Discuss - historical accuracy VS honoring legacy civs

One big point of contention that divides many users in this forum is the issue of significantly changing legacy civs to make them more historically accurate. While I am a stickler for historical accuracy, these standards only apply to civs added in The Forgotten and beyond. I am of the position that reworking ES civs to correct their mistakes is a slippery slope that will eventually lead to every single original feature of the game being removed or reworked, to the point where it’s functionally not the same game anymore.

Unlike with Minecraft, where you can continue to use an old update (and people still use 1.8 of that game to avoid getting the controversial combat changes), you simply cannot play with old versions of DE. If you want to get legacy civ experiences, you need to use the CD version or HD, which is a massively inferior experience. If legacy civs are irreversibly changed in DE, you have the tradeoff of losing either gameplay QoL and convenience or losing the classic civ experience that has been present for over 20 years. That’s not a reasonable tradeoff, and could easily cost DE the more hardcore players that have played the game since it came out, and like the civs the way they are. Losing such a large chunk of the playerbase will be harmful to DE in the long run, and will likely lead to more and more out-of-place mechanics being introduced, and civs will be more gimmicky to appeal to younger players who like novelty. That will ruin the game’s simplicity, which is part of what made it so fun in the first place.

That is the main reason I am opposed to considerably reworking ES civs.

On the other hand, there is a reasonable argument to be made that the devs have no excuse allowing 20+ year-old historical inaccuracies to remain intact when there is a huge effort to make the game much more historically accurate in general. I actually understand both sides of the argument, and respect both, due to being both a history buff and a purist. It seems very odd to have units like the Woad Raider or the Huskarl in a game that also has units like the Coustillier, which is arguably the single most historically accurate cavalry unit in the game. There does seem to be an odd disconnect that becomes much more apparent the bigger the game gets and the more that new civs outnumber the old ones. There’s a huge emphasis on vigorous research nowadays to make the new civs as historically accurate as possible, and I applaud it, which is why much more egregious examples of modern historically inaccurate civs like the Dravidians massively stand out. The original ES devs seemed to base a lot of their decision-making on pop culture, and it gave many civs historically dubious identities. This can be misleading and even misinforming; if someone wants to learn history from AoE2, they’re going to learn a lot of very wrong things because of the original civs.

While AoE2 is just a game, it’s also a great educational tool, and the presence of massive historical inaccuracies provides significant barriers to that secondary purpose. One might be under the impression that huskarls were indeed Gothic and not Norse like they actually were; unless one is also a Skyrim player, that misconception will likely permeate and color their perception of things until they do proper research. I know that that has been my experience. Similarly, one might assume that the Koreans used war wagons, that were actually Chinese, in battle, when they actually didn’t. Or they might assume that eagle warriors were used widely across American cultures, when they were really just an Aztec thing. Heck, one might assume that the mighty Teutonic Knights preferred to be unstoppable ground troops that took a while to get places, but were tough to stop. Such a person might be surprised to learn that they actually rode horses all the time. In a similar vein, one might question how on Earth the Arabs were able to conquer anything if they had to import all their camels from China and threw away their swords instead of actually swinging them. Historical questions and doubts like that only arise if one approaches AoE2, seeing the meticulous attention to detail as of late, and naively assumes that the entire game has always had that much care put into it and doesn’t think critically as a result.

As you can see, there are two main schools of thought when approaching this issue, and I happen to understand and relate to both. There will inevitably always be a divide when it comes to purism vs historical accuracy, and there is probably no way to adequately placate both.

The best way I can see to satisfy both groups without having to force one to go back to HD is by either providing a way to remain on previous builds instead of being forced to play the updated versions, just like Minecraft, or providing two versions of DE with identical base gameplay, one having legacy civs in it, and the other replacing them with more historically accurate versions. These are the best ways to approach the issue in my opinion, and even then, both sides probably won’t be totally happy.

In any case, I want to know your thoughts on the issue.

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Personally, I think no civs should be above a rework, whether for historical accuracy or for balance. Changelogs exist for a reason.

The way people put ES and TAD civs in both Age of Empires 2 and 3 on a pedestal really annoys me.


I’m beginning to think the solution really is either providing a way to play with old builds or providing two versions, one legacy and one historically accurate.

So i just skimmed your post but how i see it is.

Every civ should be able to be changed, it’s just keeping the core integral part of their identity if possible. If the core identity is a serious balance issue or totally bland, then yes consider changing it.

Like the Persians, in the past, they had a full stable tech tree. So keep that or at least give them good calv of some kind. As for whether battle elephants are a core identity of the Persians? Well, that’s getting into murky territory, and it’s hard to say.

Historical accuracy will always come second to game design and balance. It’s impossible to achieve total historical accuracy but it’s trying to get it without taking away from the gameplay or balance. Historical accuracy should provide inspiration instead of hard rules. They should instead enhance the gameplay rather than limit the civs (ie. eagle warriors to American civs instead of stable). These kinds of historical nods to history, but not too rigid (as we know only Aztecs had eagles) are what I think makes aoe2 great.

Things like removing organ guns from Portuguese and giving them to Italians cant be done in aoe2, if there was a new aoe2 game then sure they could change it but changing it now is just limiting the game.

I’m fine with some inaccuracies like Eagles being regional units instead of exclusive to Aztecs (I think native americans need more regional units tho, like Indian civs have like 3 regional units), but in-game Celts and Goths are basically fantasy. Plumed Archers are completely made up as well. Those are the kinds of things I want changed.

Actually, they might not be. I seem to recall reading something recently talking about Toltec archers dressed in brightly-colored outfits with colorful headdresses. That could’ve been the inspiration behind them.


AoE2 is an historically inspired real time strategy game. If it makes someone interested in learning more about history – great! AoE1 did this for me with all these bronze age cultures that I did not know much about before.
Was it a problem that half of the actual content there (regarding civ tech trees, boni, etc) was actual fantasy? Of course not. Because even as a teenager I understood that the game is merely an abstraction of reality, not a factual representation of state-of-the-art historical knowledge.

Demanding absolute historical accuracy is a rabbit hole with no end. The game would become utterly complex and hard to balance.
It’s the same pitfall that comes with the goal of “representing” every possible cultural group that existed in the middle ages, to “cover” everything. It’s just bad for the game.

I think it’s wise to consider what made the AoE series popular and stick to that formula.


This is a very pragmatic position, and is largely why I believe what I do.

Well said icicle. I am an amateur historian, but I do not want the game more historically accurate, other than regional re-skins. Hopefully, the AoE series encourages people to learn more about history, but in the end, it is simply an enjoyable, historically inspired game.

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That was actually quite common across Mesoamerica. Featherwork was highly prized.


If someone wants to change civis to be more historically accurate they should start with renaming the militia line. M@A is not a militia unit.Spears pikes and halberds are completely different weapons not upgrades of the same weapon.

Demanding absolute historical accuracy is a rabbit hole with no end. The game would become utterly complex and hard to balance.
It’s the same pitfall that comes with the goal of “representing” every possible cultural group that existed in the middle ages, to “cover” everything. It’s just bad for the game.

Cannot agree more with you, I wish so much that more people would understand this.


I wouldn’t say so; given the constraints of the game, it’s a pretty reasonable representation of a Maya archer, although mildly exaggerated like many other units. The headdress is a little extra, but given how often Maya nobles and warriors were depicted that way, it’s at least a decent likeness of the surviving images. Consider this mural from Bonampak

Where all of the conquerors are sporting massive, flamboyant headgear, and the fellow left of center has a warbonnet that puts the Plumed Archers’ fluff to shame. “Plumed Archer” is not such a terrible attempt at naming either, given that the unit, like the spear-wielding man on the mural, seems to be wearing the highly prized green Quetzal feathers that were reserved for the elites (including warriors), which would have been the most prominent status symbol apart from jade jewelry. Even today, the currency in Guatemala is called the Quetzal.

There are other issues with the Mayas, namely “El Dorado,” and their identity as an archer civ where in reality they placed more emphasis on infantry and spearthrowers (although I don’t object to an archer UU to cover weaknesses or add variety to a civ that otherwise has a different focus).

Eagle warriors are most well-known due to the Aztecs, however, some Maya city states had them as well, since the order predates the Aztec empire, and both the Aztecs and Mayas inherited them from the Toltecs. From Britannica: “Under Topiltzin…the cult of Quetzalcoatl…and the Toltec military orders of the Coyote, the Jaguar, and the Eagle, were introduced into important Mayan cities to the south in Yucatán, such as Chichén Itzá and Mayapán.” Incas are another matter of course, but that’s not so different from Malians or Japanese training a unit called a “knight” that wears European armor.

As far as on-topic stuff, I mostly agree with @icicle83, However, there are some low/no (gameplay) impact changes that I’m in favor of, mainly proper languages for all civs that don’t have them, and some renamings (e.g. Slavs, Woad Raiders, Huskarls). And I would prefer that new content/civs not take excessive liberties with history, beyond what may be justified for the sake of gameplay/balance.


I would like some historical accuracy in the game, just keep in mind that balance come first

The problem is that some changes may be super easy but other… well, other may required to rework or even split the entire civ.

For example if someday devs change Celts name to Gaels and give them a UU with the same stats or if they go for a new berserker without hornes… you are making the game more acurrate without changing anything from the gameplay… there lots of changes you can make.

In the other hand, you cannot just remove trebs from some civs to make the game more acurate

The problem is when you get fantasy UU like spanish conquistador, korean war wagon or mameluke, if you change them you may as well redesign the entire civ


This sums up my opinion very accurately. Since my favourite civ (Koreans) is probably one of the less historically accurate ones, I wouldn’t want a rework that would change their identity or gameplay substantially. I’m ok with balance changes – indeed, I think most of the DE balance changes to Koreans have been positive, so going back to HD or The Conquerors wouldn’t even let me play with my favourite version of the civ. Likewise, even though I don’t really like playing as Celts personally, I think they shouldn’t receive a major historical accuracy rework because some people really like them.

Purely cosmetic changes like this I’d be ok with, although I’m quite apprehensive about changing the name of a civ because of the potential confusion it could cause to returning players.

I’m no expert, but I think with Dravidians they’ve taken excessive liberties with history to create a civ with, in my opinion, quite lacklustre gameplay. The urumi swordsman in particular seems at least as bad as the woad raider.

Funnily enough, the Koreans are my second favorite civ. They used to be first until the Khmer came along, as at the time, I was interested in the Khmer Empire. I still like the Koreans for their gameplay, so I hope as much as you that they don’t change.

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I spent years wanting Khmer to be added, but they never really lived up to my expectations. It feels weird to me that they don’t have any bonus for religion, building or navy – plus their strong food eco means they often end up fielding a lot of cavalry. This, coupled with the fact that elephants aren’t viable in most situations, makes them not really feel like Khmer to me. I still like playing as them, but they’re not my favourite.

I feel this exact same way. And it afflicts me deeply. Seeing such an intresting and unique civ like the khmer being played as cavalry spam feels like a huge wasted opportunity.

Well, they do at least have a good navy and not an atrocious one.

Yeah, that’s true. Their knight spam is quite strong.

Understandable, but at least their historically accurate Ballista Elephants are good.

I like really unconventional civs, so after first playing them for their history, I grew to like their playstyle really well.