AoE2:DE has the worst AI of all the DEs

After playing AoE1:DE and 3:DE quite a bit recently, I can now confidently say this. (No opinion on 4, as I haven’t played it yet.)

The AoE2:DE AI is like the worst of 90s AI design in overdrive to make it “challenging”. There is zero effort put into making it appear remotely human, it’s utterly dumb and hilariously easy to outsmart as long as you can keep up, but the higher the difficulty, the more of an infuriating spambot it is - and nothing more. Fighting against Hardest AoE2:DE AI is not fighting against a “computer player”, it’s fighting against a horde of units and buildings each microing itself independently and trying to kill you at all costs like fucking Terminator, and it has absolutely nothing to do with strategy or Age of Empires.

For comparison:


  • Will actively try to attack from different directions and avoid your defences
  • Builds actual defenses (i.e. a ton of towers since this is AoE1)
  • Goes bananas when you build a wonder
  • Can competently play on hybrid/water maps and builds a relatively resonable amount of ships
    +/- Sometimes also unrealistically good at dodging projectiles, but it’s bearable
  • Kinda dumb overall
  • Attacks with loose streams of units (but again, this is AoE1)
  • Something weird with difficulty levels


  • Attacks from various and unexpected directions
  • Builds competent defenses
  • Attacks with actual armies which even look epic
  • Plays equally well on almost all maps (except a few full-on water maps)
  • By far the closest to appearing human, rarely feels like a cheating robot even on Hardest
  • AGGRESSIVELY counters your units, especially late game
  • Some of the toughest late game 1v1 matchups I have ever played
  • Consistent difficulty and strength
  • Does not cheat with micro and dodge cannon shots or whatever
  • Breaks on like 1-2 maps
  • Sometimes too passive in team matches
  • Sometimes still a bit too bumrush aggressive (but the least so of all 3)

AoE2 “CD” AI:

  • Builds walls and defences
  • Attacks with armies
  • Adapts reasonably well to mixed/water maps
  • Yeah you can tell it’s almost 25 years old


  • It’s “challenging”, I guess
  • Can pull off some meta multiplayer rushing crap
  • Pretty reactive in team matches
  • Usually attacks in a straight line, even if it means banging its head on a bunch of castles
  • Doesn’t use formations, in AD 2023, and attacks with a loose diarrhea of random units as if it was still 1997, which is both an eyesore and infuriating
  • Blatantly robotic, with micro and macro which is such blatant cheating it’s not even funny and I will take resource cheating over this parody any day
  • I’m surprised it’s not programmed to make each and every unit dodge arrows too, or maybe it can dodge melee hits as well? Challenge for the devs?
  • Zero scaling with population cap, manages 150 villagers just as robotically as 50 - population cap is a second difficulty setting
  • Ignores the wonder if you build one, cannot play half the modes available
  • Goes utterly bonkers when it sees a patch of water on a 95% land map and will build 10 docks on every pond it finds (i.e. mixed maps are automatically far easier with how much resources it sinks into ships that can barely move)
  • Barely, if at all, adapts to your army composition
  • Builds almost no defences besides castles (sometimes pointed at the edge of the map or at an ally)
  • Random difficulty spikes - team matches can be unwinnable or autowin because one AI has 3 hussars 30 minutes into the game while the enemy has a post-Imperial army, on the same difficulty, for no clear reason
  • Its dumb, caveman design means that as soon as you can consistently defend against it, the game becomes a watching-paint-dry-simulator and you cannot lose, just have to chase down its 15 town centers. Making it either too easy and incredibly boring to play against late game, or an infuriating, overpowered spambot which feels like “what if they wanted to make a hardcore AI in 1999 without CPU limitations”.

It’s honestly embarrassing and pathetic. I’ve tried giving it dozens of chances, the latest one today after a few weeks of break and enjoying myself far more in AoE3 (which I used to always like less), but this is just a joke. It feels like AoE2:DE is made on the lowest budget of all. How does AoE3, supposedly always the underdog with a lot more complexity, have FAR better and more enjoyable AI that actually feels like made in the last decade? How does the infamous AoE1:DE AI do a bunch of basic things far better?

There is no excuse at this point. I’m done until they actually start caring about the single player playerbase.

edit: all the + and - symbols got converted into identical bulleted points, yay


As someone who has spent a lot of time watching Extreme AIs for videos, I think you’re wrong. They can actually appear startlingly human at times.


i’d argue 3 DE AI and 2 DE AI are pretty neck in neck, ofc AI in 3 DE has to manage a substantially more complex game, with more radical differences between civs, so AI by default cannot really use the same sort of opening with all, in 2 DE, i do see the point of the ranked like gameplay being the front and center with its scripting, because lets face it, it is, unlike the old CD AI that never had that as a focus, which also explains its struggles in more niche game modes, it could def use some sort of apm cap for micro to make it possible to land a mangonel hit for instance, but thats honestly my only complaint there, most of the strats are still determined by what the game allows, so the AI realistically still does well with whats available, to add a bit, 2 DE AI not walling is a bit weird, would like a small fix there

now ik you didn’t try AOE 4 AI yet, but honestly, brace yourself, if you thought 2 DE was problematic, you’re in for ride with this one, it sure caused me to suffer brain damage with the kind of things it struggles to pull off, the only thing that its objectively better at than 2 DE AI is walling, but its smt that could still use some serious work, but the biggest drawback of AOE4 AI is no custom scripting support, we’ll never see anything like barbarian of AOE2 or assertive seawall naval AI of AOE3 DE because it cannot be done as of now

People often talk about pathfinding being bad but imho it’s generally AI being by far the worst issue in aoe2.
I’m not against adding civs and variety for better AI, I think the two things should walk hand in hand, so I disagree with people using this as an excuse because they do not want new single player stuff. I think it’s reasonable to think Devs should provide for both given that dlc after dlc you end paying way more than the original game in full price. And it’s fine, it’s new content but it needs to not drop in quality from a technical pov too.

I think all your post could be resumed as that most of the time playing aoe2 feels like throwing bricks against a wall or like you’re playing alone against a target waiting to be hit. I wasn’t happy at all with it when designing my own custom scenarios so I spent hours just to make it act more “smart” (as smart as it can be) through dozens of triggers, trying to guess and imagine how the player would act and counteract accordingly.
Still I do not get payed for this ahah if the AI was generally better you wouldn’t need to explicitly program it to do everything in every scenario because it can’t realise almost nothing at all if left to its own devices.
We’re far from even remotely dreaming it to feel human or strategic, really it’s way way more primitive, at the point it would be an improvement to just it to realise when it should or not attack walls without triggers specifically telling it to do it or to not throw certain units to death…
We’re literally at the point of just have some common sense instead of simply throwing units to a point until it wins lol. Meanwhile the dodge system and cavalry archers micro is perfect ahah another reason why I preferred to use triggers instead of building on the AI itself. I just do not trust it to work without triggers contextual to every scenario I make… or maybe I’m a control freak lol

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It’s strange, I’ve seen it a lot in HD but I never really encountered this problem on DE.

Pretty much agreed I generally avoid skirmish on AOE2 for this reason. They also never build walls unlike the CD AI and I believe this is because they cant get the AI to build them 100% optimally everytime (The CD AI can leave gaps especially after tree lines it was using get cut)

But for me I still prefer the walls, my walls are never perfect I can miss a spot or forget to patch up a gap left by cut trees they still serve to restrict and funnel troops and crucially sell some of the illusion that the enemy base is a medieval town with walls and other defenses I’d expect to see not just a hive of structures (their building placement is very odd too)

You already mentioned the troop depolyment and I find that frustrating too they always attack in weird streams or conga lines and just feel very unnatural, they also lack any personality, they just seem to go for 1-2 safe strategies every game regardless of civ. Maybe it opens up more on the hardest difficulties but I’m never going to have the ability to play at that level of speed and it should be varied and fun at every level,

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The AoE 4 AI currently had or has an obsession with lumber camps.

DE’s Extreme AI tries to dodge projectiles and uses formations.

Actually when they recognize that they’re in range of an enemy building, they pull back if it’s a Castle or Tower. Happens on Moderate and Hard as well.

They usually react to your army. You go Scouts in Feudal? They make Spears. You add Crossbows in Castle Age? They’ll eventually make a mangonel. This happens on Moderate and Hard.

I’ve recently seen the Hard AI proactively building a tower at a wood line to defend from a potential rush

Actually, the AI is scripted to resign once it’s at a severe disadvantage, and never builds 15+ TCs in a single game.


Try the Barbarian AI designed by pro player TheMax. It’s much better than the official game AI.

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I’ve been primarily playing on Hard and trying to play on Hardest, and it’s exactly as described above. Hard is too easy once you can survive its first Imperial Age attacks and then you can just exterminate it, Hardest is nothing but spam, spam and more spam. Adding the every-unit-separately robot micro, it’s possibly the most unfun RTS AI I have ever played against, and I have zero desire to want to learn how to beat it, because it’s obvious I’m up against blatant cheating and this has nothing to do with how the game is designed to be played.

I’ve seen they spent more effort improving Extreme AI which is played by a tiny minority of people than the lower levels which are played by far more people, and it’s just baffling.

It’s strange, I’ve seen it a lot in HD but I never really encountered this problem on DE.

I encounter it all the time, I had to stop just using a random map choice because of this. I’m not even a huge fan of water maps but I like variety, but the difficulty difference is SO MASSIVE between full land and any water at all, it’s incredible. Hard AI on a mixed map is probably easier than Moderate on land. I have a ton of screenshots of AI trying to cram as many docks as possible on tiny ponds of water for no logical reason.

[I’m not very used to the formatting here]

Basing it on ranked MP should NOT be its focus and that makes absolutely no sense. Especially that it fails at even doing that now, no human ever will attack with a swarm of units pouring in from random directions and microing all of them separately. And still, ranked multiplayer represents a very narrow view of the game and basing AI around it is just tunnel vision and creating a vicious cycle. If this is what AoE2 looked like to begin with, me and countless other people wouldn’t care and would see no reason to play it over RTS games that are actually designed with more aggressive gameplay in mind and where it makes a lot more sense.

The game is supposed to be fully functional, not to mention if you call it “definitive” edition. AI with different personalities has been a thing, to my knowledge, since at least 2001. The current AI cannot do anything else than rush and aggressively spam units, and that’s especially obvious once you play with any settings outside of the default and full land units.

And yeah, I will probably give AoE4 a try when I have a new PC, but I don’t have great expectations based on what I heard, and it’s quite baffling that a big part of its almost-failure is how hard they tried to market it for MP… and now they’re doing the same with AoE2:DE. Wow.

As said above, I find Hardest already unbearably unfun to play against despite my multiple attempts (and I did beat it at least once, and it was NOT enjoyable), so have no interest in going up. And putting more effort into the least played difficulty level is just bizarre.

Maybe they do that do some extent, but one of the reasons Hard becomes so boring late game is that I’ve found reinforcing one side is enough. In AoE3 I know I actually have to be ready to defend almost anything I have. Here you can just drop 4 castles around the same spot and if you can defend from siege weapons, you’re invulnerable and the only threat is getting spammed to death.

Not late game, and if so then as I said, to a very limited extent - maybe it will start making some spears or skirmishers, but besides that will often still keep throwing the same units you just massacred at you.

Which is why I was bewildered to reach late-late Imperial Age on Hardest in AoE3, and find that the AI is AGGRESSIVELY countering my army composition every time I change it and I really, really, really had to sweat to keep up and finish the job, and destroying its base was actually really hard and not a fly-swatting exercise. I have never, ever had that experience in AoE2. As soon as you can overpower its spam, you won.

Yeah, I’ve seen it build… one. Maybe two. Besides that, it’s as if the entire tower line and its techs (some of them improved/added in DE) did not exist. In 2023.

But that often fails and I even made threads about that, suggesting a “persistence” setting or something. I’ve had this literal dozens of times, when I’ve already spent 10 minutes massacring the AI with 100+ units and destroying countless production units and town centers, and it would just not give up and keep making new town centers somewhere else despite having zero chance to fight back. 15+ was barely an exaggeration, I think up to 10 was not at all uncommon on bigger maps. This is why I always keep standard victory conditions in AoE2, because I’d rather build a wonder and go afk than have to commit mass town center demolition, each taking 5-15 minutes, 2-4 times in larger matches.

They would actually do by using control groups. Ofc they wouldn’t control all units individually (except monk micro to get multiple conversions before researching Theocracy) but that’s what comes closest to it.

AoE 2 always had one of its focusses on MP. In Age of Kings and Conquerors there was a prominently placed button in the main menu that redicted you to MSN Gaming Zone (and yep, I opened Age of Kings just for this screenshot):

(Side note: holy, the old main menu is really a beautiful masterpiece)

They do that all the time and it’s recognizable when you have the building range indicator enabled and garrison your villagers to save you from a raid.
Well, in AoE 3, buildings are also way more fragile than they are in AoE 2, so it makes sense that you have to stay alert all the time. In AoE 2 however, the AI will shamelessly use any hole you have.

Even late game. They just go for their strongest options if you allow them to freely develop and boom. Civs have different windows when they’re most vulnerable and if you’re past that point, they just wreck you with their power units.
If you preasure them with proxy castles and towers, they’ll e.g. send Rams to tackle them.

I’ve seen it in 90 % of my games against the Hard DE AI. As I keep my preasure on, they figure it won’t be worth it to upgrade their towers but maybe go for Murder Holes.

How does it fail? For me it happens in all my games and when I feel like killing every single unit, I just type 104 in chat to disable resigning.
Well, maybe it’s because you’re playing on bigger maps which provide more resources for more TCs? As I keep the recommended settings and mostly play land only maps against the AI, they don’t do that, even in FFAs.
I guess it can be also because you’re playing Standard Victory as the AI prioritizes Relic victory over military victory there.