AOE 3 comparison with AOE 2

Hi everyone! I’m new to the forum, so I’d like to start a conversation surrounding AOE 3.
I’m a longtime AOE 3 (plus expansions) player. I absolutely love AOE 3, but I’ve never played AOE 2. I like the aesthetic of AOE 2, it has a very passionate fanbase and it’s the most popular AOE until now.

It looks like now is a great time to try out AOE 2, but before I do, what do you think are pros and cons between the two titles?

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AoE2 cons when compared to aoe3:

  • games in AOE2 are absurdly long when compared woth aoe3. Games that you finish in 8-15 minutes in aoe3 can take up to half an hour in aoe2.
  • The map is an “tile matrix”, building placement is not fluid like in aoe3 - i can’t really explain that, but it’s like small squares on the map… guess you should look up some videos?
  • few faction especific features (like the dutch and ottomans) - all civs are basically the same, save for different gather rates for resources and some special units
  • Can’t rotate screen
  • Early game (dark age, equivalent to discovery age) takes 10-15 minutes in game. (in aoe3 it takes max 5 minutes in game, usually). Higher speeds reduces the time, tho
  • Gold can only be aquired in the late game by trading with allies (not avaliable in 1v1) or selling food/wood in the market for meager gold (100 food/wood for 14 gold in the worst cases)
  • Late game revolves around the same 3 “trash units” that don’t cost gold due to unavailability of the resource - Hussars (rock), halberdiers (paper) and skirmishers (scissors)
  • Ranged units don’t have a different attack when they fight melee (Which means an archer deals full damage with his bow at an horseman when he should be fighting with a sword)
  • you can’t chose the map you want to play in ranked matchmaking, only ban some of the maps from rotation
  • No access to home city or cards (good or bad, depends on the view) and thus, no homecity visual customization. Also no sense of progression due to not unlocking cards
  • AoE2 (DE) has an terrible chat filter
  • less environment effects - rain, animals, rocks on the ground, etc.
  • Economy is more complex, with places to drop resources and one extra resource, stone. Can be good, depends on the view.

Pros of aoe2 when compared with aoe3:

  • Water “”“balance”"" is better, “rock-paper-scissors” system (kinda, more like rock - paper made of titanium - plastic scissors), better than “the one with bigger ship wins” tho
  • “”""""""“Active support”"""""""", as aoe3 is dead (DE is supposed to fix this)
  • There are no absurd exploits like instant training (DE is supposed to fix this, but it won’t)
  • Multiplayer has less cheaters
  • civs are more well balanced - save some exceptions
  • More civs
  • More lobby settings - including an higher population max (aoe3 DE is supposed to fix that tho)
  • More campaigns, historical campaigns
  • Steam workshop for the HD (2013) edition. AoE2 DE uses an external tool for mods. That would be a total con if aoe3 actually had an workshop
  • no need to grind XP for cards (DE is supposed to fix that)
  • No access to home city and cards (good or bad, depends on the view)
  • More techs for resource collection, unit stats, etc
  • Monks and Wololo!
  • AI is not an idiot with cheats (DE is supposed to fix that)
  • More taunts and diplomatic features (changing stance from allied to enemy, only used in very specific cases)
  • Economy is more complex, with places to drop resources and one extra resource, stone. Can be bad, depends on the view.

In my opinion, AoE3 Definitive Edition, in an perfect world, can be way better than AoE2 because it has less technological and engine-related limitations - i mean, 20 years and aoe2 pathfinding still sucks.
But this is not an perfect world, and the game will retain most, if not all, of it’s issues.


AoE2 has a simplicity to its base and board-game-like appearance. Whereas AoE3 is a game with 3 dimensions, uniquely-defined civilizations and flavourful graphics.
I don’t play AoE2 but their playersbase appear very loyal to their game.
The word ‘community’ might mean something more for AoE2 players as well.
The post above made some really good points.

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This is a great reply, very thorough and unbiased. :+1:


Thanks for your great answer, really impressive. It makes the whole thing more understandable. Monks and wololo are sorely missing from AOE3. While watching my friend playing AOE2 I loved that mechanic so much.

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This comparison is usually done in the context of: ‘why is AoE2 so much better than AoE3?’ It’s true that AoE2 is more popular, but I prefer AoE3 so I’ll argue for it using some points by @HerianB.

This point is huge. What do you think all that extra time is going into? Epic battles, or just waiting for villagers to train so you can finally get enough resources to do something?

Another huge one. It drives me nuts that Age2 fans think hey have the “more complex” game yet all the civs are basically copy and pasted. The unique units are only trainable at the castle, which means that you can’t make as much of them since castles are so expensive, and the unit limits are only relevant in the late game. Oh no I can’t upgrade my two-handed swordsmen to champions… Maybe that will matter in 30 minutes… In AoE3 it matters right from the start what civ you are playing.

Another one of these “Age2 is more complex” issues. In Age3 the rock/paper/scissors combat mechanic is complicated by the fact that units have different bonuses in ranged vs melee.

I argue that resource gathering is more complicated in AoE3 than in AoE2. Yes there are 3 resources instead of 4 (unless you play the Asian civs), but there are a lot more ways to gather resources in AoE3. (Also, the strategy behind gather points is greatly exaggerated.) Let’s look at gold: In AoE2 you can get it from a mine and from a trading cart. In AoE3 you can get it from a mine, plantation, factory, trade route, and resource crate. Other resources are the same way, there are simply more ways to gather a resource in AoE3 than AoE2.

In the end I think the real issue between the two is that they look like they will play similarly, but when you switch you go back to being a noob and that’s uncomfortable for people. I like to think everyone who complains about AoE3 jumped in a 1v1 game expecting to be just as good and got completely smoked, but couldn’t stand the hit to their pride so just made up a bunch of excuses for why they lost. Maybe I’m doing the same thing to AoE2 :grin:

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Interesting thoughts.

Sounds plausible, could also be nostalgia. For example, regardless of how amazing AOE 4 could be, it will never replace AOE 3 for me, probably not for you either :wink:

Yes AoE2,3 and Myth.They are very different games made by same devs.not similar to CoDs.
actually CoD games are usually the same.

I suggest all aoe games.

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That’s actually a good thing to mention. One may think you have more battles and “sieges”, but as i mentioned…

10-15 minutes without fights, without military units, wothout game-changing moves. Sure, you can go persian douche, militia rush etc., but time it and compare to an normal aoe3 game.

I argue that aoe2 economy is more exhaustive, if not more complex. Mills, plantations, fishing is a build and forget. Aoe2 eco requires more micro - replacing farms, rebuilding lumber camps, making trade routes work. Hunting in aoe2 is a micro party, spamming mouse clicks - specially for boars.

Forgot to mention: Team bonuses:
In aoe2 it’s an single buff for teammates: cav trains a bit faster, archers a bit faster, one special unit avaliable for training (only 2 in 35 have that), etc. The pro is that it lasts the entire game. The con, it’s boring.
In aoe3 the team cards have a lot of variety - any civ can send units, buffs and sometimes resources to allies. The pro is that it gives a lot of options on how you will help the team. The con is maybe you teammate won’t help you at all…

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It’s certainly different. I think what AoE3 did really well is replace the micro with more consequential decisions. The resources in AoE3 seem far less safe to me because of the smaller maps and pre-defined trade route. Upgrading the farms in AoE2 doesn’t change the gather rates, and from what I understand it’s not as big of a hit when you switch from hunts to farms. So in AoE3 sure the farms have infinite food, but the decision to switch from hunts to mills is a much bigger investment.

I love the card system and this is one of the reasons why. Is it better to give everyone +10% hunt gathering or give myself 3 villagers? Or what about 300 wood? So many choices, and they matter a lot when the game can be won at the first battle if it’s decisive enough.

We’ll see, but I’m guessing that despite being better it’ll be panned at first from people with emotional attachments to the other games.


Emotional attachment/nostalgia is a real trouble. One of my friends, when he got back to aoe2 after years, almost vomited on the screen upon seeing his beloved game was an ugly, unresponsive mess, and didn’t know how he managed to play that in thing in his childhood - his words, not mine. Next week he played aoe3 for the first time and was like “oh that’s better”. Ask him which game is better and he will still say aoe2, tho.
I have an emotional “detachment” when it comes to aoe. I can’t decide which game i hate and despise the most.


■■■■ that’s an interesting view your friend has :smile:.

So you dislike the AOE games, but still enjoy them? What do you mean exactly? In any case hopefully AOE4 can flip that on its head for you.

Something I’d like to add here…
Dark Age should not take 10-15 minutes. It should take 6-8 minutes. Any longer and your effectively confirmed dead. Don’t forget, the default time in AOE II DE is about 1.2 to real time. You want to be clicking up at 7:00-8:30, which is about 5-7 minutes real time, unless you’re Fast Castle which is super risky in competitive play.

I’ve never played AOE III. It looks interesting, although I’m only going to buy AOE IV. From casual observation, I’d say what AOE III lacks is IIs “complex simplicity”. The emergent gameplay in AOE II is extremely complex, which tends to imply that the core game design is very good.

No knocks against III, just a casual observers thoughts.

I played 1k+ hours in aoe2, + time befores steam, + time in aoe3, + time in aom and + time in aoe1. Last year got hard into me, with DE and AoE4 announcement. It really flipped my view and made me start to profusely despise the series. But that’s a personal opinion, not related to the discussion.
About what @Walkop said, i also got into consideration aging up time and early feudal, while you are waiting for military buildings to go up or units to be massed. Regardless of the exact time, dark age still is longer than aoe3 discovery age - remember that aoe3 runs on 1.0 speed by standard.

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What part of II’s “complex simplicity” do you find missing in III? The rock-paper-scissors combat? Resource management decisions? As far as I’m concerned AOE3 is more in depth with the combat mechanics and much more transparent, especially since the units are actually different from civ to civ. The only thing AOEII has is resource drop-off points.