If any of you would like to give counter points to anything I lay out, please do.
When AOM/AOE came out, my hope was that I would switch to play these games full time and long term. In fact I have hoped a similar game would fill the niche that AOE 2 fills occasionally over the last 20 years. Here I will highlight some of the reasons that led me to keep playing AOE 2 as opposed to AOM/AOE 3. Although I really like some of the new mechanics in the newer games, there was something “less” about the overall gameplay and breadth of strategies. I think I can pin down the issue to a few bullet points.
A. Lack of scarcity of a precious resource (Gold and Stone). In AOE 2, gold is a scarce resource, especially in a 1 vs 1. This leads to more diversity of strategies. Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t ever remember running out of gold to mine in a 1vs1 AOM/AOE 3 game. They just weren’t scarce and it kind of dulled the experience. In AOE 3 there was plantations/whales or equivalent for every civ and in AOM you could trade with your town center. I think this is overall bad design and leads to degradation of gameplay and breadth of potentials strategies. I am not saying it’s bad design for players to still have ways to grind gold aside from relics/market late game, I am just saying that they should return to AOE 2/AOE design of gold being rare, which leads to point (B)
B. Lack of trash/counter units that didn’t cost the most precious resource (being gold in AOE 2). This adds a layer of complexity to the cookie cutter system. They were essentially eliminated in AOM/AOE 3 since gold was no longer scarce, and instead every unit costs gold. The idea of trash/counter units adds a whole new diagram in the graph that is the cookie cutter system of counters between different unit classes. An important piece of this diagram and overall gameplay depth was lost in AOE 3/AOM when they did away with trash/counter units, and the new features failed to make up for it. And please, don’t use current gold ores from AOE 3 like in the recent videos. They are ugly and entirely basic Go back to having smaller tile AOE 2 -style gold ores with some randomness to how many ores there are and its Tetris-like configuration. All these things add potential depth to game play and overall strategy.
C. Less important, but I really think farms should be reseeded. It is more realistic, and adds more depth to the game. I hated out this was dumbed down in AOE iii. AOE 2 got it right.
TLDR: Make gold scarce and trash units great again. If you do this, add in some of the better mechanics of AOM/AOE III + some new mechanics, it should be a good game.
Now, did I miss anything super important?
Well I am in some disagreement here… AOE 3 is great. Infinite coin allows for more higher end units. I was really turned off by AOE 2 and running out of gold in FFA’s because there was no one to trade with and all that was left was buying at the market for huge losses or just spamming skirmishers and pike men.
AOE 3 had to make the economy a little more relaxed as the fighting part takes so much more attention. Its much faster paced and if you lose even a few units to poor micro can get set back pretty far. I do agree that there may be a little heavy on coin on the maps and a big jump to be able to use Estates but having that coin places emphasis on map control
Its pretty silly to see super big lines of trade merchants of AOE 2 to make that the gold gathering economy. it just makes more work for the processors to run in my opinion.
I think that you have to strike a balance between AOE2 and other titles. Gold scarcity in AOE2 definitely makes 1v1 games more interesting, especially in the 90% or so of games in which gold does not completely run out on the map. That being said, I never liked that the extremely late game ends up funneling all unit production into the three trash units plus siege. Visually, the armies of different civilizations all end up looking pretty much the same, and tactically, everything becomes pretty stale. Players are often just spamming as many hussars into their opponents’ economies as they can, since food and wood collection have vastly outpaced military production. From this standpoint, while I like that gold scarcity makes map control important, I don’t want the diversity of viable units to disappear once gold runs out on the map. If they include more ways to generate gold in the imperial age, that might be the best way to address my concerns. Then, map control is still important through castle age, since you could easily lose if you are denied access to gold anytime before hitting imperial. However, once you reach imperial, map control can be important for other reasons, maybe for wood collection and farming space? Or simply for building a buffer around one’s established economy? Also, having a small amount of gold income in the imperial age makes decisions about what to spend that resource on more interesting. In AOE2, you almost always want to spend that gold on a few siege units, but in AOE4, allowing for slightly more gold income, you could be faced with picking which other gold units to add to your forces, whether it be stronger cavalry, archers, or infantry. I would hope that would make the late game less about mindless spamming of units and more about making the correct strategic decisions.
Anyways, to summarize, I think making gold as scarce as in AOE2 would make the extremely late game less enjoyable, but I’d be fine if its relative scarcity were used as a method to incentivize map control before the imperial age.