Dark + Feudal are all about uptime + initiative, as Italians you can do 19-20 pop up very comfortably which allows you to make fights happen in front of his base and not in front of your (huge deal). I don’t know why people say Italians don’t have an eco bonus, cheaper uptime literally is and in particular fast Imp with them is a big deal because you save so many resources so the Arbalest timing is even stronger, but even getting to Castle Age is far easier and you should get there 1 min sooner or so which again, keeps the momentum going in favor of the Italians or allows you to clear the archers at your base with your own Crossbows.
I mean sure if you compare them to Ethiopians Britons Vietnamese they are worse. Those are also top archer civs.
If you compare them to mid tier civs like Bengalis Incas etc no. Incas for example are technically also an “archer civ” but I’d rather be Italians and not Incas on Arabia.
Civs I’d rather be over Italians: Chinese, Aztecs, Mayans, Britons, Khmer, Burgundians, Franks, Vikings, Mongols, Gurjaras, Hindustanis, MAYBE Lithuanians (they have a rly good Dark/Feudal due to extra food but start sucking more as the game goes on).
Civs I consider roughly same tier as Italians: Huns, Poles, Byzantines, Japanese, Saracens.
Everything else I consider a worse roll than Italians on Arabia-like map.
And I mean even if you compare Italians to something like Ethiopians, sure Ethiopians have the better archers, but they also have the far worse Stable, with no usable Cavaliers and no Hussar. A big selling point of Italians on land maps is the wide tech tree, much like for Byzantines, Chinese etc.
What makes Italians nice on Arabia-like maps is that you have something “non-generic” for every age: in Dark/Feudal you have a faster uptime which allows you to have the initiative and not the opponent vs every civ except maybe Britons, Mongols, Gurjaras, Khmer and Lithuanians. In Feudal you have the faster Castle Age timing due to, again, lower resources needed which allows you to reach Castle faster, so get Crossbow faster and start booming or all-in faster (if you choose to all-in, Italians again here have something non-generic with their fast Ballistics play where you get a bonus).
In early Imp, you have Arbalest timing like every archer civ and in late Imp you have Hussar spam, Genoese etc. etc. And Bombard Cannon, even without Siege Engineers, is like the best Siege unit in the game, you get them 20% cheaper and that’s definitely nice in late Imp since Bombard Cannons aren’t the cheapest unit.
Like the fact alone that Italians have FU Hussars puts them above most Arabia civs given how good of a unit Hussar is on Arabia.
And the fact that they have 4-5 viable late game units (Genoese, cheaper Handcannoneer, Arbalest, Hussar, Bombard Cannon, Cavalier…) makes them like top 10-15 best civs army composition-wise in late Imp. Sure this is no Mongols but it’s not something sh***y like Poles, either.
because the goal of the unit is countering gunpowder, they aren’t meant to be a better Champion…
again like I said you’d have to test in mass battles how the extra bonus dmg performs vs mass cavalier or so. On paper it looks small, but in practice it might be significant.