I am going to provide what I believe to be a failproof and idiotproof solution for all 3 AOE games, without needing to muck around with virtual machines, compatibility modes, etc, and after going through alot of headaches and spending months getting these games to work perfectly. my advice is a mixture of what is seen above. However, i do not gaurantee it will work for everyone else.
For AOE 1: Make sure to install the game as Administrator, and make sure to select the Full option when installing. For some reason a regular/Microsoft account with administrator privilidges may not be able to install the game, sometimes the installer will hang at the end (99/100%) when attempting to copy EULA.RTF. My solution for this is to activate the hidden Administrator account (net user administrator /active:yes at an elevated command prompt), log in to that account, run the installer as Administrator, and then log out. If you do not wish to keep the Admin account active then simply issue the net user administrator /active:no command at an elevated command prompt when finished. Make sure you download the latest patches for AOE and its' Rise Of Rome expansion from Microsoft Age of Empires
and The Official Age of Empires Expansion: The Rise of Rome
, and then apply them. I would also use no-cd cracks just to eliminate a bit of hassle, but this is entirely individual preference. To fix the color issues you can either kill Explorer.exe before starting each game (which will prevent you from using any functions related to Explorer, or accessing the Taskbar, etc).......... or you can use an app called Windows 7 DirectDraw patcher. This patcher puts an entry into your Registry that fixes the color issues. Just make sure you backup each entry with the Registry's Export function (File> Export), because they have a tendency to disappear if you don't, or the color issues may still be present. You can download the patcher from http://static.macuyiko.com/files/w7ddpatcher/w7ddpatcher.zip
. Or you can just download my attached .reg files and import them into your Registry (if you think they're malicious then just open them with any text editor and check the contents for yourself).
For AOE 2: Also make sure to choose the full install option, and apply the latest official patches (Aoe of Kings, Microsoft Age of Empires II: Age of Kings
), (The Conquerors Expansion, FilePlanet: Age of Empires 2: The Conquerors 1.0c update
). And optionally use no-cd cracks. There is also a widescreen patcher by BoekaBart that will allow you to use any resolution you want, get it from http://www.boekabart.net/aoe2wide/latestpatcher/AoE2WideSetup.msi
. It needs a no-cd crack to be able to patch age2_x1.exe for widescreen support, this is mandatory. The patcher refuses to recognize an original uncracked exe. But not just any crack will work the one you need is at Age Of Empires 2: The Conquerors No-CD Patches & Game Fixes- GameBurnWorld
. Get the one that says "AGE OF EMPIRES 2: THE CONQUERORS v1.0c [ENGLISH] NO-CD/FIXED EXE #2 (977KB). Before running the patcher make sure to set your screen res to whatever res you would like the game to use (in the Control Panel for Windows, not the game). This will determine what res the patcher chooses. Then run AoE2Wide.exe (as admin) from whatever folder you installed it to (preferably in the same folder as the game). It will create a file in the game's root folder, rename it to age2_x1.exe and replace the original age2_x1.exe (located in the age2_x1 folder). Then uninstall the patcher and any other files it created, it isnt needed at this point. Backup age2_x1.exe afterwards and also make a copy of the .drs file (its' name will have numbers in it) located in the Data folder. Those are the only 2 files you need. Then run age2_x1.exe (wont work with empires2.exe), select the highest listed resolution in the options screen at main menu, and launch any campaign. Voila, widescreen enabled! You will also need to use the DirectDraw patcher for AOE2, it has the same color issues as AOE 1.
For AOE 3: I'm not sure if this will work on the retail version, since mine is Steam version, although I'm sure it will. For this you will not need cracked files, the latest patches for these games remove the need to insert the disc. Install the original AOE 3 first, and then Warchiefs, and then Asian Dynasties. And once again apply the latest patches for each game (Ensemble Studios: Age of Empires III: Game Updates, Age Of Empires, and Age Of Empires
). You will also need to install MSXML 4.0 Service Pack 3 (Download MSXML 4.0 Service Pack 3 (Microsoft XML Core Services) from Official Microsoft Download Center
, get msxml.msi and msxmlcab.exe, and then run msxml.msi. Then check Windows Update and download any available updates for this. Afterwards run the game, it will warn about a codec or similar being missing, just ignore it and tick/check the box that says to not mention it again. The game should run normally. If you dont hear the background music while at the main menu then that is an indicator that your system is missing a codec, you might want to consider getting a codec pack like K-lite. If not then dont worry about it.
If this helped then please give thanks spent about an hr writing it out and double checking for mistakes.
DISCLAIMER: I do not support piracy, please only use this info for legal copies. The cracked files and reference to them do not infer any support of law-breaking. I simply use them to make gaming easier, and I prefer Steam for my games anyways.
You can get all the fixes and files listed above from https://dl.dropbox.com/s/5cxdmtrm57..._WhaqCoKVmX2pmkaGJB9oVu6tpN-2wukFFf5r4Ig&dl=1
You will need 7-Zip to open/extract it.
Well, back to some Absolution action!
EDIT: I just noticed that AOE 2 HD Edition is being released exclusively to Steam early next month, have a look at Save 10% on Age of Empires II HD on Steam
. For around $20 to $25 it's yours if you preorder. I definitely plan to buy it. None of the above fixes should be necessary for this version ( I hope, anyways).
I also used my own advice for the 1st 2 AOE games that I obtained from Wal-Mart, they sell a bundled edition called AOE Gold that contains the 1st and 2nd games as well as their expansions. The games are not fully patched to the latest version though, so you will still need to apply those manually. I couldnt get the games to recognize the Gold discs after installing the patches, so I used cracks instead. But my advice should still work on any original retail installation media besides the Gold edition.