I don’t usually make posts with suggestions because most of the time I feel like the developers have it all under control. However, it has to be said in a very candid way that this current patch is far from ideal.
First of all, let’s address the issues with Battle Royale.
I don’t know if anyone reading this has played Player Unknown Battlegrounds or Fornite for example, but these are FPS games with a very large scale area for you to fight in with circa 100 players.
The issue that is presented in Age of Empires II: Battle Royale is that it’s a real-time strategy game, not a first person shooter. With the limitations that will obviously be present when working on a game mode such as this, it would obviously be very hard to replicate a map that supports many players all fighting across the map at once.
That being said however, there are some clever ways that I believe the developers could improve the current game mode and make everyone, including me, a lot happier as a result.
To give you a flavour of what I mean, let’s address the current mode. It supports 8 players fighting for points across the map, ones that include military and resource generating structures.
These structures can be taken over immediately, once the Gaia unit or player has been defeated (or has retreated) from the given structures. It seems that these structures are instantly claimable, once the enemy has inferior unit numbers. Towers or castles that support those areas and are within the claiming radius will instantly start attacking the opposition.
I’m not sure if anyone reading this may have played the Battlefield games or anything similar, where capture points are claimed via a “countdown” system.
If you claim an area after a given time, it would need to be contested in order for it to be claimed by the opposition. The countdown will only begin once the enemy has superior numbers in the given claiming radius.
This means that the current holder of that point has a chance to block the opposition in time, especially if they have moved a short distance away from it due to another threat.
What we have on Age of Empires II as a major issue with Battle Royale as I see it, is the instant claiming feature. I appreciate that it may keep pace, but it also means that with so much going on around you that you could lose everything extremely quickly and succumb in moments.
This leads me on to talking about general strategy. You are completely and utterly in the dark. The map should be, at the very least, shown on explored. The reason for this is that, if there is any variance across the map, it’s fairly predictable that in whatever direction you go, whether that’s forward towards the centre or left to right, there will be points of interest to claim. The very fact that you don’t know who you might be fighting until you’re in close proximity (Gaia or player) means that you could be walking into a fight without even knowing it.
The Gaia also share their colour with player 7, which can be very confusing in the heat of battle. Therefore it could be advantageous for player 7 over any other colour. I would suggest that Gaia have a different colour to player 7, such as black or some other variation that is not shared with any player on the map.
If the map were shown on explored, it would allow players to be able to see what is developing across the map in real-time, as these points are taken. For example, if I am player 3 and therefore colour green, other players across the map would be able to see that I had claimed, for instance, 5 points in the early stage of the game. This would indicate to everyone else still alive and kicking on the map that I am a stronger player (aside from simply looking at who holds the highest score) and therefore others could make the choice to try and slow me down.
Similarly, in PUGB or Fortnite, if you saw someone who was particularly advantaged, such as on a position of elevation with a high damage sniper weapon they’d collected, you might try to take them down or avoid them completely, and others could have a similar thinking, which gives depth and tactical decision making.
If the developers didn’t like the idea of having it instantly explored or showing points that are being claimed immediately, they could allow for certain points to show those that have been captured, so long as they hold a particular building that shows this information (for example, a market). I would suggest that these would be fairly abundant across the map.
To make capturing these points a little more balanced, players could also start with a handful of military structures (pre-set and the same for all) with a starting lump-sum of resources (say 500 gold/wood/food). This would allow players to make an initial tactical choice from the off, rather than being destroyed in the opening militia battle because someone grabbed a point before they did and killed them off with their first few spawning units.
Another separate point is around player numbers. As I have stated earlier, it would be difficult to increase the number of players on the map. This I am fairly confident. However, as others seem to have suggested, the idea of 16 or 32 players on a map is very appealing. I wonder then, if there could be an option for players to team up, either as a duo or squad of three, playing cooperatively under one civilization.
For instance, we know that the “co-op” functionality of the game exists, whereby two players can both be colour blue, for example. Instead of allowing players to control the same units, it could be interesting if they had a hero each, and that each of their controlled points were shared. This means that if I were to capture a point that my team mate hadn’t, we can both access separate but shared queuing from the same structure, such as a stable or archery range.
One of the big problems in the existing Battle Royale mode is that there is so much going on, it’s difficult to control multiple points all at once. For example, being attacked in the north and south at the same time. Instead of not being able to control one point for lack of attention and losing all your units, it could be very interesting (and exciting) for players to share this control over each of the points claimed.
In addition, you could also have automatic spawning Gaia units that are set to defensive, once an area is claimed. This wouldn’t need to be a lot, just a handful, but it would help to lessen the need for multi-tasking, add a small amount of resistance and stop the countdown from starting immediately if the area was contested because you had to move your defending force(s) away. These spawning Gaia would appear the moment you claim an area from Gaia (or another player) and refresh on a timer, such as once every 2-3 minutes.
Finally, I just wanted to bring a few more suggestions in before I come to a close, and these centre around the interface changes.
For new players, I can only imagine that the new system, whilst full of great intentions, is actually counter-intuitive. Honestly, the old layout was perfectly fine and goes hand-in-hand with the old saying, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
Accessing things like mods and campaigns are all now under the little cog (which is tiny and towards the top right of the screen by your Xbox Live avatar) and that isn’t self-explanatory.
Furthermore, when you access these pages in either single player, multiplayer (quick match or ranked) they feel pretty clunky and disconnected.
For example, when I want to play ranked and I click the button to join the queue and select my civilization, I’m now prompted with this quite overwhelming screen with tons of info and icons. Was it really that hard to access before, when you clicked on “Technology Tree”? Maybe that’s just my preference, though!
Furthermore, the timer behind this screen isn’t clearly visible if you’ve decided to pick your civilization within the allotted minute countdown to ‘Ready Up’. This screen doesn’t even appear instantly - you’ve given it some strange effect where it slides from I believe bottom right corner to upper left, which again just feels clunky.
I hope that someone at the development team reads this and takes on board some of the feedback given here. I think that the current system could really use some urgent improvements, (whether those are taken from here or elsewhere).
Thanks for reading.