I write this post out of love for the game and the community, and I hope it’s well-received.
Player counts in aoe3 are currently dwindling, and while many may blame it on aoe4, I’m not so sure aoe4 is the cause. I’m not playing either game atm. AoE4 doesn’t have the same personalized feel that aoe3 has, but aoe3 has gone off the rails with some of the new content, and I believe that many players are repelled by their inability to recognize a game they’ve played for more than 15 years.
tldr; DE devs have strayed too far from much of aoe3’s core unit-design philosophies, and they should make adjustments accordingly if they really wish for this game to be a definitive version of the beloved AoE3.
Unfortunate design choices: ambiguous unit qualities and stats, blatant disregard for the core unit typing and counter system, and convolution without cause.
Here is aoe3’s counter system in a nutshell graphic.
I stole this from someone on the forums a few months ago, but I don’t remember who or where, so thanks to that person for the graphic. I did make a change: Heavy infantry’s counter to Ranged cavalry is a dotted line, because muskets only just trade well with goons, and it’s rare for goons to actually get caught in melee by infantry. Ranged cavalry’s counter to artillery is also be dotted, b/c it’s not a very hard counter, and it usually requires a very large mass of ranged cav to effectively pick off cannons.
Generally, each unit counters 2 different unit types, and is countered by 2 different unit types (2:2). At most, legacy civs only ever included one unit that might throw a wrench in this system, and the draw-backs were clear.
- Spanish: Lancers also counter HI (3:2)
- Aztec: JPK also counter HI (~3:2)
- Lakota: Rifle Rider also counters HI, but they include a heavy cavalry tag, so ranged cavalry now counter them. (3:3). Lakota also has Tokala Soldiers that act like lancers to a lesser extent, but they’re hard to train.
- Indian: Urumi is by far the weirdest unit in the game before DE, being a non-heavy melee infantry that deals splashing ranged damage. One might argue that they counter other non-heavy infantry b/c they perform so well. (3:2 or 2:2). Very notable that these units can only be shipped and not trained.
- Japanese: Yabusame replace the dotted line with a bold line, at the cost of being less affective against cav (2:~2).
Some notable design choices made by legacy devs that you’ll notice sliding in DE:
- units never totally defy this system. that is, they only ever add counter arrows. Never is an arrow removed.
- No unit that adds a counter arrow is available in the Commerce age.
- Every unit that adds an arrow is weaker in one of their typical match-ups. Lancers are weak to cav; JPK are worse against cav than is typical for HI; Rifle riders are straight countered by goons; Urumi usually can’t catch ranged cav, nor can they poke cav; Yabusame don’t deal with cav as well as goon counterparts, and are more vulnerable in melee than is typical.
- No civilization had more than one of these units.
With DE came the carolean; one rule-breaking unit took 10 months to balance.
With DE civs, the carolean was the problem child for a while.
At first, they could directly counter non-heavy infantry by simply switching into melee mode. They also had a multiplier against ranged cav, giving them 3 bold arrows (3:2)! Only JPK had (kind of) done this before, and they were premium garbage units stat-wise. Not surprisingly, this was extremely broken! So they were given the charge ability, which is just clunky enough that people could beat caroleans with ranged infantry again. Then they were still too strong, having a ranged multiplier against ranged cav, so that had to be taken away as well. Then with Svea lifegard, caroleans became tanky enough that they were no longer countered by non-heavy infantry (2:1). Now with some additional tuning, the new, more balanced caroleans counter cav, and only sometimes counter non-heavy infantry, and never really counter ranged cav better than trading well. (~2:2) Balancing one unit who tried to break to rules took something like 10 months.
But that’s in the past, so let’s talk about the African Royals.
I’m going to try to hit every rule-breaking unit. I’m using info from the wiki which is known to have some errors, so lemme know if anything’s wrong.
Shotel Warrior, Ethiopian
This is an Ethiopian default-trainable coyote man with a multiplier against ALL infantry. My only question is “why?” It’s a small enough multiplier that they won’t ever beat HI or trade effectively against them, so why mess with the rules? Seems like this multiplier only serves to obscure the unit. Some might think it’ll effectively counter HI, and others might see the unit as something other than a coyote-runner-type at first glance. Would be better to include a penalty to HI for clarity’s sake.
Somali Darood Militia, available to Ethiopia
while 30% resist vs. Ranged and Siege is not totally redundant, it’s also not particularly useful, and again serves to obscure the unit’s primary functionality. 30% siege resist might look like a good thing, but the reality is that falconets will still 1-shot darood militia. ̶N̶o̶t̶ ̶o̶n̶l̶y̶ ̶w̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶f̶a̶l̶c̶s̶ ̶s̶t̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶a̶l̶w̶a̶y̶s̶ ̶1̶-̶s̶h̶o̶t̶,̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶o̶v̶e̶r̶k̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶f̶a̶c̶t̶o̶r̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶̶r̶e̶d̶u̶c̶e̶d̶̶ ̶f̶r̶o̶m̶ ̶1̶6̶0̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶7̶0̶,̶ ̶m̶e̶a̶n̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶̶̶9̶0̶ ̶̶m̶o̶r̶e̶̶̶̶ ̶d̶a̶m̶a̶g̶e̶ ̶w̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶d̶i̶s̶t̶r̶i̶b̶u̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶a̶m̶o̶n̶g̶ ̶n̶e̶a̶r̶b̶y̶ ̶u̶n̶i̶t̶s̶ ̶d̶o̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶w̶a̶y̶ ̶d̶a̶m̶a̶g̶e̶ ̶c̶a̶p̶s̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶k̶.̶ ̶T̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶i̶s̶t̶a̶n̶c̶e̶ ̶m̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶a̶c̶t̶u̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ ̶m̶a̶k̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶m̶ ̶p̶e̶r̶f̶o̶r̶m̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶s̶e̶ ̶a̶g̶a̶i̶n̶s̶t̶ ̶c̶a̶n̶o̶n̶s̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶h̶i̶g̶h̶ ̶m̶u̶l̶t̶i̶p̶l̶i̶e̶r̶s̶,̶ ̶b̶u̶t̶ ̶I̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶t̶e̶s̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶c̶o̶n̶f̶i̶r̶m̶.̶
This unit attempts to create a dotted line toward countering cannons, but the reality is that no skirmisher will or should ever perform well against cannons, and players should not be led to believe that this one can.
Sudanese Dervish, available to Ethiopia, Commerce Age
Sudanese Dervish is a non-heavy infantry unit that deals melee damage from 14 range. This melee damage acts as a hidden multiplier against non-heavy infantry, cannons, and cavalry-- all units this unit type shouldn’t counter.
Their displayed multipliers look like this:
×2.0 vs. Light cavalry and Eagle Runner Knights
×1.75 vs. Heavy infantry
×0.50 vs. Cavalry and shock infantry
But if they were to deal the same amount of damage that they do using a ranged attack (based on resistances for typical units of these types, i.e. musk, huss, goon, skirm, falc), their multipliers would look like this:
[x2 * 1.25 * 0.5 = ] x1.25 vs. Light Cavalry
[x1.75 * 0.8 = ] x1.4 vs. Heavy Infantry
[x0.5 * 1.25 = ] x0.625 vs. Cavalry
x4 vs. cannons.
x1.42 vs. skirm-type infantry.
(4:2 including light cav) So why does this unit counter so many things? Based on the fact that this is a native unit with no specific purpose, I think the devs wanted to do something cool, but they did it without regard for fundamental boundaries placed on each unit type. Unfortunately, it’s not just a native because Ethiopia can train Dervishes in every game if they so choose. As a result, we have a unit that players can’t easily understand how to counter and whose balance is largely unknown.
A̶k̶a̶n̶ ̶A̶n̶k̶o̶b̶i̶a̶,̶ ̶a̶v̶a̶i̶l̶a̶b̶l̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶H̶a̶u̶s̶a̶,̶ ̶C̶o̶m̶m̶e̶r̶c̶e̶ ̶A̶g̶e̶
T̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶p̶r̶e̶m̶i̶u̶m̶ ̶"̶M̶u̶s̶k̶e̶t̶e̶e̶r̶"̶ ̶b̶r̶e̶a̶k̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶m̶o̶s̶t̶ ̶f̶u̶n̶d̶a̶m̶e̶n̶t̶a̶l̶ ̶r̶u̶l̶e̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶o̶u̶n̶t̶e̶r̶ ̶s̶y̶s̶t̶e̶m̶ ̶b̶y̶ ̶r̶e̶m̶o̶v̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶ ̶c̶o̶u̶n̶t̶e̶r̶ ̶a̶r̶r̶o̶w̶.̶ ̶T̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶m̶u̶s̶k̶e̶t̶e̶e̶r̶ ̶h̶a̶s̶ ̶n̶o̶ ̶H̶e̶a̶v̶y̶ ̶I̶n̶f̶a̶n̶t̶r̶y̶ ̶t̶a̶g̶,̶ ̶m̶e̶a̶n̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶s̶k̶i̶r̶m̶i̶s̶h̶e̶r̶s̶ ̶d̶o̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶h̶a̶v̶e̶ ̶a̶n̶y̶ ̶m̶u̶l̶t̶i̶p̶l̶i̶e̶r̶ ̶a̶g̶a̶i̶n̶s̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶m̶ ̶(̶2̶:̶1̶)̶.̶ ̶I̶t̶ ̶o̶t̶h̶e̶r̶w̶i̶s̶e̶ ̶b̶e̶h̶a̶v̶e̶s̶ ̶e̶x̶a̶c̶t̶l̶y̶ ̶a̶s̶ ̶a̶ ̶m̶u̶s̶k̶e̶t̶e̶e̶r̶ ̶d̶o̶e̶s̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶m̶u̶l̶t̶i̶p̶l̶i̶e̶r̶s̶ ̶a̶g̶a̶i̶n̶s̶t̶ ̶c̶a̶v̶a̶l̶r̶y̶,̶ ̶m̶e̶l̶e̶e̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶i̶s̶t̶a̶n̶c̶e̶,̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶h̶i̶g̶h̶ ̶H̶P̶.̶ ̶C̶a̶n̶n̶o̶n̶s̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶o̶n̶l̶y̶ ̶c̶o̶u̶n̶t̶e̶r̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶u̶n̶i̶t̶,̶ ̶a̶l̶t̶h̶o̶u̶g̶h̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶b̶a̶b̶l̶y̶ ̶t̶r̶a̶d̶e̶s̶ ̶p̶o̶o̶r̶l̶y̶ ̶a̶g̶a̶i̶n̶s̶t̶ ̶o̶t̶h̶e̶r̶ ̶m̶u̶s̶k̶e̶t̶e̶e̶r̶s̶.̶ ̶C̶i̶v̶s̶ ̶w̶h̶o̶ ̶d̶o̶n̶’̶t̶ ̶g̶e̶t̶ ̶m̶u̶s̶k̶e̶t̶e̶e̶r̶s̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶ ̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶l̶u̶c̶k̶.̶ ̶I̶f̶ ̶I̶ ̶w̶e̶r̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶c̶h̶a̶r̶g̶e̶ ̶I̶ ̶w̶o̶u̶l̶d̶ ̶a̶d̶d̶ ̶a̶ ̶H̶e̶a̶v̶y̶ ̶i̶n̶f̶a̶n̶t̶r̶y̶ ̶t̶a̶g̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶r̶e̶m̶o̶v̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶i̶r̶ ̶m̶u̶l̶t̶i̶p̶l̶i̶e̶r̶ ̶a̶g̶a̶i̶n̶s̶t̶ ̶c̶a̶v̶,̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶a̶d̶j̶u̶s̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶i̶r̶ ̶d̶a̶m̶a̶g̶e̶ ̶a̶c̶c̶o̶r̶d̶i̶n̶g̶l̶y̶.̶
Berber Camel Rider, available to Hausa, Commerce Age
This is a melee Light Cavalry unit with decent melee attack, and melee resistance. Essentially, it’s a light cavalry unit with an arrow pointing back at non-heavy infantry (3:2). There’s no real downside to this unit other than it’s training limit.
Yoruba Oso Legionary, available to Hausa
Here’s a musketeer with ranged resistance. .3 RR on caroleans was too much, but I’m sure .25 RR is fine on these guys. (2: ~1). while ranged infantry will probably still trade well against them, I wouldn’t call ranged infantry a counter to Oso Legionaries until CIR is researched late in the game.
Yoruba Eso Rider, available to Hausa
Here’s a Naginata-type cavalry unit, except with 7.5 speed (faster than a goon) and 50% RR. He apparently attacks faster and faster as he loses HP, until his RoF eventually doubles. With resistance and speed like this, I’m not too sure goons really counter these guys (2:1).
The following units are needlessly convoluted and should be simplified:
With a 1.25 RoF, I have to use a calculator to understand this unit’s power level relative to other units. This is what I mean by “convolution without cause.” There is no reason this unit can’t be a 1.5 RoF unit that deals 15.6 damage instead of 1.25 RoF and 13 damage.
Uniform RoF across units exists for readability. Expert aoe3 players can’t look at this unit’s stats for the first time and understand how strong it is. That’s a needless problem.
IDK how many times this has to be said across every forum, but having both
15% resist vs. Melee &
30% resist vs. Ranged
is redundant, totally unnecessary, and offers no strategic value.
Lifidi Knights have 430 / .85 = 505.8 melee HP and 430 / .7 = 614.3 ranged HP.
This is all but equivalent to ~505 HP with 18% RR.
For the sake of maintaining consistency with the rest of the game (which is important), 500 HP with 20% RR would be a LOT cleaner.
Again, attack speed is just all over the place. starts at 2.5, and apparently scales up to 1 RoF making this unit confusing from start to finish. I can only say 2.5 RoF deals 20% more damage than 3 RoF, and 1 RoF deals 200% more damage than 3 RoF. so their attack power is everywhere between 20% and 200% higher than an experienced player’s intuition for the displayed number would lead them to believe. Pretty wild.
Don’t have time to get into mercs unfortunately.
Is it any surprise that this expansion has been polarizing? With new factions that have so many units that challenge the game’s fundamental systems, can we really call this the “Definitive” edition of the game when half of the players who stuck around for 15 years have abandoned the latest iteration? My suggestion is to rework these units within the confines of the original counter system, and adhere to the design choices of the legacy developers. The last two major tournaments (perhaps the last two aoe3 tournaments ever) banned African civs. Now there are no more tournaments being planned. Left as it is, The African Royals will be known as the expansion that definitively ended competitive AoE3.
EDIT: @M00Z1LLA pointed out that the wiki has some bad info, as expected. so I’m crossing out the section on Akan Ankobia.
Also crossed out the part about falcs dealing even more dmg against siege resist because it might not be true.