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Age of Empires 2 DE: Random Thoughts

    • 1460 posts
    November 24, 2019 8:52 AM EST

    So, I've always been a pretty big Age of Empires fan, with a specific fondness for Age of Empires 2 (though I guess it's fair to say only really the Age of Kings expansion). I bought every new version of the game, it's DLC, the really awesome Star Wars version that is really excellent (and I could go off on a tangent about it) but with the release of the Definitive Edition of the game and it's new content I thought I'd jot down my thoughts on the game in it's latest stage as I hype myself up too much for the release of Age of Empires 4 in the coming years. 

    For now it's just going to be my thoughts on each of the campaigns as I play through them. Then I'll jot down some thoughts on new units, civs, buildings, techs etc and maybe get around to a few campaigns from the other new DLC that I never played. 

     

    Kotyan Khan Campaign: So, this is actually one of the most interesting campaigns for me, just in general but so far specifically for the Age of Khans expansion included specifically with the Definitive Edition. The core premise is that you play as one of the nomadic cultures that was pushed out by the major Mongolian expansion (technically I think it's towards the end of Genghis Khan's reign but still well within his life but I could be wrong), which is a concept that provides a really interesting campaign. Until the final mission (and even until then in some parts) your main focus is evading and escaping the Mongolian Hordes and you very rarely fight anyone directly, instead starting with small units and gaining a larger army slowly by raiding, co-operating with other parties and just playing differently from the vast majority of missions in other campaigns. A lot of the missions don't even involve you building a proper base for most of the game if at all. 

    Basically, it feels a lot more like your playing a nomadic tribe than even the Genghis Khan campaign did (or the Huns mission which was really notable during the Constantinople mission where your focus was really just on gathering gold by destroying key buildings) and your enemy is quite similar most of the time. Notably your fighting raiding parties and their forward bases until the very last missions which is a really interesting change on "destroy big bad walled city". 

    More then that, I think the last mission of the campaign is ironically the selling point. I say ironically because it's the only one that you basically start with the intention of setting up a full base, slowly building up an army the normal way and then attacking a walled city with the intention of completely destroying it but it's interesting because it has two branching paths at the start. You can either join the Hungairan King (for some context, you'd allied with them in a previous mission before they betrayed you, however it's revealed that they were rebellious nobles and the King still wants your alliance and to help you) or go to Bulgaria to seek new allies and a home further away from the Mongols. It's really interesting because both paths provide interesting benefits and unique goals that you can't at all complete by following the other path. For example, the Hungary path involves conquering small villages, using them to generate resources and building up a base around a ruined castle before slowly eradicating the Nobles that betrayed you (and the King) earlier. The Hungarian King is a really powerful ally here and honestly can do most of the work for you really, so it's interesting to play a more support focused role. The Bulgarian side of the mission focuses more on you being the powerful force with the Bulgarians supporting you and focuses more on setting up a quick base and destroying a few major cities. Each path is dramatically different feeling, but really solid and still supporting the idea behind the rest of the campaign. It's just a really nice campaign even if it is a little short. 

    Tamerlane Campaign (Mission One): The first mission is all I've completed so far, and it's uh...not entirely that great I suppose. The core concept behind the mission is that Tamerlane is one leader of various 'hordes' attempting to gain power in the region. He's operating out of a heavily defended city, has a solid starting army, good resources, a potential ally and can gain more followers just by riding around (and not like the first Joan of Arc mission where she needs to be present to recruit a small band of soldiers, I think you can get 20-40 odd horsemen just by exploring the map). Your competing with, three other hordes that all have minor bases with a few castles but extremely expolitable holes (like forgetting that gates exist). Oh sorry, four hordes not three but one is really minor. 

    The goal is pretty simple, conquer three of the four tribes and gather the relics they protect. Complete a few minor goals and your solid, one of them greatly enhances an ally. So the mission has a few...maybe a lot of flaws actually. First is that Tamerlane is actually immortal, I don't know if this is a cool history fact, like Tamerlane was more of a title (given the context of it, no that's not true) but anytime he dies in battle he's supposed to respawn at your castle. This is kind of terrible for a mission like this, because it completely removes any chance you'll fail. It does  suck, but when Attila the Hun dies in the campaign for him it's usually because you aren't paying attention and he's overwhelmed so it's an actual loss. Basically, you get a really powerful unit but he's a loss condition. I think that removing this really lowers the potential of this mission. The other problem is that the enemies are all really weak, sure they have a solid starting army (or half-solid) but you elimate that army and the fight is a piece of cake. It's worsened by the fact that a few monks healing you up after a battle means you could reasonbly take out two hordes with your starting forces, and then the other suplemented by...well honestly like 30 units but I'm a lame man who prefers completely overwhelming everything so I had 120 and was untouchable. The last major issues is that the minor goals I mentioned earlier are really minor, just destory a few markets/mills for some of the hordes and your fine, I'm not entirely sure if this has any effect on the mission or if you need to do it. 

    It's all kinda lame, a bit fun but nothing that interesting but I think there are a lot of ways to make it more interesting. 

    • Have the enemies all operate as hostile to each other, but make them a lot stronger. This fits everything I've been told in the mission (that the hordes are all fighting for power amongst each other) and can make it a really interesting mission where five (or six) different factions all fight against each other. I think this could tie into the small objectives by providing unique boosts to whoever controls the area for each faction. Say the Red Faction captures the Green Mills, they might be able to gain around 10 horsemen or something to provide them a boost. Then the Green Faction captures the Red Markets and gains a few Imperial age technology. Really the core idea is to make a really dynamic, interesting mission where everyone is fighting each other and consistantly forwarding large armies. 
    • Another interesting aspect could be to allow the relics to trade hands if an enemy captures them. Why not have the Green Faction capture half the relics before the Yellow faction invades, taking the relics before the Red faction manages to capture one of them. It could keep going and making it really interesting to keep the mission fresh (the relics would need to be displayed in some way to make it obvious who has them). 

    Basically, I think the mission has a nice premise but it's not used well. I think it'd be a really cool mission if you took advantage of the different factions and the fact that it already has built in smaller objectives. 

    Tamerlane Campaign (Mission Two): The second mission in the campaign is essentially a slightly different, better designed version of the first mission with the same core concept (with the slight change of not requiring relics). You have (two) allies to fight against around four other enemies that are a bit more defensive this time. Each enemy has a single additional objective that (supposdly) weakens them but only one fight really proved that by providing me an extra temporary ally once I completed it. The rest were kind of mediocre and just felt like generic objectives that I honestly could've accidentally completed. Literally just things like 'destroy a workshop and tower' or 'destroy a forward base'. The interesting aspect of this particular mission is that you don't start with villagers, a town center (and you can never build one) or any other real way of gathering resources. However, one of your allies will train villagers for you and send you resources as long as you protect them. Your other ally trains a few unique units for you (the unique cav-archers for Mongols and uh...Cumans) which is kinda useful but not really required. 

    I think this aspect was boosted by the way I played, investing the constant use of villagers to mine the ever-living shit out of Gold Mines. I think in my prime econemy I had 40 odd villagers just mining Gold from across the map and then exchanging that for food as I needed it. The map really didn't have many open spaces for farms and the only reasonbly way to get food probably would have been fishing (which was hard because your opponents started with a solid navy). But yeah, the entire concept behind the mission prioritized keeping your allies alive so that your econemy didn't stagnate completely which was a nice touch. 

    Since I recommend a few changes last time, I'll down down a quick one based on the minor objectives, because I really think that you need to make them important and really focus on the fact that these goals are really good to complete (but make them harder, I really feel like they need to balance difficulty better here). 

    • Essentially the big change is that the secondary objectives become harder, aren't required but provide pretty powerful boosts to your econemy in a few ways. The first is to basically have a 'reputation' meter based on how many buildings you raze and enemies you kill. This meter will effect a few story based things like whether someone will ally with you if you complete a goal (making it a viable tactic to intimidate one enemy to gain the support of another) and also the troops/supplies that your sent by your actual allies. Then there's the fact that capturing each enemies unique goal will provide direct tribute regardless of your reputation. Take over the farm and you get food sent to you constantly, take over the mountain base and you get troops generated for free (or upgrades researched like one of the El Cid missions where you send a monk to learn from a captured monestary). 

      Basically, the idea is to alter the mission to focus on the unique element of resource generation through protection and siege rather than the classic 'send villagers to mine' approach you'd take. This would probably require the removal of the villagers, or give you a much smaller pool of them (essentially a building force that can't reasonbly strengthen your econemy.) which could be interesting. 

    Tamerlane Campaign (Mission Three): Urgh, so despite enjoying the third mission even more it's still kind of annoying because it shows that they know how to make a mission relatively interesting. Again you have the same sort of help from your allies that you recieved, partially in the first mission and the second mission. Some of them will ally with you if you complete their tasks, others will provide tropps and resources. Then they actually added in the same sort of concept that I've been talking about, defeating one of your enemies will provide a boost to your Siege Engines (by upgrading them to Imperial Age level rather than just Castle Age base siege engines), other buildings will supply you with food/wood/gold and another enemy will have a research hidden in their castle, destroying it provides a new armour type. They could've gone further in with these ideas, but at least they're here and well developed, it's just annoying that they implement them here but not in other msisions. 

    So yeah, it's a really solid mission that's bascially a combination of the other two with the changes I recommend (mostly at least). 


    This post was edited by Dragonborn2121 at November 24, 2019 9:46 PM EST
    • 1460 posts
    November 26, 2019 8:40 PM EST

    The main article is getting a bit long so I'm going to be just dropping some quicker thoughts about little things in the comments instead. 

    First is finishing my coverage of the Tamerlane campaign and god did it get boring really quick after Mission 3. The fourth and sixth are honestly pretty forgettable, fine but they don't do anything overly interesting because the core premise is that your army has hit it's peak and Tamerlane is at it's strongest so he's attacking various armies before going forth to raze their primary base. Each of them involve attacking other small settlements to weaken the enemy or strengthen your forces but it isn't handled as well as I'd like (it's one of the few times I think showing you the enemy army assembling would be interesting, show their location on the map and show changes. Like the sixth mission involves you taking out a few Siege Workshops, Stables and Archery Ranges, theoretically to reduce the enemy Bombard Cannons, Hand Cannoneers and Cavalary but we don't see the change. Why not show us that the Bombard Cannons are traded for Scorpians, HC to Arbalests and say their Paladins to Hussars or something.). 

    The fifth mission is the one I take the most exception to because it's literally just the...I think third mission in Atilla's campaign but even easier. The aim is to assemble 10,000 gold which is kind of pathetic when they're giving you new ways to get gold (destroying key buildings) and there are just so many different buildings you destroy to get the gold. It's kind of ridiculous to say that the third mission in another campaign is harder because at least in that one Constantinople is a valid threat and depending on your army, absolutely required to get the gold (I also think there's a flaw in that one in that you can assemble all the relics really easily and just generate the gold, but that's another story). I thought it was lazy, far too easy for the second last mission and just absolutely dissapointing. Why not show some actual effort, change the amount needed or I don't know, have you act as a small raiding party (max population 75) instead of a 200 man army that is going to tear through anything at a riduclous pace.