Age of Empires II Mods and Add-Ons
By T. Byrl Baker
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Creator: Gregory Koteles
You can steal from the rich and give to the poor with this
The Adventures of Robin Hood puts you in control of the famous hero as he scours the land recruiting "merry men" in his quest to stop the Sheriff of Nottingham. The familiarity of the Robin Hood legend makes this campaign a pleasure to play, and the designer threw in plenty of scripted encounters and dialogue that turn a real-time strategy game into an adventure with a compelling plot.
It's a little strange to begin the game with a single character and slowly recruit an army instead of beginning the endless process of building and upgrading that marks a normal game of Age of Empires II. However, a few hours with Robin Hood and the gang should be enough to convince anyone that Age of Empires II is a viable adventure-RPG platform when a skilled designer gets his or her hands on the editing tools.
Creator: The AOKasino Team
Who said casino gambling has no strategy?
This mod is where all the Age of Empires II units go to blow off steam when you're not playing the game. AOKasino is about as nontraditional as a level can get: There's no fighting (at least not any that you are directly involved in), no building, and really nothing else that has to do with a typical game of Age of Empires II. What you do get is a sprawling map packed with games of chance, all using the original graphics and units from the game. You can bet on wolves that fight in an arena battle, answer some Age of Empires II-related trivia, shoot sheep, and participate in dozens of other games as you try to win enough cash to access sealed-off portions of the casino.
Some explicit language makes this mod R-rated, but if you're old enough to handle it, AOKasino is a great way to pass the time. It's easy to play because you get instructions for each game by simply walking up to the entrance, and it's possible to play for hours without seeing everything this creative scenario has to offer.
AOK Mod Pack Studio
Creator: J.C. Alsup
You'll need this
The AOK Mod Pack serves as a full-featured editor that lets you create mod packs of your own, but only the truly committed need apply. The real reason we're mentioning it here is that you'll need it to use many of the modifications available for Age of Empires II, including the AOKasino scenario.
Can being doomed to lose be fun? In this
Final Hour is both innovative and fun, and is infinitely replayable. The game is a race against the clock in which you either defend a walled fortress for as long as possible or command the forces that are attempting to overrun the place. The defenders are well armed and technologically superior, but the invading force has an overwhelming numerical advantage, thanks to the reinforcements that are granted throughout the battle.
The scenario is designed so that the defenders always lose, but savvy players will hold out for as long as possible because once you lose, the roles reverse, and you must take the fortress in less time than the computer did. A weak defense will lead to less time available to beat the computer defender into submission, and it's an elegant way to let you challenge yourself instead of fighting solely against the AI.
Yogurt has added so many nice touches to this unique scenario that no review could do it justice. For example, at the beginning of the game you are forced to make some tough choices as you choose the units you will command during the scenario. Several tents filled with troops are placed on the map, and you have to send at least half of those troops away, which leaves the remainder to fight for you. It's an agonizing choice, just like every other compromise you'll have to make while playing. We can only hope that Yogurt keeps redefining what the Age of Empires II engine can do.
The King's Best Men
Creator: Ingo Van Thiel
Ingo Van Thiel is a true master of the Age of Empires II scenario, and the author's skills are at their height in The King's Best Men. At the start of the campaign, a misunderstanding leads to a bar brawl that results in the death of three of the king's soldiers. A tattletale barkeep lets the locals believe that you are the culprit, and from that moment on, it's a race against time to get out of Dodge and clear your good name. The scripting in this campaign is superb. It's more like playing an adventure game than a real-time strategy game, as there are many puzzles to solve, places to visit, and people to talk to. The maps are gorgeous, and there are always multiple paths to take and new things to see. At first, we actually lost a few games simply because we were too busy taking in the incredible sights. This is perhaps the best Age of Empires II campaign ever created if you prefer adventure to combat.
Tamerlane, Prince of Destruction
Creator: Mark Stoker
This superbly crafted
"Wow" is about the only word we can come up with to describe this terrific campaign from designer extraordinaire Mark Stoker. His masterful blend of adventure elements, balanced tactical battles, and historical content turns Tamerlane, Prince of Destruction into a slice of living history. The entire opening scenario is a superbly crafted in-game cutscene that first shows exactly how Tamerlane got his nickname, and then it shows his army wiping out a village and an entire walled city.
You can make a mind-boggling number of choices, and each of theme can have either positive or negative consequences. Spend money to hire a powerful mercenary, and he may turn traitor at the worst possible time. Choose the wrong path or the wrong city to build your base, and there will be hell to pay. We were constantly presented with choices like these as we interacted with the gameworld, and it made Tamerlane, Prince of Destruction more compelling than any campaign that came with the original game.