this as well, as sappers gives villagers +15 damage against buildings; AI players tend to ignore villagers attacking walls thus making a small group of villagers very effectiev at tearing down walls with this technology.
- Badass Spaniard:
- El Cid Campeador. In-game, it's possible to win almost the entire El Cid campaign by using only the eponymous character and a few monks to convert buildings and capture relics, without ever suffering a single casualty.
- The Spanish villagers can also become these with the Supremacy tech: it boosts their stats enough that they can go toe-to-toe with infantry.
- Baseless Mission: The first scenarios for Joan of Arc and Saladin are baseless all the way through, and several other scenarios start you off with only units and give you a base in the middle.
- The Berserker: The unique unit of Vikings.
- Big Badass Wolf: Ornlu.
- Bittersweet Ending: Most campaigns have one: Many of them (e.g. Joan, Barbarossa and El Cid) end with the title character dead, others make the player know that the final battle was only a Pyrrhic Victory.
- Boring but Practical: Battering Rams and their upgrades. Until you get trebuchets, they're the best way to deal with fortifications, and still useful even afterwards.
- Butt Monkey: The Tadjikistanis in the Genghis Khan campaign. They aren't even your enemies, yet you'll find every time that attacking them is the best way to accomplish your goals.
- Cash Gate: Some scenarios or bonus objectives work like this. Sometimes collecting resources is enough, sometimes one will actually have to deliver them to gain the benefits. Units are also used as "currency" on similar occasions.
- Chess Motifs: Age of Kings's intro, specially the "long version".
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder:
- Henry the Lion betrays the player twice in the Barbarossa campaign.
- King Alfonso in The Conquerors: he has his brother Sancho assassinated, exiles El Cid out of jealousy, calls El Cid back to help with dealing with the Black Guards... and exiles him again.
- Color Coded for Your Convenience: Each player has a color that marks their units and buildings. An option introduced in The Conquerors allows the colors to be changed to reflect the player's diplomatic stances with each nation. The game allows multiple players to share the same color - this is used in the official campaigns to create "subfactions" that have the same color but behave differently.
- Command and Conquer Economy: As in many other real-time strategy games.
- Computers Are Fast: Particularly important with scout units. Expect the computer to have explored most of the map before Castle age.
- Conspicuously Public Assassination: In Genghis Khan campaign, killing the Persian Shah is the most advantageous way to get the war started.
- Construct Additional Pylons: Houses, except for the Huns.
- Continuity Nod: There's a taunt with a pun on the phrase "beat them back to the stone age". It's a reference to the first game:
"I'll beat you back to Age of Empires I."
- Crippling Overspecialization: Every unit has only one attack.
- Critical Existence Failure: Every unit. Defensive buildings lose their ability to hold troops shortly before being destroyed, but otherwise fit into this trope as well.
- Death of a Thousand Cuts: Archers deal extremely little damage against buildings, but with enough arrows, even a castle will come down. Most likely to occur with British longbowmen, who are the only archers that can hit a castle outside its range.
- Deus Ex Machina: The penultimate mission in Barbarossa's campaign has Barbarossa's army marching across enemy territory to join the Crusade. After a long trek, their advancement appears to be blocked by an enemy wall. Then the earthquake kicks in.
- Easy Communication: The formation buttons.
- Edutainment Game: The first purpose of the game is entertainment, but there's plenty of historical information available:
The campaigns in Age of Kings covered historical wars, such as William Wallace's war against England (as the tutorial), Joan of Arc fighting in the Hundred Years' War, Saladin fighting against the Crusaders, Barbarossa forging the Holy Roman Empire, and Genghis Khan's conquest of Asia.
The Conquerors contained campaigns about El Cid, Attila the Hun, and Moctezuma, the last one ending before the Aztecs are actually defeated, plus a series of nonsequential missions covering various historical battles like Agincourt, Hastings, Saechon, the Viking colonization of the Americas, and Honnoji-Yamazaki.
- El Cid Ploy: The final mission in El Cid campaign.
- Enemy Civil War: Happens in some scenarios. On the other hand, many scenarios have the enemies allied with everyone but the player - even with the player's allies who are supposed to be fighting the enemy as well.
- Enemy Exchange Program: The priests can convert your enemies' units. And their priests can convert yours too!
- Escort Mission: Quite a few. The escortees are typically under the player's control and possess adequate combat skills, though.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Historical accuracy demands it in a few occasions.
- The penultimate scenario in El Cid campaign features the Cid defending a small friendly town of Denia from Count Berenguer's massive army. The player is intended to forfeit the town and retreat further towards Valencia.
- The 5th scenario of the Joan of Arc campaign is even worse. You're invading Paris, but it's clear you're pretty much outnumbered from the start and will never survive on your own. So you have to wait for the King's reinforcements which...number only two men. The rest of the mission is pretty much an Escape Sequence, oh, and Joan is captured in the ending cutscene and burned at the stake.
- Pretty much the Aztec campaign in general in The Conquerors.
- The stand alone Japanese scenario begins as a mission to rescue Oda Nobunaga, but he is excecuted before your troops can arrive. (The rest of the mission is a Roaring Rampage of Revenge)
- Final Death: Some unique units trigger your defeat when destroyed.
- Firewood Resources
- French Jerk: Reynald in Saladin's campaign.
- Friendly Fireproof: Averted, carelessly deployed catapults would do as much to your own units as the enemy, sometimes more. Played straight by hand cannoneers and bowmen, though.
- Full Boar Action: Wild boar are entirely passive unless provoked, but they are sufficiently tough that hunting them for food requires multiple villagers (a lone villager hunting a boar will be killed). There's also the Iron Boar in Conquerors, which cannot be harvested by villagers.
- Gameplay Automation: The re-seed farm queue.
- Gender Is No Object: Women villagers.
- Get Back Here Boss: Kushluk in Genghis Khan campaign. He is visiting a weakly defended village - but as soon as the player attacks the village, he will retreat towards his own fort.
- Glass Cannon: Siege weapons.
- Gradual Regeneration: All Hero units and Viking berserkers. Also anyone garrisoned inside a building.
- The Hero Dies: Most campaigns feature the death of their namesakes. Joan of Arc, Barbarossa, Genghis Khan, Montezuma and El Cid die during their respective campaigns while Attila the Hun's death is announced during the campaign's ending cutscene. William Wallace and Saladin survive their campaigns, though.
- Hero Must Survive: Featured in most campaigns.
- Hit and Run Tactics: Used correctly, the horse archers in Age of Kings could whittle down entire armies without taking a scratch, shooting any melee units to death before tackling the now outnumbered archers. Combined with siege weapons and monks or missionaries, this took a Fragile Speedster force and made it into a Lightning Bruiser army from hell. Interestingly, there was an upgrade called Parthian Tactics in that game, though all it did was improve the armour of your horse archers. Naturally, the Mongols excel at this, and have a horse archer special unit, and it was one of the reasons of why they were such efficient conquerors. Hit-and-run horse archers were just unfair back then, and would still be a viable tactic today against anything short of a fleet of attack helicopters. This strategy works even better with spanish Conquistadores.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Petards and Demolition Ships. The point of the units are to die, but do lots of damage in that death.
- Horse Archer: The preferred tactic of a few Asian civilizations.
- Hunting Accident: The first mission in the Attila campaign in The Conquerors is to use this to off his brother Bleda to achieve leadership over the Huns. If you don't, it will be Bleda who tries to finish Attila, albeit with the possibility of escape.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Most ranged units have no difficulty hitting targets behind walls and buildings.
- Insurmountable Waist-Height Fence: Almost all forests in the game are impassable until chopped down.
- Isometric Projection
- Just a Stupid Accent: Practically all of the dialogue in the game is written and spoken in the installation language, and pronounced with exaggerated accents fit for each character.
- Large Ham:
- The narrator of the William Wallace tutorial in Age of Kings
"Build ten more... woooooaaaaad rrrraiderrrs!"
- The Genghis Khan narrator is also quite hammy
"The great Khaaan. GENGHIS KHAN!."
- La Hire from Joan of Arc campaign.
- The Egyptians in the Saladin campaign really overreact.
"YOU WILL NOT ENTER CAIRO!"
- Leave No Survivors: This is often necessary. Even if the player manages to destroy the entire enemy fortress, a lone villager working at a remote mining camp can use the resources stored in Hammerspace to restart the entire civilization.
- Level Editor: Perhaps famously, one of the most extensive, yet easy to use. They could literally be used to make a game within a game, thanks to the complex trigger system.
- Lightning Bruiser: Knights, in general. Their high cost mitigates their possible Game Breaker potential.
- MacGuffin: The Relics. Everybody wants them, because they produce gold and can even win the game for the player who collects them all.
- Mayincatec: The game features only Maya and Aztecs as separate civilizations. In the Montezuma campaigns, different states such as Tlacopan and Tlaxcala exist as enemies or allies, but each one of them obeys either the Aztec or Maya tech tree.
- Mercy Rewarded: Happens in El Cid's campaign - the Black Guards, despite being enemies with El Cid, reward him with religious technologies if El Cid spares their mosque. Since the mosque is a practically useless decorative building, there is no reason not to spare it. Another example of rewarded mercy would be to spare an enemy player's docks or markets for trading.
- Mighty Glacier: Persian's War Elephants and Teutonic Knights.
- Misplaced Wildlife: Age of Kings improves it by substituing them with more wide ranged animals such as hawks, deer, wolves, sheep and wild boars, and the sequel The Conquerors introduces Mesoamerican maps with jaguars, turkeys and javelinas as substitutes of the lions, gazelles and elephants featured in the first game.
- Money for Nothing: Gold can be acquired indefinitely in two ways: using a monk to deposit a relic in a monastery or trading with friendly (or even hostile) markets and docks.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: La Hire.
- Narrator All Along: The guy in the tavern narrating the Barbarossa campaign was Henry The Lion.
- Nerf: In the first game, catapults and ballistas were the main siege weapons. In the sequel, they're renamed (Mangonel/Onager and Scorpion, respectively) and demoted to decent (but very situational) units, while Rams and Trebuchets replace them.
- Furthermore, in Age of Kings, Teutons had a civilization bonus that significantly increased the range of their Town Centers. This allowed a Teuton player to immediately destroy their original Town Center, build another one just out of range of the enemy Town Center and use it to destroy the enemy base. This was perceived as a Game Breaker, and was later nerfed so the Teuton town center bonus only increases line-of-sight distance, not range.
- Averted with Koreans, where the cannon towers still has ridiculously long range after research, making a line of Korean cannon towers nigh invulnerable too almost all attacks, even the often out of range British longbow.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: You'll occasionally hear an NPC in the Saladin campaign who sounds suspiciously like the narrator of the William Wallace campaign.
- Protection Mission: Plentiful in campaigns - most campaigns feature at least one protection mission. Appears in multiplayer as well - constructing a Wonder or collecting all relics essentially makes the rest of the game a protection mission. This is the entire point of Defend the Wonder - multiplayer mode.
- Purely Aesthetic Gender: From this game onwards, a town center told to produce a villager will randomly make either a male or a female. Males and females do exactly the same work.
- Reinventing the Wheel: Technologies are not saved between the scenarios - not even the ages. Society may easily devolve from "Imperial age" to "Feudal age" between scenarios.
- Religion Is Magic: Monks can convert enemy warriors and heal their own forces very fast. Montezuma's campaign takes this a bit further - in one mission, a mysterious, unidentified voice grants the player's jaguar warriors tenfold hitpoints if a large enough group is delivered to a certain ruined temple.
- Ridiculously-Fast Construction: Par for the course for Real Time Strategy. For example, A villager can fill a gap in a town wall by starting construction on a new segment (read: hammering on the ground) for a few seconds, at which point the new wall will be strong enough to seriously impede regular enemy units. Even if it is only partially built, enemies will either have to spend a long time tearing the wall down (taking much more time than it took to construct) or rely on siege engines (only available from the Castle Age) to clear the way for them. A Feudal Age army can be effectively stopped by having villagers half-build a wall along its entire length before the enemies can get around it.
- Rule of Fun:
- Crossbows in the game are a strict upgrade to normal bows, dealing more damage and having more range. In real life, crossbows would be much slower to fire but could penetrate knights' armor well.
- In the second last scenario of the Montezuma campaign, the Aztecs can gain the ability to use cavalry and cannons by capturing Spanish horses and gunpowder respectively. The scenario notes flat out state that this would never have happened in Real Life and was included simply to provide a fun gameplay gimmick.
- Scripted Event: Lots of them in campaign scenarios. Mission failures when heroes die, enemy ambushes in abandoned houses, an enemy offering to join the player in exchange of money, the tournament in El Cid campaign...
- Shame If Something Happened: the very point of a scenario in Attila the Hun's campaign against Constantinople.
- Shoot the Medic First: Priests and missionaries.
- Shoot the Messenger: Happens to Barbarossa's Italian enemies in the Barbarossa campaign. Instead of shooting, he has all but one of them blinded - the last one only has his nose cut off so he can lead the rest of his party back.
- Shout-Out: There's a Saladin mission in which you get to kill the master of the Knights Templar. When you do, he says this:
- Siege Engines: Catapults, ballistas, battering rams, and trebuchets.
- Silent Protagonist: William Wallace and Joan of Arc, plus Attila the Hun and El Cid Campeador in The Conquerors.
- Speaking Simlish: This series gaves a nod to this by having two preset voice chat commands taken from the first game, one of which is the sound made when a priest tries to convert one of your units. Most units have soundbites of their native languages, though.
- The Starscream: Henry the Lion tries to betray Barbarossa twice. He stops later, though, and is telling the player about Barbarossa's story.
- Stuff Blowing Up: The Petards and Bombard Cannons.
- Sympathetic POV: Saladin is the Muslim fighting the crusaders; Barbarossa at a certain point enters the Crusades and fights Saladin.
- Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: Infantry > Cavalry > Archers > Infantry.
- Technology Levels: Dark to Imperial Age.
- The Computer Shall Taunt You: In addition to the taunts available in multiplayer, some campaigns feature specific taunts used by the enemies.
"What do a people who sleep in tents know about the word 'culture'?"
- The Teutonic Knights: Provide the special unit for (who else?) the Teutons. Unhistorically, they serve as foot-soldiers and are very slow, but extremely tough.
- Timed Mission: None of the campaign scenarios feature a hard time limit. However, there are many time-scripted events that force the player to act fast, such as the AI triggers for building Wonders. Some optional objectives, such as the assassination of the Persian Shah, are also time-limited.
- Twenty Bear Asses: While not as annoying as some examples, one of the tribes in the Genghis Khan campaign will join you if you bring them 20 sheep. They're fairly easy to find, hence "not as annoying."
- Units Not to Scale:
- When putting people inside Transport Ships. One of the most Egregious examples is to be the Persians and load your War Elephants onto transport ships. They do not look at all like they should fit.
- Also, units don't have separate sizes. This was lampshaded by an image of the Age of Empires king with the text "10 Elephants Fit in a Boat. 11 Archers Don't."
- Violation of Common Sense: Sheep are very useful in multiplayer for scouting.
- We Have Reserves: Tends to be a fairly common mindset for the CPU and occasionally the player with less expensive units. Overlaps with Zerg Rush, as seen below.
- Gothic tactics heartily endorse this mindset since their infantry are both inexpensive and created with blazing speed once in the Imperial Age. Losing an army of Gothic infantry will still be costly but there will be another group ready to take their place in no time flat.
- Also occurs when your onagers or bombard cannons blast enemy units even when your own melee units are attacking them. Though most of the time this is due to Artificial Stupidity.
- Wham! Episode: Nearly every campaign has one, but one of the most noticable is La Noche Triste in the Aztec campaign. The Spanish have completley taken over Tenochtitlan, and are building a freaking Wonder, (which will cause you to lose if completed) while you're reduced to a scattered bunch of ragtag warriors. And even when you retake the city, Montezuma dies. Pretty much sets the town for the Downer Ending that follows, though the next mission is a Hope Spot.
- With Us or Against Us: The "Neutral" diplomacy setting is basically the same as "Enemy" with a few adjustments to automatic targeting of civilian units.
- You Have Researched Breathing:
- Lead the Target: The "Ballistics" upgrade.
- The Huns in The Conquerors can research atheism. Everyone else needs to reasearch faith.
- You Require More Vespene Gas: Gold, Stone, Wood and Food.
- Zerg Rush:
- One of the most common tactics is to attack during the feudal age with large numbers of spearmen and skirmishers to prevent your opponent from being able to develop his economy. Most rounds are effectively decided within twenty minutes this way.
- If you progress to the Imperial Age and are running out of gold, you can try spamming a large number of units that cost no gold, i.e. hussars, halbardiers and elite skirmishers (or whatever your civilisation is capable of producing).
- A frequent online tactic is to play as the Huns, remain in the Dark Ages, and take advantage of the Hums' unique ability, to endlessly spam hordes of Militia before your opponent can get their defenses up.