A little context. I have been an RTS fan for 22 years; my first game being the original AoE when I was 7 years old. I have played every AoE game in existence, including the ethically questionable AoE: Castle Seige (please don’t ever go down that path again). I have also sinked countless hours of gameplay into the TW franchise, CoH Franchise, and the ill-fated DoW Franchise . I have beaten every AI difficultly level in all those games (even 2v1) and thoroughly enjoy online multiplayer. I typically have a win rate of >75%, but I am no pro gamer and I dont intend to be. At best, I consider myself an RTS veteran.
Now back to AoE 4. First of all, I have almost completed all the masteries of every civ and i’ve probably played <10 quick match games but only with my friends in team settings. 1v1 with hardest AI in any civ combination is no longer a challenge for me. I don’t have the time that I used to for gaming so I havent had a chance to play much multiplayer since launch. These days I am a casual RTS player, 1 or 2 games on average per week.
So what are my thoughts on 1v1 ranked in Aoe4?
Game 1. I was unranked matched with a bronze player with 40+ games. Tower rush featuring longbows. I haven’t encountered this personally yet but I have seen a few of these clips online and read about how to counter. But wow… it is bloody difficult to counter this. I put up a good fight with Abassids, the longbow rush itself wasnt too difficult but those damn towers were so annoying. I had rams to take them down and I took down an entire encirclement of them around my base ~7 but the damn opponent kept building them. While I managed to keep part of my economy alive whilst occasionally garrisoning my villagers from horsemen raids, and even managed to take out some of the opponents base buildings, I simply could not keep up. I had made it to castle but was simply overwhelmed by trebuchets, longbows and knights before I could do much else. Welcome to Aoe4 ranked.
Game 2. Matched a player with 20+ games using ChuKoNu rush. I have encounted this in my online team battles. I remember being surprised at how effective these false crossbowmen were during my previous encounter, having to save my teammate who could normally defend himself. Now, in a 1v1 setting, this tactic is even more effective. Chinese build fast, ChuKoNu are cheap and quick. Even though I managed to pull off a relatively smooth longbow rush with rams, by the time I hit castle, I was overwhelmed with ChuKoNus and nest of bees.
Game 3. This game actually went okay, my opponent was turtling but thats fine. I was about to unleash men at arms, longbows and rams on the founder of Sim City. Finally, I can see victory in reach… then… server DC… lost anyway.
Game 4. Matched with Mongol player with 160+ games. Lost my scout early, my own fault. Khan was annoying as hell. Got to castle but was too behind, lost fair and square.
Game 5. Finally matched someone with <10 games online. Slaughtered his 50 villagers trying to counter my rams, spears and longbows. I felt bad because I saw they lost their last 6 games but I was tired and wanted my lion monument from the event (which I didn’t even get due to some bug). Went to sleep, life goes on.
Credit where credit is due. I know the dev team is working hard on this game and taking a somewhat slow and steady approach. I respect that, and at the end of the day you made a commendable addition to the AoE franchise. Unlike…DoW III…yes, it still hurts. Could this game be better? Yes. Could the dev team have made better choices regarding their use or resources so far? Yes - but nobody is perfect and honestly they haven’t done too bad. For now, I continue to put my faith in you and appreciate your efforts so far. Keep up the good stuff! Things take time and I know you’re all trying your best. That’s all that matters.
What could be improved? While I personally don’t mind being thrown at the wolves online, I can see why many players can be put off online multiplayer. The balance does need a bit more work, but it is notably better than before and I respect that the dev team is testing some ideas.
Tower rush definitely needs to be addressed. I’m no game developer so I dont know how difficult some of this may be to implement, but I suggest something similar to the ban you put on mongol TC’s being too close to an enemy capital town centre. Something similar is needed for towers in say the first 6-12 min of gameplay. A little tooltip can pop up explaining to players that during early gameplay towers cant be placed too close to capital TC’s. Furthermore, this can be purely a ranked match feature, for below silver or something. You decide what’s best.
ChuKoNu needs to be moved a little later into fuedal, or at least make the base unit weaker before an upgrade.
Stone walls need to be a little stronger in imperial, or bombards a little weaker. I know you’re already aware of this but doesnt hurt to repeat that this is still a player concern.
The attrition rate for new players in AoE 4 is too high, which is why I got matched up with much more experienced players in my first 5 ranked matches. I feel the game is a bit too unforgiving to mistakes made early game. Pretty much unless a new player knows how to use cheap tactics or make effective rushes, they are just lambs to the slaughter. I understand that the overall goal was to make the games quick and snappy and to some extent you have achieved that and I respect the philosophy behind that. I dont know what the best solution is but the first 15min of gameplay needs to be slowed down a little. I dont know if a decrease in the global unit or resource production rate will help for dark ages and/or early feudal, but my immediate thought would be to decrease the starting production rate, then introduce some sort of production rate upgrade in the market.
I’m sure I have missed stuff but I’m sure the ones I have mentioned are worth consideration. I just hope the feedback gets to someone on the dev team. Oh yes…server and game stability/performance needs to be increased. I have 100 Mbps speeds with MS servers but my game occasionally lags bads or DC’s. It is better than before but still needs improvement.
P.S. Please introduce 2 new civs as part of the next DLC/expansion, and by the end of 2022. I’d suggest Spanish and Japanese, but honestly I’ll be happy with any 2 new unique civs. Please don’t cookie cutter civs like in TW.
Also, please bring back DoW one day. A modernised verson of the original DoW game would be ideal. I don’t even mind an enhanced definitive edition up to and including dark crusade. Dont worry, no one will miss soulstorm.
Just my two cents.