Nerf to keeps: Okay, but some adjustments still needed

So it seems the idea behind the nerfs is that keeps were too strong all around when taking map control. They were offensive and defensive. I’ll admit, I just came from Beastyqt’s stream and watched his short-term testing and I have a few thoughts. Keeps being expensive controls points is fine. Nerfing their offensive capabilities a bit is fine. However, he does bring up the good point now that cost-wise, keeps are not that great. You can make stone walls and outposts and be more effective it would seem (at least from early testing).

I am fine with all the nerfs if keeps still fulfill a function (it could be argued they don’t have that right now as much anymore), but I think one role keeps can fulfill once again is defensive safety areas by adjusting one stat. Fire armor. Right now the default is 5 and an Imperial French knight I think does 20 torch so 15 damage barring other upgrades. Simply put, they need to take longer to be torched down by standard units. Siege has become almost superfluous watching Beasty’s admitted very limited testing. Give keeps back some fire armor. The base should be like 12 or something. That way come raiding time they can still serve the function of being placed near farms or something and allowing the villagers to garrison inside for protection. As it is, a knight raid can just kill a fresh keep before emplacements are researched…a bit too fast. Granted this is a sort of knee-jerk quick reaction, but it is my honest impression after watching a bit of the new patch.

Looking at boiling oil. Maybe it was too strong…but the cost now is too high. I would revert some recent nerfs. Take the base train time back down to 60 seconds from 90 and the cost from 500g 200s to 350g 150s. This would put it into the tech tier cost of techs like French enlistment incentives. I think this is a good “category” for it now. Both would be 60 seconds 500 resources.

An alternative idea, borrowing from Aoe2, is that apart from English, maybe keeps could act as spawn points for unique units? (Yes, HRE would be like, HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) Give them something. They don’t need more power…got it…but give them some utility back.

TLDR: Keeps need more fire armor, torched too quickly, makes siege superfluous. Also boing oil cost should now be reduced back. Thinking about the French enlistment tech. 350/150 I think it is. So 200 resources less I think is a good starting point. Alternative idea presented.


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I agree that along with the nerfs, the keeps should’ve gotten some extra hp or armor at least to justify the 100 stone increase.

If you’re hitting them with sufficient siege they will go down anyway and a small boost to hp or armor would help withstand lesser siege attempts.

I’m not sure how to feel about the changes in this patch. I don’t see a clear direction devs are following.

What the developers are completely missing with this direction is that Keeps are meant to have the a role.

This is a medieval RTS game. Not Horseman RTS.

Keeps should be good for their cost, and there should be engaging counterplay in the form of siege weaponry. The fault is not on Keeps, but on the lacking thoughtfulness in creating, designing and balancing siege.

Right now, Siege function as units that can only attack walls/keeps, costing too much, being too slow, and being utterly useless for anything else. You don’t HAVE to copy the worst elements of AoE2. Use your heads.

We’re now reaching a point where they are trying to balance Keeps against regular units, as if regular units are meant to play the role in taking down Keeps. That should not be the case, and the designers need to stop appeasing to players who only want to play in Feudal and who are allergic to defensive gameplay.

The mechanics for Siege and Keeps keep further degenerating with each patch because of this very fundamental misunderstanding. What you will have at the end of this game’s lifecycle is seemingly only infantry and horses.


The worst offender is the culverin IMO. That’s why you almost never see it being used. Painfully slow, expensive, tickles units. I mean, it’s a f…ing cannonball that at most makes villagers go “hey, watch it!”.

I also believe it was never the keep’s problem to begin with and siege in this game is specialized to the extreme. I think devs got scared by the springald-fest that was the game at launch and never explored more creative ways to make siege multi-purpose.

It is getting old that two years in these are the type of changes that are being done.

I should have suspected the lack of competence when they had initially designed siege to be taken out with torches. I don’t think they know at all where Siege is meant to be, and they are now caving in to demands of players who refuse to acknowledge that defensive strategy is a core element in RTS.

This is a bad cycle that will just keep getting worse, with no intention to communicate with the actual community, they will keep scheming with “pro” players as if their opinion matters more than ours.



I assumed as much when I saw the Company of Heroes-like anti-tank field of fire lines on the ground. You know, in CoH those are useful because in order to rotate, anti-tank guns have to pack/unpack so it’s extremely important to know how wide the gun can swivel before you place it down. Same goes for machine gun emplacements and a few others.

In AoE 4 every single siege unit rotates in-place like a threaded tank. Like you said, bringing the worst from AoE 2 and completely missing the point of having those “swivel area” markings.

When I saw that and then I saw the behavior of the actual units, I sighed in despair. Little has improved.

For all the crap the latest CoH is getting, at least they retain crews for heavy units like these:


Didn’t even notice that, as I am not an CoH player.

Just makes it sad considering most Siege has packing/unpacking time, even those not meant to. Like Ribauldequin, french Cannon, Culverin all all have micro packing times, likely as residual code from maybe originally being closer to CoH.

Always found it lame that they are so obsessed with packing time as well. It does not feel like they went in and thought about “how do we make siege fun?” and instead added a legacy mechanic to Mangonels, Bombards and seemingly everything else from their other game that does not at all fit in the Age of Empires format. Trebuchet is one thing, as that was already established. Eveything else was just thoughtless copypaste.

With mangonels, trebs and bombards devs had two choices when it came to mimicking history and adding some sort of pack/unpack mechanic which would’ve ended up being balanced and fun:

  1. They could’ve made them wheeled and pulled by horses (BTW, thanks AoE 3 for being so detailed). If they had bothered to add crews in AoE4, they could have done little animations showing the horses being unhooked and the siege placed down instead of wood and steel magically unpacking from a ghost carriage. Siege in this state is virtually ready to fire and able to rotate freely in place:

  1. They could’ve kept them as a fully disassembled engine on a wheeled carriage (as it is now) but then have an animation of placing it down on the ground in a fixed position. There’s no way you could rotate this without taking the whole thing apart (to be fair, some very complex trebs did have a swiveling base: free tip devs: there’s a powerful unique unit right there):

They went with an unrealistic in-between and on top of that they made siege ultra specialized. In fact, AoE4 devs went too far with the whole rock-paper-scissors thing. In history, units were not that useless against anything else other than what they counter. Imagine you as a villager facing a pikeman or swordsman in the real world. You would probably have a far worse day facing the more agile, faster, longer ranged unarmored pike. When they announced they were going to rock-paper-scissors the whole water combat everybody was happy and I said “oh god, no”.

But anyway, back on topic, devs are struggling with keeps because they can’t wrap their heads that they don’t fit their very simplistic counter system. Keeps attack, defend, some train units, don’t counter anything in particular. What a weird thing.


Do you honestly believe that you have better balance (not design; balance) insight than top-level competitive players?

EDIT - sorry, that reads like a leading question.

To clarify, I believe high-level insight benefits the game for all players and that balance trickles down. At the same time, competive players favour sanitisation / homogenisation over retaining interesting mechanics.

I’ve never got on with this “pro player conspiracy” argument because it seems to dismiss the valid insight they bring to the game. As someone who is in no way good at balance but good at design (imo where you’re coming from), I see the need for both perspectives.

But that only works when we assume they’re valid, and I argue against competitive viewpoints who dismiss the “casual” experience just as strongly.

We’ve been over this before, but you know how many things CoH 3 has to render vs. AoE IV?

Like, you can (validly) criticise AoE IV on its own merits, but saying “look at this game with its different hardware requirements and population limits, it can do different things”. Yes, it can. This isn’t controversial. Making zero assumptions, this is expected from the same developer, making a game in the same genre, on the same game engine.

You’re phrasing it as a gotcha, and sure, it works superficially. But not more than that.

It’s like saying “UT99 looks worse compared to UT2K3 / UT2K4”. Yes. Of course it does (well assuming you’re not invested in the retro aesthetic niche that is late 90s / early 00s blocky polygon aesthetics).

In the pure and hard balance (without going into other content or unit designs) technical players (who can observe excessively broken strategies at low levels) and professionals (in a relevant number) are the most apt to give a more correct point of view, as in any game that requires competitiveness.

Some players complain here that defensive play is dead, when it’s been the meta for a year and a half (and will continue to dominate slightly in my opinion) with many boring multi-spectator games gone temporarily or permanently.

RTS like AoE4, when in doubt, should reward more for players who take over the map and are more active. That is not to say that the Turtle is not viable (but fewer minutes).

A building like Keep needed a nerf. The bombard was buffed. We will see if they exceeded or not.

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The problem is that you and Gorbs are approaching this from a very “the game is competitive so they should be the ones to decide” angle. The norm for most RTS is that ~80-90% of players play offline against the AI or just with friends. We don’t have the numbers but I doubt AoE4 strays too far away from that.

Focusing on the pros is ok as long as all these changes are tested against all AI difficulties extensively and also, and what I think is most important, that end up making the game more fun.

Some of the previous changes done to cater to pros have been detrimental to the offline experience. Then we all wonder why Steam numbers don’t pick up or even drop. The bulk of the player base are folks we never hear about. I know I’m one of the only very few offline players that frequent the forums.

The AI is known for throwing lots of units under enemy keeps and get burned to death, instead of relying on siege. The boiling oil nerf will probably trigger the AI to use even less siege and rely more on sacrificial units to take them down.

If this game was more fun to non-pros (more diverse, complex mechanics, more visual spectacle) it’d have several times the number of active players it has now. Slightly nerfing a keep and slightly boosting the bombard speed adds absolutely nothing to 80+% of the player base experience.

It’s funny to me that the next event says “let’s appreciate gaia” when gaia in this game is wolves, deer, boar and sheep and absolutely nothing more. Fine, adjust the balance for pros, but add a little something sometimes. Add turkeys, add birds. Heck, if you are capable of adding “map monsters” (ugh) that are disposable after the season ends I’m sure you can manage to add at least other deer species.


Playing against the AI and with your group of friends is the perfect example for you to use tuning packs that satisfy your personal tastes, regards

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Hello guys,
After some testing and watching some games with it, here are my thoughts based on the patch :

  • The Chinese keeps attack now too fast, I think it should be a bit slower compared to others keep. Also for a nerf that big it seems Relic did the nerf only based on Chinese ones which is pretty weird…

  • Boiling oil is now really weak compared to how it was before and I don’t like it, I do think it can be an idea to only hit a specific angle but the damage should be way higher OR it should hit a way larger area because actually it’ll make keep jokes.

  • The cannon’s range being lower, it can be now contested free with bombards, and again… I don’t think it’s good.

Based on how it was changed, Keep cost is now 900, so less keep per game. If Relic don’t want too many keep in-game it can be good BUT I do think that NOW they are more meme than real strategy.

Don’t forget that keeps already get nerfed and it was big. Now even canon emplacement lost range so you don’t have to worry with bombards.

To fix all of the issue, I’m almost sure that it should get put back to 800 stone, it is already big cost and there’s other way to nerf them if there’s too much keep in games in general : like slowing down the repairing with villagers.
But that not the only change : I think Keeps should have a little more HP (or more fire armor?), +1 dmg on arrow from units IN, a stronger boiling oil (it was not bad before…). Chinese ones should have less attack per second with the built-in cannons.

Tuning packs are that, tuning. You can change unit stats and so on but do tell me once someone adds more diverse gaia using tuning packs, or adds crew to siege. I’ll wait here.

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Due to the horrible Editor, I don’t think many know about it.
For most players including pros, it is extremely difficult to use.
So your point is again useless and pointless, just a BIASED one as always…

At no point did I say “so they should be the ones to decide”.

My argument is, if we’re discussing balance, then we should weight the experience of the players involved accordingly. The devs ultimately make the final judgement, and do indeed make changes that pro players don’t always agree with.

What changes aimed at the pros have been detrimental to the offline experience?

Extrapolating balance changes to Steam numbers seems like a weird hoop to jump through. Surely things like Gaia variety, new civilisations, mod tool improvements, water physics . . . these are the things that would attract the casual playerbase more?

Where is the evidence to suggest that balance changes put players off, vs. the more understandable position of “balance changes contrasted against a lack of casual player enhancements”, which to me seems more likely (and is something I have been mentioning consistently for a few months now, in terms of what I think dev priorities should be).

Like, I’m an “offline player” (if by “offline” you mean “not interested in Ranked”).

Sure, but this has nothing to do with making balance changes for the health of the competitive metagame. We saw more UUs in Season 5, more diversity. You seem to be working backwards from the assumption that the pros are defining game design, when everything we’ve gotten since launch seems to indicate otherwise.

The Ottomans and the Malians were both more involved and more diverse in terms of their base design compared to the original civs (which is a trend you see in most RTS games - design gets more nuanced the longer a game is supported for).

If your argument is “this latest patch doesn’t do enough for casual players”, my counter would be “it has a bunch of important fixes in, including to stability and even the mod tools”. If your argument is “the support direction for this game in general needs to do more for casual players”, I’d agree.

But the reason I posted was because people were trying to make balance arguments, while pooh-poohing competitive input on balance arguments. Which seems counterproductive at best.


of course, that’s why, keeps was Nerf, just the way I wanted :wink:

I think the boiling oil nerf was too much. I can’t even tell if it is working properly though, it doesn’t even seem to hit more than a few units at a time now?

Tbh, what would fix the keep spam problem. Is just to set a hard limit on how many keeps one can build.
Either that, or how long it takes to build a keep. Meaning if you want a keep swiftly put up in the frontline, you gotta sacrefice your economy pretty hard by having to put twice if not thrice the amount of villagers to get it up in the same speed as currently.

Keep limit, makes people consider harder where to put keeps rather than just creeping foreward in the map with it.

Slower build time, makes people have to dedicate even more vills, and makes it harder to build it further away from your base.
defensive keeps won’t be effected by slower build time to the same degree as offensive keeps.

A keep should be strong enough to deterr enemie armies untill they get siege.
There where initially nothing wrong with boiling oil? It was at a good place.
Keeps should NEVER be able to “snipe” siege. Even landmark ones. (looking at you Berkshire)
Especially Trebs.
Keeps should be more expensive to repair. Meaning even more stone. This makes the keep more expensive, but not harder to obtain. It means someone hiding behind a wall of keeps needs to have a considerably strong economy in order to sustain being sieged down. (This inadvertently indirectly buffs HRE due to emergency repairs, and elzbach palace defensive bonus, making it a more attractive landmark)

A keep limit like in AoE3 would immediately make me quit the game.

Any more of those idiotic limitations, like the current Landmark build location limitation (can’t do it near TC) is shortsighted design to the point that any designer willing to throw the game to shit like that, are already on the path of destroying the game.

AoE4 already lacks an incredible amount of depth. These kinds of “fixes” are incredibly destructive.