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If you ever had the sneaking suspicion while playing Age of Empires 2 that the AI was cheating then you'd have been right. The computer controlled armies were always looking at your screen and they were even nabbing extra resources out of thin air. There wasn't anything you could do that would be a surprise to them. It's a wonder we ever won any games at all. Well, in Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition, the cheating bastard's been reined in and it will play fair, at last.
Describing how the old AI worked to PCGN, series creative director Adam Isgreen revealed that the AI "basically got free resources" and "it saw the whole map". This meant the AI didn't need to scout and so there were never times when "missed what you were doing". This meant "it could build strategies on just seeing what was going on rather than actually reacting and playing well."
In the Definitive Edition, which completely overhauls the venerable real-time strategy game, updating its graphics, sounds, and AI, Isgreen says that "the AI actually has to scout now. You'll see it be a lot more active with its scout units, especially early game, and even into mid-game, as it's looking to see what you're doing" and "it then has to manage resources just like a player as well. It doesn't get any bonuses like it used to."
Naturally, this is going to make the game quite differently from how it ever used to. The team has included the option of playing against the old cheating AI if you would like to. Though, despite it no longer cheating, apparently the new AI is still better at the game than the old one - "it's pretty fun to throw one new AI against the old ones, and watch it totally mop them up," Isgreen says.
The reason it's better than the old AI is that it's based on the modern way people play the game. "Since there's been 20 years of meta on Age II in terms of competitive play, [the team's] started to program a whole bunch of the strategies that competitive players use in the Age II community into the AI itself," Isgreen says. "So the AI will actually micro and macro strategy play, just like a lot of 'strats' that you'll see in the Age community."
The Age of Empires 2: Definitive Edition is due out this autumn, but we still don't have an exact release date. Still it will mean we'll at last be able to play the game in 4K, against an AI that doesn't cheat, and with four new civilizations to boot.
Featured Image Credit: Microsoft Games
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