Reviews - Updated on February 9, 2023

Recently, the console version of Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition has been released. The re-release of the legendary strategy has long been released on the PC, and it only got to the Xbox two and a half years later. The term is quite long, but after several evenings spent in the game, we can say with confidence that the developers did not try in vain and the control on the gamepad is almost perfect.

Comfortable conditions

You probably don’t know about it, but Age of Empires II has already been released on consoles. More precisely, on the PlayStation 2, and then it not only lingered for the same two years after the release on the PC, but also appeared only in Europe and Japan. This version was rather strange – suffice it to say that it was possible to move the camera in it only when moving the cursor to the edge of the screen. That is, the left or right sticks were not used for this. Apparently, for this reason, the game supported a keyboard and mouse on the console – so that buyers could simplify their lives.

The re-release on Xbox also supports keyboard and mouse, but this time the developers have made it so that the player does not want to connect them. As they explained in an interview, instead of trying to adapt computer controls to a gamepad, they decided to forget about it completely and imagine that they were creating an interface for the console version from scratch. It was necessary to take into account the limited number of buttons and the difference in speed between the stick and the mouse, the font should be made readable at any distance, and so on.

The moving cursor was completely abandoned – it is not even in the menu. In the game itself, the left stick is responsible for the movement of the camera, and the right one can change the scale of the map. So the cursor is always located in the center – if you want to interact with something, you need to make sure that the corresponding item is in the middle of the screen.

The training here is the campaign of William Wallace, where over the course of several missions they explain which buttons are responsible for what and what generally needs to be done in Age of Empires II. Everything is very clear: press the A button and select a person or object, then hold down the right trigger, and the action wheel opens. In the case of settlers, we select the desired building, determine its location and start construction by pressing A. If you need to build defensive structures like towers or walls, in the same wheel, press Y and switch to another category.

The principle is the same with buildings. We open the wheel and either generate soldiers, or call on new settlers, or buy passive bonuses or something else – it depends on the chosen building. You can remove the selection with the B button – intuitively clear.

In the training campaign, everything is chewed so that no questions remain.

In the training campaign, everything is chewed so that no questions remain.

Nobody gets lost

If you need to select multiple people (or sheep that you want to bring to your farm), there are several options. The most obvious is to hold down the A button, after which a growing circle will appear, highlighting all the creatures that have fallen into it. However, the circle is very small, so this is not always convenient. It is better to hold the left trigger and click on each one you want to send somewhere in turn, thus collecting a group. The same left trigger is used, for example, when building the same buildings – if you need to put ten residential buildings, you can immediately lay all the foundations and load the settlers with work.

And you can select people in a third way – using a cross. When you hold down the “Up” button for a second, you immediately select all the settlers, and the same thing happens with the military when you hold down the “Left”. If you have not set a collection point for newly arrived warriors, and the buildings generating them are far from each other, simply select all your archers, horsemen and knights at once and order them to go somewhere.

All methods are clear.

No one forbids the old-fashioned use of control groups, which here seem even more useful than on PC, but for some reason, instantly combining all the military and sending them to attack for some reason every time causes a very pleasant feeling. And if you need a certain type of fighter, you hold down the left trigger and use the D-pad to select all the siege or archers, melee units or horsemen.

The most important innovation of the console version is not related to the soldiers, but to the settlers. Since camera movement with a stick is not as fast as with a mouse, the developers allow console players to simplify the gameplay a bit and automate the actions of workers. When you press the right stick, a wheel opens, in which it is proposed to choose the priorities of the settlers, that is, to make them do some business without your pointer. In one mode, they will spread out evenly and harvest wood, stone, gold, and food. In another, they will only collect food and wood.

If some material is more needed than all the others, this can also be configured – a pie chart will clearly show what proportion of the extracted resources are stone, gold, and everything else. New settlers created in the town hall will go to work immediately after the appearance. Of course, you can not use this auto mode if you are used to doing everything yourself. But it seemed to me a very convenient option, eliminating microcontrol. For example, there is not enough food to call for new soldiers – with a couple of clicks he changed priorities, and the settlers immediately go to slaughter sheep and plow on the farm.

This “chip”, as well as management in general, makes the console Age of Empires II a wonderful port. Here they tried to take everything into account, even the mini-map hangs in the corner not just for beauty – by pressing RB you can increase it, after which you can move a small frame in it with the stick, order the selected units to go to the specified point or quickly switch to the right place by clicking on Y. This is useful if you are too lazy to deal with the arrangement of navigation marks, it is also very easy to “jump” between them – hold down the left trigger and tilt the right stick to the sides.

Teams related to soldier formations, tactics, and patrols can also be issued in the wheel, which is invoked with a single click.

Teams related to formations of soldiers, tactics and patrols can also be issued in the wheel, which is called up with one click.

It is hardly worth saying anything about Age of Empires II itself – both our review and numerous reviews will not lie: this is a great strategy that has gained cult status for a reason. Plenty of maps and single-player campaigns, a bunch of multiplayer modes, charming graphics in the remaster – the game is equally good for beginners and strategy fans, although the latter have probably already wiped it to holes. Game Pass subscribers can download the standard version at no additional cost, but for three DLCs you will have to pay money – if you like the game, it will be difficult to resist.

If, for some reason, your only way to experience Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition is on Xbox with a controller, it won’t be torture or discomfort. The developers have perfectly adapted the controls and interface, without harming the gameplay in any way. Now we are waiting for Age of Empires IV on Xbox – apparently, you won’t have to worry about the console version anymore.

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