On the PUP Spirit Way

Hello all! I’m u60cf28, a Diamond 1 China main. At this point, a good number of you know me as the guy who makes really long China balance analysis/whine posts. I actually plan on making one about the PUP changes sometime next week, but here I’d thought I’d provide analysis and suggestions for the new Spirit Way.

For those not in the loop, the Spirit Way is being changed to:

  • Spirit Way Landmark changes
    • Spirit Way Landmark no longer reduces the cost of dynasty units (was 33% discount) in Stables and Archery Ranges around the Landmark.
    • Spirit Way Landmark now houses dynasty technologies which can be researched for -50% cost and +100% research speed. (These are Elite Fire Lancer, Veteran/Elite Zhuge Nu, and Ancient Techniques)
    • When a dynasty unit dies (Zhuge Nu, Fire Lancer, Grenadier) nearby units will receive +20% attack speed and +20 health over 10 seconds. (This does not affect siege units, and does not stack)
    • Developer Note: We wanted the landmark to add more adaptive and dynamic elements to the China gameplan. Previously you committed to 1 building type around the spirit way and were locked into those units. Now you can mix in different forces based on your current dynasty and combat needs.

I’ve played about 10 PUP games at this point, and my impressions of the new Spirit Way are… mixed. The buff is noticeable, but the effect does not feel any stronger than the old (current) Spirit Way. In live, the Spirit Way’s discount enables the mass grenadier common to post-imperial China. Furthermore, I personally was a massive fan of mass Zhuge Nu in early Imperial, as the Spirit Way discount combined with Incendiary Arrows made mass Elite Zhuge Nu very strong against nearly everything but mass Knight and mangonels. Losing the ability to mass either unit does hurt.

Furthermore, I feel like the gameplay of the new Spirit Way is quite gimmicky. This issue is twofold.

First, you’re incentivized to sacrifice a Zhuge Nu at the beginning of any engagement to activate the buff. This is… not very accurate to Chinese culture. Human sacrifice fell out of favor in Chinese culture after the end of the Shang Dynasty in 1046 BCE, and was completely outlawed by Duke Xian of Qin in 384 BCE. This is long before the game’s start date for China (900 CE). While human sacrifice did sometimes occur after the 384 BCE ban, it was usually individual emperors sacrificing their concubines as part of their funerals. Furthermore, it was universally looked down upon by the Confucian scholars and other Chinese elites as being a barbaric practice. So it is weird that in game, China players are now motivated to regularly practice human sacrifice.

The other issue is that, because no one in their right mind is going to use Fire Lancers as their frontline, you have an effect that depends on your backline units dying, and won’t buff your frontline units (as far as I can tell, the radius of the buff is too small to do that). This creates a counterintuitive dynamic where you want your backline dying, whereas normally you want your frontline to take most of the damage.

Thus, I propose one of the following two changes. Either:

PUP Changes Reversed: Spirit Way now provides a discount to all dynasty units globally. If necessary, decrease the discount from 33% to 25%.

This addresses the dev concerns of being “locked into certain dynasty units”. It also preserves the old Spirit Way’s gameplay patterns, and is IMO much more elegant design than the PUP Spirit Way


PUP Changes Preserved: Effect can no longer be triggered by deleting units. In addition, effect now triggers when Palace Guard die. Palace Guard upgrades (Elite Palace Guard and Battle-Hardened) now also present in the Spirit Way.

This makes for a much smoother, and more intuitive, dynamic where your frontline unit (Palace Guard) will trigger the effect on dying. It also gives an easier way to trigger the effect, now that you can no longer delete your own units (Human Sacrifice is bad).


First I don’t think we should start mixing history with MP game. It makes no sense in anyway to try make balance ideas around MP otherwise we would be giving weed to our soldiers and women to rape etc.

Anyhow. Im completely with you even without touching the pup. The changes are not good while you’re much more modest, but Im not because this type of behavior from devs been going for long time now and they’ve time after time shown to remove chinese identity and over nerf everything to ground other than mongols and buffing already strong civs.

Your first suggestion. It won’t matter if the discount is 10% or 30% (just stronger) it will lock you to specific path regardless. Only way to do stop this is either removing the area where buildings are placed and changed it to affect all dynasty units or rework spirit way or just delete dynasty units. Anyhow. % discount unless its 1-5% is completely broken in this game. Either its really bad or its insanely good in spirit way case its insane when used to mass grenadiers. (sry I dont feel your zhuge nu love. I hate the unit and think its utter trash)

It wont matter if its by deleting or kamikaze the buff is bad. Like really? “unit dies and we get buff”. Essentially isn’t the goal of game to win the match and in process most effective way doing so is to keep everything alive and kill opponent. 20% attack speed if its actually 20% is nice, but the heal is so irrelevant and useless. 2hp per 1sec. It might save a unit once out of 100 deaths which makes it so bad. If it was instantly 20HP with 10 second cooldown then it would be pretty okay, but it being hot is useless.

Then to your suggestion of PG being dynasty unit. PG is just reskinned and renamed man at arms. Its not special in anyway other than running fast to enemy and dying. It losses to every civs MAA / crossbows. Its not fast enough to get good surround on crossbows to stop their kiting. For raiding its cheap alternative if you cant afford lancers but again cavalry is just so much better at raiding.

Also PG is forcing china to make them even if they chose to go alternative path. Till they actually fix the civ this is bad idea. There is no viable cavalry option for dynasty units and having PG / Zhuge nu dragging you is bad.

I don’t like the buff and especially the new spirit way. Current spirit way at least has noticeable saving on resources when dynasty units are made and that taken away and replaced with middle finger techs being 50% cheaper and research for 100% when IO can supervise the tech for 150% speed is just big middle finger. Top of that which one would u take 10k resources or 2k resources?


Not sure if you’re agreeing or disagreeing with me. But I want to note that one of my proposed changes is to make the spirit way discount global - so it doesn’t matter where you put the buildings anymore. That seems to be what you want to do.

And the reason I suggested Palace Guard are that they are China’s primary frontline unit. They are commonly used, even at the pro level, which suggests that they are decent. I don’t think it’s fair to call it a bad unit.

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Global would probably be completely broken. Look how French is now. They got the keep -20% on production cost. While its limited by keep but keeps are dirty cheap especially when it takes like couple of knights to pay off… Seen french just rush to keep in main base and to start spamming knights like crazy

Now imagine situation its globally with no downsides. Make 100000000x stables / archery range and just rally everything your enemy at some point they will run out of steam. Thats why devs added the range to it because they wanted to limit the power of it. Otherwise it would be broken just like french keep bonus is broken but not as much.

I do agree with you to some degree like it doesn’t feel good enough vs what we got and with all the changes and especially the doomsday butchering of siege just takes away chinese identity away and nerfs it to ground just like spirit way / gate way are just bad.

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I doubt it would be broken. You can currently put up to 12 production buildings around the spirit way. Would increasing that limit to 20, or 25, make it broken? And keep in mind that that while the French keep discount affects all units, the Spirit Way only discounts 3 - Zhuge Nu, Fire Lancer, and Grenadier. The Fire Lancer is still a laughable unit, the Zhuge Nu has plenty of counters, and the Grenadier is being nerfed very hard in the PUP. And finally, this is why I suggested decreasing the discount from 33% to 25% - enough, I feel to compensate.

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Maybe you’re right that it wont be broken. While Grenadiers are getting nerffed and FL is ■■■■, but it also means that they can’t really buff the units like FL or Zhuge Nu because then it would result same outcome which we see now with grenadiers.

But then the issue remains. Whats the point? If the units are not worth doing then landmark would still be useless.

As Chinese myself, I love your take on the history & gameplay part.

History part: Spirit Way is based on Tomb of First Ming Dynasty Emperor.

That’s why developers want to relate it somehow to death, but we know that encouraging human sacrifice is neither good gameplay nor suiting Chinese philosophy.

Gameplay part: The New Spirit Way only encourage death of ZhugeNu, while the old Spirit Way reduction cost is hardly used due to poor dynasty units.

OP analyzes the new Spirit Way very well. The old one, however is only built because GreatWall Gatehouse is a joke. Imaging massing ZhugeNu in Age IV which cost more gold than Palace Guard while you have to spend more than 2k gold on cannons and other upgrades.

My suggestion:

Description: In the Spirit Way lies the greatest Emperor of Ming, who rose from a petty peasant, joined the peasant rebellion and eventually freed China from the yoke of Mongol despotism. It symbolize the fortitude of China and continues to inspire its defender for the generations to come.


  1. Has the ability to provides +2 armor, +10% attack speed to non-siege units within a region(player choose it), last 30 seconds.

  2. Double the effect and duration for dynasty units.

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well the game is made to be somewhat historical. or else they wouldn’t have gone the stretch making a full blown documentary wanting to teach history to the players if they are going not going to totally disregard it.

besides, that point is already lost as the devs themselves have several times said they want to make things more historical accurate where it can be done without messing up the game mechanics or balance.

And in this case, the sacrificial buff for Chinese is a unessessary mechanic that can be corrected out with basis of not only balance wise, but also in the realm of making somewhat sence.

Many people are so black and white with this historical accuracy or NOT have any realism, they don’t see that in games it benefits far more being in the grey zone.

No, we can’t really make everything 1 to 1 realism.
But yes, we can look to realism to look for balancing inspiration.

One shouldn’t underestimate the power of immersion a game can give. So keeping things immersive is just as important.

Spear does more damage to horses.
Makes sense. Its realistic. And it works well in the game mechanic as a counter to cavalry.

nothing in the game says that Spearman “has to be spearman”. one could just say, this unit, even though he uses a 1 handed axe and shield. Is good against horses, because game mechanic we need a counter to cavalry.

Sure, it works, wont break the game if the unit is balanced. But wouldn’t be very immersive. Contra you actually just give them spearmen instead.

In the end, whatever a unit looks like or uses, all that is just Fluff. it’s the backend number that counts.

As long as the Rock-Paper-Scizzor triangle of balance is achieved, it doesn’t matter whatever unit represents Rock Paper or Scizzor.

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I phrased it bit poorly so let me correct. I dont mind if devs do historically accurate game in campaign / story mode. I actually think its fantastic, but MP and campaign can have completely different mechanics.

MP priority should always be balance and nothing else. No matter how historically inaccurate something might be or might not be.

For example. Why mongols dont have walls? They did after all conquer walled cities etc. Then ppl try to justify torch dmg to siege changed to melee or keeps repair changed to stone “because its historically accurate” First one could go with balance and be like “ok ponies can do charge now to them and spears can actually do something about it, instead of horses running to them and torching while spears go brrrrrrr and do nothing”

But second makes no sense. They make keep repairing much harder and keeps less valuable. How much does it cost to get keep fully repaired? Why even bother when you can just build new keep or just spam outposts. Especially if its tried to be justified its more realistic then why we build gate way with food and gold and not repair it with stone? Or why not stone outposts are repaired with stone? Why does buildings just magically appear when villager hits the ground. So on.

Lets be honest if we start talking about if its realistic that chinese units get buff after one of their dynasty units dies its far from realism and makes absolutely no sense. It just means that devs have no idea what they’re doing and throwing random ideas that do not go with anything because they attempt to do something and fail

I mean, from a gameplay perspective, I also don’t think that “delete one of your units before you engage” is very fun gameplay. I just don’t think deleting units should trigger the Spirit Way effect.

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Yes, but in the end, all I want to point towards is that.

Things doesn’t really need to be fully realistic.
But things at the very least, needs to make sense.

Mongols not being able to make walls because they were nomadic.
It makes sense. So they thought upon that Idea. How do we implement this idea to the game, while still making it balanced in a way?
Well. Mongol = Nomads = Being able to move buildings.
Being able to move buildings gives its own form of defensive traits and advantages, to offset the lack of defensive structures.

it makes sense. and it keeps in line of balance.

Chinese having to go full Aztec on their troops to boost their effectiveness.
Is neither realistic and doesn’t make sense.
Balance wise its also bad.

As I mentioned earlier, and onto your point to it in MP balance and nothing else matters. Example if the game is balanced around the Rock Paper Scizzor. It doesn’t really matter what represents what. But it makes “Sense” that you have Cavalry (Rock) Spear (Paper) Archers (Scizzor). But those units just represents the core elements. For all that matters, Archer could be Rock, Cavalry is Scizzor and Paper is Spear, none of that matters as long Balance is fixed. But having Spear counter cav that counter archer that counter spear just makes more sense.

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Thats not a solution for bad design.

Even if delete didn’t work do you know what happens?

Player takes couple of un upgraded zhuge nu and runs them in front line as cannon fodder just to die.

Design is so poor and bad from start to finish. The person who came up this design should re thinking his choices of becoming game developer or more specific person who is responsible designing civs / balances because there is nothing good about the buff and its very clear that no one is going to use anything else than max grenadiers if they happen somehow get enough resources to get ming and can afford throwing 240 resources on unit that is butchered still best dynasty unit.

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Making sense is fine. Like who would want to hit ppl with cats or squirrels ? I bet I would but I do agree.

But there also needs to be consistency. They can’t go back and forth and try to please AOE2 players with changes and trying to justify the changes by saying “its historically accurate” or “this is how its real life” when most stuff actually doesn’t make any sense.

Like I personally don’t care if my cavalry hits siege with torch or melee but “realism” is far from it. Lancer is not going to run towards cannon and start smashing the cannon with sword or lance lol. Imo would make much more sense to throw torch to gunpowder casket. Anyhow I think its just overly trying to please AOE2 players that feel like AOE2 is so close to realism etc.

You got formula wrong! Lancers / Knights beat everything. Rock smashes and scissors / paper go brr. Which actually is quite true with current state of game. Spears don’t really counter ponies more like softcounter. They need to have crossbows and choke point to even have chance.

I don’t think Lancers broke everything. I would love to see my adversary go full knights/lancers any time of the day. You can check this:

My suggestion:

Description: In the Spirit Way lies the greatest Emperor of Ming, who rose from a petty peasant, joined the peasant rebellion and eventually freed China from the yoke of Mongol despotism. It symbolize the fortitude of China and continues to inspire its defender for the generations to come.


  1. Has the ability to provides +2 armor, +10% attack speed to non-siege units within a region(player choose it), last 30 seconds.
  2. Double the effect and duration for dynasty units.
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Spirit Way: Dynasty units gain the ability to ignore armor and increase attackspeed for y seconds, at the cost of -x% health (similar to stimpack) activate again cost additional HP, extends the duration but doesn’t stack the effect.

In fact, compared to the current PUP design, I prefer Spirit Way to have some technology that directly enhances military units, rather than this fantasy style that shapes Chinese civilization into a bloody, death-loving style.

My own idea, as the tomb of the Ming Dynasty emperor, this building can unlock the most famous Ming Dynasty elite Handcannoneer unit “Shenjiying” ( 神機營) or simply enhance the Handcannoneer’s combat effectiveness. Given that the Ming Dynasty was China’s largest Equipped with Handcannon dynasties, Spirit Way can develop technology to reduce the cost of Handcannoneer and increase the reloading speed of Handcannoneer. This design is also in line with the characteristics given to Chinese civilization in the game: gunpowder expertise. The current Chinese civilization is famous for gunpowder expertise, and even There is a Handcannoneer character representing Chinese civilization, it turns out that players who use Chinese civilization in the game don’t use Handcannoneer at all, but Grenadiers, which is a bit strange.


So much better than current one.

Issue is that stimpack requires medivacs to shine and this game has no such unit so it would only be putting your own units to unfavorable situation.

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This is a boost to ZGN basically, cuz if you tank with PG and heal with monks it can be quite deathly, also extend their usefulness in imperial cuz right now this unit is useless in IMP

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In theory I wouldn’t mind having monks fill the role but they would have to be reworked quite bit. In SC2 medivacs got 2 primary jobs. Heal and lift off units but in AOE4 monk would only be healing and vulnerable everything and they’re quite expensive to get 150g plus they would have only one job which would be healing.

Essentially they would’ve to be cheaper, more tankier / mobile and maybe bring something else than just healing even tho it would be fine with healing only if they could just survive better. Basically every unit just kills them.

Also not sure if its good idea to just copy pasta something from SC2

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