I have been making this case for quite a while now, but wanted to wait until the August patch definitively dropped before making my case to give the developers the benefit of the doubt. This might be a long one.
It’s no secret that battle elephants just aren’t there. Pretty much everyone knows this, but it causes more problems downstream of the fact than a lot of people expect.
For starters, Battle Elephants are responsible for the state of Bengali as an absolutely ridiculous meme civilization, with the worst winrate we may have ever seen. In a recent video, Hera said “I don’t even know where to start” when it comes to buffing them, and said they were even worse than old Khmer in this respect. Notice the other point of comparison is also a civ whose tech tree is labeled as an Elephant civ.
This is because Bengali are almost entirely designed around being a Battle Elephant civ, similar in focus to how Franks are designed as a Knight Civ and Britons are designed as an Archer civ. BE is one of Bengalis only fully upgraded units. Their bonuses include a damage reduction to elephants, faster attack for elephants, and conversion resistance for elephants. There’s only one problem, Battle Elephant is not a playable unit in 1v1. This would be like if they made a new civilization that had a singular focus on Scorpions or Petards. You need Goth levels of bonuses in order to make a unit like Battle Elephant viable (which Bengalis most certainly do not have). Of course the civilization sucks.
The developers it seems, for whatever reason, tend to penalize Civs with Access to battle elephant in their tech trees in multiple ways. As a result, battle elephant civs have a legacy of being among the most terrible civs in the game’s history. Look at the 1v1 winrates of these civs historically:
Dravidians: mid 40s
Burmese: high 40s, made a laughingstock by the community ever since being nerfed
Malay: consistently fighting with Portuguese for lowest WR 1v1 civ for the past couple years
Vietnamese: mid 40s, used to be bottom 5
Khmer: 50, but only after being overhauled as a hussar civilization and getting arbalester. When they were actually focused on elephants they had a through the floor winrate.
Bengali: high 30s to low 40s.
The developers seems to think that Battle Elephant is viable, otherwise why would you design a civilization around the unit? They seem so confident of this in fact, that Bengali don’t have a bonus to any anti-spear units in their tech tree. They have no hand cannons, they have generic skirmishers, and subpar champions. In spite of this SOTL noted in one of his videos that “historically, Battle Elephant hasn’t contributed at all to having a good stable”. In fact, if anything, the opposite is true. Your reward for having access to battle elephant is being guaranteed a low winrate and a gimped tech tree.
Now that that’s out of the way, what are my actionable suggestions for improving the situation? I am of the opinion that Bengali will not be a real, non-joke civilization until Battle Elephants are at least usable. They don’t have to be meta, or even common. But they need to have their situations.
Return BE trample damage to previous levels. Even when Battle Elephants trampled 33% of their attack values, they still weren’t considered viable. I would like to see the value raised to 50%, although team game players may take issue with this.
Or increase movement speed. For a unit to really fill a cavalry role, especially with pathing being where it is, it could stand to be faster. Again, we see elephants getting nerfed in the past for nonsensical reasons. A slight speed increase would help the unit actually function correctly.
2.5. Some have suggested adding a new technology, Mahouts. This would increase Elephant speed similar to Husbandry, and Khmer would lose their bonus and instead get free Mahouts. I think this may be MatCauthon’s idea. This to me feels more fun than just increasing the speed, and I like the idea of adding more texture to the tech tree for these civs. Presumably some like Dravidians or maybe Gurjaras would not have access to Mahouts.
Create a new War Elephant armor class, so that non-war elephants like Battle Elephants can take what is a reasonably scaled bonus damage from pikes. The +60 bonus damage Halberdiers get vs Elephants was designed in AOC to help Halbs overcome the massive health pool of the Persian unique unit. Many people have started subscribing to the idea that this should be sectioned off into a separate War Elephant bonus damage, and have the damage done to Battle and Archer elephants scaled down to something more appropriate.
Alter the cost of the EBE upgrade, or reduce the cost of BE at the stable somewhat. EBE is very very expensive, but extremely exploitable. Part of this is because despite being a drastically less useful unit than the Paladin or Hussar, Battle Elephants take double or more bonus damage from spears. This buff is, in my estimation, the least interesting but also most likely change to be made to the unit.
I don’t think every one of these changes in necessary, maybe 2 of them total. If it were up to me, I would go with 1. and 3.
Although I’ve been on this topic for quite a while, I’m compiling my thoughts and the community’s thoughts in this thread to hopefully get the attention of the developers, because they clearly seem to think that all Bengalis needed to be viable was free orthodoxy.
Thank you for reading. What are your thoughts on the matter?