Play or Pass: Halo 2 and Age of Empires II

Welcome to the next post in my year-long series “Play or Pass” that takes on the proverbial “must before death” theme with video games. Every other week I will be covering one or two games from “32 Video Games You Have To Play Before You Die,” a list compiled by BuzzFeed based on a reader poll. I will not be critiquing the list itself, but rather I’ll be discussing each game or games in whatever manner feels fitting and will attempt to answer a couple simple questions: Have I played [insert game name here]? If yes, do I consider it a “must” and why? If no, do I want to play the game before I die? I’ll be going through the games in the order in which they appear on the BuzzFeed list. Good? Good. Let’s get on with the games!

Week twenty: (25) Halo 2 and (26) Age of Empires II

Though we didn’t intend for it to happen, our Xbox One has become the odd man out among our collections of consoles. I wish I was kidding when I say that, since the start of 2016, the thing has seen less gaming action than our Wii, Wii U, and GameCube! Seriously, that’s really saying something. We’ve both played a few things here and there in fits and starts – Dragon Age: Inquisition, Rare Replay, Mass Effect – but we really use it for watching movies more than anything. And we don’t watch movies very often so…

…yeah. The poor, neglected Xbox One. 😦

We thought the Halo: The Master Chief Collection might change that.

And…to be brutally honest…I don’t know why we thought that, because neither of us are huge Halo fans. I think, maybe, we might want to be, because the Xbox name is synonymous with Halo. If you have an Xbox, any Xbox, then you get Halo. There are just no two ways about it.

Maybe the thing of it was that we didn’t have an original Xbox when the first game, Halo: Combat Evolved, came out. And we didn’t have an Xbox when Halo 2 came out either.  So though it was hard not to know about the games, the series didn’t really hit my radar until we got an Xbox 360, and by then the game to get was Halo 3. It’s possible that we had the game or rented it at some point, but we did opt to get Halo 4. We’ve collectively played a few hours of it…maybe? And as for Halo: The Master Chief Collection, well…we haven’t even yet freed the box from its cellophane.

Can you tell that I don’t have squat to say about Halo 2? I just…don’t. The Buzzfeed article makes reference to the game’s vehicles being awesome. I’ve seen what the first game looks like, and yes, they probably are. Vehicular combat in games can be fun. And it can also be really shitty (I’m looking at you MAKO). I’m guessing that Halo 2 might have gotten it right.

I feel overwhelmingly indifferent to Halo 2 and any of the Halo games. They aren’t games that I ever sought out to play, and they aren’t games that I seek to play now. Sure, maybe it’d be nice to re-up the Xbox One’s gaming chops with something, but I’d be way more prone to pop in Dragon Age: Inquisition before starting up a new and frankly intimidating relationship with Master Chief.

Have I played Halo 2?

If yes, then do I consider it a “must?”

If no, then do I want to play the game before I die?
No, though I’m happy to be convinced otherwise.

If I had nothing to say about Halo 2, I have even less to say about Age of Empires II. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of the series until I joined Twitter. For whatever reason, at that moment when Twitter was, to me, all bright and shiny and unspammy , it seemed that every other tweet was talking about something called “AoE” or #AOE. And it seemed that this “AoE” thing was pretty popular. It didn’t take me too long to learn that AoE stood for Age of Empires, a Civilization-type real-time strategy game. And it wasn’t exactly a new kid on the block, which its first installment having been released in ancient past of 1997. (That makes Civilization’s first release in 1991 positively prehistoric!)

I couldn’t tell you now what had everyone so excited about Age of Empires (whatever number) in 2012, but the game is still very popular. It seems that a newish version of Age of Empires II has quite a loyal and happy following on Steam, and the series third game (a compilation? It’s a little hard to tell.) is doing just as well.

My feelings towards RTS games, Age of Empires II and others, remain as they did when I wrote about Civilization – I’m not opposed to playing them, but I don’t have the time play them as required, i.e. checking in frequently enough to make such my empire hasn’t crumbled. If that day even came where I could once again play every day, then maybe I consider it. And even then, I’d probably steer more towards Civilization, though I admit that’s only because of brand recognition on my part. What makes Age of Empires, I, II, III different from each other? You tell me; I’m all ears.

Have I played Age of Empires II?

If yes, then do I consider it a “must?”
I have no way to judge.

If no, then do I want to play the game before I die?
A wishy-washy maybe, question mark?




  1. I can’t comment on Age of Empires (never played it) but I do have a thing or two to say about Halo 2.

    I think that there are two reasons to play it: learning more about the Covenant (there’s a whole Covenant portion of the campaign), and the story in general. It’s only worth it if you’re going to play through all 3 entries in the series though. On it’s own, I can’t really say Halo 2 has aged very well. It had even aged poorly by the time Halo 3 had launched. It’s a competent game, but I think it gets overshadowed by every other entry in the series in terms of the story and gameplay. It’s biggest contribution to the series (and to gaming in general) was that it revolutionized online multiplayer gaming, and that’s awesome, but that doesn’t really help it today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, interesting! I knew that the Halo series was a juggernaut in online gaming, generally, but I didn’t know just how important it was, particularly Halo 2. I could someday see myself attempting to play through the Master Chief collection, despite any flaws the games possess, if only to understand better why the series is held in high regard. (and my FPS skills are so rusty, so maybe trying to get them back on an older set of games would be good? Bad? I don’t know, haha.) Before getting the collection, we did purchase Halo 4 for the Xbox 360. It looked pretty good, and my understanding then was that it marked something of a departure for the series.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Halo 4 introduces many new things to the series. It is the start of a new story, it introduces a new enemy faction, and it changes the gameplay a bit with a focus on special abilities over the old weapon/position mastery of the original series. (Halo: Reach did this too, but Halo 4 really ran with it).

        It’s a divisive game. Some fan love it (and Halo 5) and others hate it for what its done to the series. Personally, I think both 4 and 5 are fun but I don’t think they quite rise up to the heights that Halo 1 and 3 reached (though that might just be nostalgia talking).

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Take a weekend and play through all of the Halo games with a friend. All of them except the last one offer Co-op and honestly some of my favorite memories of are playing through those games with friends!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve heard from others that Halo multiplayer is really where it’s at; that they could spend days, weeks, playing and adore every single second of it. That could be a good way in — thanks!

      Of course, I guess I have to first find some of these, what did you call them?… “friends?” (Oh, I kill me… 🙂 )


      • To clarify I definitely mean coop play the campaign! Could care less about multi-player haha. And yes you would need to find some one…I feel like hey would you like to have a halo marathon? Is a pretty good introduction! Ha

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I never really got into the Halo series, and since I’ve never been an Xbox owner, my chances of getting involved are very slim.

    But I really wanted to express disbelieve that you didn’t like the Mako!!! Its physics-defying abilities were absolutely amazing!!! (haha)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, that MAKO is something else, isn’t it. 😀 Having recently replayed the ME trilogy, I can say with certainty that the MAKO is just the lowest low point. (Though planet exploration is fun.) I mean, I can deal with it’s silliness well enough by now, but jeez, it’s just not good. Not good at all.

      If I ever fire up our Xbox One someday, I might give Halo a go. It’s just not much of a priority right now. Actually, nothing Xbox One one is much of a priority now so….yeah.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hear you. I’m going through the trilogy again in preparation for a Let’s Play I’m thinking of doing, and… wow. At least I’m getting a few laughs from it. Or I’m just a really bad in-game driver, which is also completely possible…

        And have fun doing anything other than playing on your Xbox One! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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