There’s a difference between disadvantage and post-iron age army multiple times the popcap that only needs to a-move into your base to win at any time. The only reason you can win a map like that is that the AI is retarded and doesn’t attack. This just leads to further problems because the AI is popcapped and cannot make units before you’ve pretty much killed it.
A lot of this comes from the AI being what it is. If the AI was good, you’d have a challenging match with a skirmish start(TC+3 vils for both.) This would allow a lot more freedom for campaign development. I’ve been playing around in the scenario/campaign editor and I’ve had to scrap more than a few ideas just because of how the AI works.
You want it to defend something? Put that something in the south corner of the map, that’s where most of it’s forces tend to get stuck anyway. Make sure the production buildings are above it.
You want it to attack with a certain timing? Tweak it’s starting buildings/villagers/resources to achieve that.
Want it to have non-suicidal villagers? Don’t give it vision anywhere near the player at the start. Make sure not to place any shallow tiles on the map. Also predators are not allowed.
As a general rule always make the smallest map possible. AI is unable to take advantage of the space and will waste tons of units on guarding the whole map. Never make a gigantic map unless it’s naval.
BTW. AI loves towers and doesn’t know what walls are so make sure the walls you want are on the map from the start.
The best way I’ve found so far is dividing AI into multiple players. One with a defending army(set on don’t move stance,) one with an offensive army(engage right at the start) and then an AI player for every TC you want them to have. Every AI also needs either a granary+storage pit or wood+berries at enough distance from their TC to be able to develop properly(a villager should be placed where you want their first buildings to go!) Remember to leave enough space next to TC to build a base. It’s also worth it to ban every building that they don’t need and you can control their production curve if you ban all military buildings and only give them a certain number at the start.
The biggest problem with this approach is the limited popcap for the player but that can be solved by lowering the AI popcap to compensate. If this is not done the player is forced to spam Towers to overcome the difference should they all attack at the same time.
I’ll probably replay a lot of the campaigns if the hinted AI rework comes out in a future patch.
The AI is indeed rather weak. This is the main reason why the campaigns have to give the AI a large technology advantage or a huge army to make it challenging. But this is not the fault of the campaign design. The campaigns are well designed within the mechanics and limitations of the game, but saying that the AI is bad is fair, since there are many areas where it could be improved.
For making your own campaigns, .ai and .per files are important for making the AI behave like you want it to, but I don’t think those files are moddable in DE currently. With those files you can set how many and what units the AI makes, as well as when it attacks and with how many units. It’s true that there are workarounds to make the AI behave more like you want it to, but I would rather wait for the ability to make .ai and .per files before making any advanced scenarios.
The Rise of Rome campaign mission 2 is the worst one I’ve encountered so far. The one where your objective is to “destroy the army of Pyrrhus”. Either they attack you in the first 3 minutes and wipe you out with their catapult triremes and elephants (while you have only tool age archers and axemen) or they don’t attack for 30 minutes, giving you ample time to collect tons of resources and build up.
But even when you collect tons of resources and build up, the rest of the campaign is still brutal. You send wave after wave of swordsmen, improved bowmen and catapults, and they all get destroyed over and over again because Army of Pyrrhus has infinite resources to recruit elephants, elephant archers, helepolis, cataphracts, and they can micromanage every single one of their units to avoid your arrows.
You try to use catapults to take out their elephants but your catapults end up getting stuck on trees, then they decide to shoot randomly and wipe out your entire army (seriously, I’ve given up using catapults in this game, they kill more of my own guys than the enemy, they’re just not worth it).
And it’s not difficult because you already have tons of resources built up, it’s just a brutal slog of sending wave after wave at the enemy until eventually you overwhelm them after 3 hours of playing the campaign.
I dunno, I’m just not enjoying the campaigns at all. This game shouldn’t have been a straight up remaster of the original. The bugs really needed to be fixed. The campaigns could’ve been improved 1000% if pathfinding was just fixed and my units didn’t get stuck inside each other.
It’s great in custom games, but in campaigns only 10% of my army can fight at the same time because the other 90% are stuck inside each other and/or getting massacred by my own catapults.
I agree that the time when the AI attacks can sometimes be too random and some missions can even become impossible if you are too unlucky. This is something that the developers should look into, but again, this is a problem with the AI, not campaign design.
But if you attack the enemy with improved bowmen and kill your army with your own catapults, then it’s your own fault that you lose. Improved bowmen are not very good even in bronze are basically useless in iron. And catapults should not be used in combination with melee units like swordsmen. A single push with legions and ballistas should be enough to destroy the enemy. If you can’t find the best army composition to counter what the enemy has, I think it’s only logical that it would make the mission very hard.