Strategy Game of the Year|
Developer: Ensemble Studios
"If Age of Kings is any indication of how real-time strategy games will continue to improve, then we couldn't be more fortunate." - Greg Kasavin, GameSpot Review
1999 was a very good year for strategy games. Most of its best strategy games were outstanding sequels to equally good predecessors, but several entirely new games also showed great promise. There was Jagged Alliance 2, the superlative turn-based game of mercenary gunfighting, and Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, an excellent science-fiction-themed game that gave Civilization fans another world to explore and develop. There was Roller Coaster Tycoon, whose unconventional setting and remarkable depth made it surprisingly successful. And then there was Homeworld: It was one of the most anticipated games of the year, yet it managed to live up to expectations because of its unique deep-space setting.
However, of all GameSpot's nominees for Strategy Game of the Year, we found the highest quality in a sequel that refines rather than reinvents the real-time strategy genre. The game has more depth than its competitors, yet it still retains accessibility and an ease of play that could lure newcomers. Once hooked, you'll find that this game has overwhelming value that could keep you entertained for months: It has a random map generator, an editor, several campaigns, many different playable factions, and extensive multiplayer support. The game combines strategic and tactical depth with great graphics and sound, as well as a historical context, and it's none other than Ensemble Studios' Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings.
Age of Empires II is that rare game that vaulted ahead of its competition not because of cutting-edge technology but because of old-fashioned gameplay. Age II hones the balance and expands the core gameplay of the original Age of Empires to make it much more fun, more varied, and generally more interesting. The 13 unique civilizations, the many different counterbalancing military units, the expanded technology tree, the elaborate unit formations, and the game's emphasis on combined arms all echo last year's winner, StarCraft, and made Age of Empires II stand out even among 1999's startling variety of great strategy games.