AoE2 HD - Balance Patch 5.8 - Opinion


#1

Hi!

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^^


#2

I haven’t got the time to test this new HD patch yet. But I do agree with you that it’s better to emphasize more on diversion as AOE2 has the All Techs option already anyway. What you think of that option?

Anyway, I liked reading your constructive and well explained opinion.


#3

I don’t really see FE doing what you are claiming they do. Sometimes they nerf unique aspects of a civ yes - If that’s what makes a civ too strong. That bonus still exists though. Sometimes they nerf other stuff that’s not particularly unique though. They also buff civs at times. And that makes sense. You try to bring civs to an overall similar powerlevel, so you nerf strong civs and buff weak ones.
That of course doesn’t mean that each civ has to be equally strong in all situations, just in an overall/average sort of sense. Just buffing or alone isn’t a good idea, because you’ll inevitable overshoot with one of the changes, which means that you then need to buff all the other civs and so on, which just leads to an endless cycle of buffing.

Your example of the Feitoria isn’t a particularly good one, because the building is fundamentally flawed in a balance aspect. If you make it good enough to be used in regular play, it will be completely overpowered in other situations. Before the nerf, you could see a glimpse of that when it was used for BBT spam in long games, even though it wasn’t that good for normal situations there either. It’s just a bonus that doesn’t work well together with the aoe2 gameplay.

As for the info texts, here is a mod I made with all that included: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=649570924


#4

Thank you for your comments!

@PCS70:
Although I don’t play games with the “All Techs” option, I’m really glad that this option exists just for the reason you mentioned: whoever wants to play a “completely” balanced game (okay, that’s still not entirely possible, since the starting locations are never equivalent) can select this setting. Hence there’s no reason to decrease diversion among the civs.

@Jineapple:
Regarding the info texts: Awesome! I definitely need to try out this mod. It’s exactly what I need and I think it should be included in the game itself (so that you don’t need the mod (and especially the knowledge that such a mod exists!)).

Regarding my criticism and my proposal to reconsider your approach, let’s take the last patch 5.7 as an example (and I could continue my list with many other patches):

Patch 5.7:
Nerfs:
Condottiero (massive armor class nerf + 10% dmg nerf + pierce armor lost)
(Elite) Battle Elephants (massive tech nerf + aoedmg decreased by more than 35%)
Elite Karambit Warrior (-13% dmg = massive nerf)
(Elite) camel archers (massive defense nerfs)
Ethiopians (no free halberdiers = losing 900 ressources (600g!) for tech = strong nerf)
Burmese (howdah costs +40%! And elephants losing 1 pierce armor (so for example getting 2 instead of 1 dmg from arbalests) = both together massive nerf)
(Elite) Arambai (massive defense nerf, speed nerf, dmg nerf)
Eagle Warrior (10% creation time nerf and (much worse) speed nerf)
Camels (massive nerf to camel armor class; I feel like the archer line is deciding and dominating 10 times as many games as camels do and yet camels instead of archers got a heavy nerf…)
Malians (lose 350 ressources and additional gold until Gold Shaft Mining is researched, so definitely strong nerf too)

Buffs:
Arquebus (Reintroduced old buff to projectile speed)
Organ Gun (2 spread dmg instead of 1; according to Spirit of the Law tests the spread dmg was almost entirely negligible and this slight buff won’t change that)
Chatras (oh yea, finally realizing that adding 30HP to elephants, so somewhere around 10% HP (or not even half a hit by a halberdier), is not as great as bloodlines, giving 27% HP to Hussars, 12,5% to Paladins AND 7-8% for Elephants for half as many ressources and 1 age earlier… this tech is still not great after buff)

The trend is distinctly and visible. There are consistently more nerfs than buffs and the nerfs are by far heavier and more drastic than the buffs. And as I said: I can give you many more examples in the previous patches.

If you have a list of the civs ordered by their avg winrate on all map types and setting, I daresay that this list is not like “60%, 60%, 49%, 49%, 49%, 49%, 49%, …” so consisting of few overpowered civs which need to be nerfed and many that are “balanced”. It would be more like all the civs randomly distributed somewhere between 40% and 60%, meaning that you could at least introduce buffs in a similar quantity and magnitude as nerfs. And if you nerf a civ, you could alternatively do that by removing access to a non-unique unit/technology instead of removing or weakening civ bonuses, civ team bonuses or unique units/techs.

As for the Feitoria being “completely overpowered” in certain situations, I cannot see a difference to other unique units like Huskarls: Huskarls are “completely overpowered” in certain situations against civs without good counter options like the Mayas. Likewise Teutonic Knights are “completely overpowered” in trash wars as no trash unit deals more than 1 dmg per hit to them and so on.
That being said, I again want to add that collecting wood with 20 villagers (or wood with 3 vils and food with 17 vils if you’re really in a situation where wood is scarce) and selling wood/food for gold to buy stone is still better than letting the Feitorias produce stone (even if you sell the other ressources of the Feitoria for stone too) until the market price of stone goes above 400 gold (this is proven in a Spirit of the Law video). And this is already calculated with wood and food being worth 17 gold, so not with starting market exchange rates.
This means that Feitorias are underpowered, even for flooding bombard towers - until the market price of stone goes beyond 400 gold. And as SotL has proven, they are even worse for gold production - except the selling price for wood/food/stone is around 500 (which is very unrealistic). So chopping wood or harvesting fields and selling the ressources for gold is almost always better; and trading (if possible) even much more.
In my opinion the Portuguese should (if Feitorias aren’t being changed or additionally grant another effect) at least have “the right” to get an unmatched access to stone if they - as a civ shining mainly in the late game - manage it to survive until late imp and until all stone of the map has been mined. Currently imho Feitorias are simply unusable.

Regarding diversion, I also don’t like the nerf of the tower rush. It was an uncommon strategy mainly employed by the Koreans, which brought diversion into many games. The nerf of the tower building time bonus for Koreans (unfortunately the patch notes don’t inform about how much the building speed bonus has been reduced) as well as the increased wood cost make trushing much harder as it already used to be.

For a change I’d like to add that I like the Malay civ quite a lot. It exhibits some features one cannot find in entire AoE: A unit that only needs 0.5 pop space (although it has been utterly nerfed with the reduction of the pierce armor from 2 to 1 and now the dmg reduction…), the removal of the gold-costs for a non-unique unit (2H-swordsmen), docks/harbors shooting errors (although they too have been nerfed -.-), fish traps as an unlimited source of food. I like these novel ideas!

Looking forward to more feedback :slight_smile: !


#5

can not agree more!The lateset patch is more or less stupid.