While I don’t think AoE2 HD FE and the other expansions are generally and heavily unbalanced, I have a problem with the FE developer’s approach: You are making civilizations increasingly similar and less individual; I don’t like that and I think that is bad for the game.
One thing ahead - I think we all agree that you cannot balance each civilization against each other civilization on each map type and in each team constellation:
Goths are good against Mayans.
Aztecs are better in Dark+Feudal than Koreans and Koreans are (in most cases) stronger in late Imp.
The Spanish team bonus is entirely useless in 1v1 and probably better than all other civ’s team bonuses in most team games.
Vikings will simply outplay most other civs on Island maps.
Mayans and Indians are stronger than most other civs on 1v1 Arab.
So yes, each civilization (or certain aspects thereof) may be “unbalanced”, better than or worse than each other civilization under the right circumstances and that is VERY good because it brings variety and alternation into the game.
In my definition, “balance” means not that each civ is balanced against each under all possible circumstances, it rather means that if you take all games being played in the current meta (on all map types) together, the winning chance of all civs should be approximately equal. Yes, Vikings might have a higher win percentage on water maps and Turks on Dark Wood maps, but on average it should be mostly equal.
Because of these differences between the civs, NOT playing mirror civs brings an entirely new aspect into the game: changing the game situation in a way, that your civ can shine.
For example 1v1 Aztecs vs. Spanish: The Aztec player wants to prevent the Spanish player (whose civ is pretty weak early) to get strong in Castle/Imp, so he employs the Aztecs early aggression potential to end the game prematurely or get a big advantage early in the game to finish the opponent later on. The Spanish player on the other side has an entirely different goal: Defending and surviving early on to outplay the Aztec in the later stages of the game.
Age of Empires needs this diversity of the civilizations; AoE is just as enjoyable as it is because of the differences between the civilizations.
You - the FE developers - are balancing in a way that goes against this “aim of diversity” and I ask you to reconsider your approach:
Whenever a civ seems to strong, you nerf something of it, usually one of its civ bonuses or its civ team bonus or its unique unit or one of its unique technologies. That decreases the diversity between the different civs. Why not going the other way? You could instead give buffs to the unique aspects of civilizations that are too weak in the current meta (civs having bad average win rates or being not played at all).
I can understand that sometimes a nerf might be the easiest way, if a specific unit is simply way too strong; but I’m sure that in many cases buffing the unique aspects of weak civs makes AoE2 a more enjoyable game than nerfing the strong civs.
One random example:
The Feitoria: As Spirit of the Law (I’m sure you know him) has shown in his videos, the Feitoria is a highly questionable building as it produces ressources with the speed of 4-5 villagers but takes 20 population space. Even before the nerfs I almost couldn’t imagine any situation where I would use it (cutting trees or farming with 20 vils and selling wood/food for gold/stone is almost always better), except if the whole map is out of ressources and the last tree has been cut down. And even then the ressource production rate is insanely slow. And you nerfed it even more… Count the number of games that have been decided by this unique building and for example the number of games that have been decided by unique units like Huskarls. You can’t even compare that. If you manage to boom and flood your opponent with huskarls to death, you deserve victory. And if you should really manage to survive with a late game civ like the Portuguese up to a point, where there is no tree left on the map, you maybe simply deserve to win the game too… The idea behind the building is great, but its severely underpowered. Nerfing the already weak building was a coward move, maybe caused by one of the FE developers losing after 10 hours on a map empty of ressources against a Portuguese player.
=> A unique building or unit is only making a civ more unique, if someone is actually using it (same applies/applied for Tarkans and Longboats)
So if there should ever be another balance patch, let us assume we have a list of all civs ordered by their avg winrate on all map types. Now we don’t pick the 3 strongest civs and nerf their unique features, but we take the 3 weakest civs and buff some of their unique features. Let’s assume (just as an example) these 3 weak civs were Slavs, Teutons and Persians.
Slavs: Change Siege Weapons -15% costs to Siege Weapons -20% costs. Increase HP of (Elite) Boyars by 5.
Teutons: Crenellations give +4 range instead of +3 range. Ironclad increases the melee armor by 5 instead of 4.
Persians: Reduce the ridiculously high bonus dmg elephant units receive by speer units. Increase Boiling Oil damage by one.
I think meanwhile you got my point.
Another thing: I would be really happy about a rework of the unit information texts. In my opinion for the sake of transparency, a unit’s attack speed, movement speed and attack bonuses should be noted in its description text too as they are equally important as armor and attack damage - which are noted.
And one last point: I don’t like inscrutable exceptions rules like the one you’ve added with this patch 5.8: Mamelukes receive 5 less damage from Halberdiers. It’s already enough to remember all the attack bonuses of the dozens of units against different unit armor classes. I don’t want to start remembering 1337 new exception rules like this one.
Ty everyone who has read this :-0 Feedback / discussion highly appreciated^^