I have been hearing a lot about how the older civs feels bland compared to some of the new civs, and how some unit or tech (shrivamsha rider, you aren’t dodging this one) doesn’t “feel like AoE2”. So, I thought about this a lot and came to the conclusion that “Mechanics creep” is a thing that has been happening in the game a lot. Note that this is a lot of theory crafting. I hope you enjoy that kind of thing, but if you don’t, this might not interest you.
THE 3 MAIN CATEGORIES
To explain this, let me start with what I call “Standard Mechanics”. This is a bonus, or UT that changes one or more of the properties of a unit, or building. However, the property that is being changed is just a number attached to the unit. Additionally, this number must also apply to all other units of the same category (or all units in general), and should have a visible effect on all those units.
These are things like creation time, cost, attack rate, attack range, movement speed, armour, bonus damage, bonus damage resistance, etc.
Most of the older civs only have bonuses or UTs that adhere to the standard mechanics. Britons have archers with longer range, franks have cheaper castles, goths produce infantry faster, Japanese get faster attacking infantry, In fact, most bonuses and UTs across all civs in the game fall into this category. This also includes building bonuses like Inca house giving 10 pop space, frank castles being cheaper, teuton castles having extra range, and japanese towers firing extra arrows. This is the standard aoe2 feeling of mechanics, and anything that fits within this is okay for the most part.
Note that Standard mechanics can be exciting or boring. Mongol’s drill, Ethiopian’s Torsion Engines, and Spanish Supremacy fall within standard mechanics.
The second category I propose is “Resource Alteration Mechanics”. This includes bonuses or UTs that change the type of resources that is generated from an action, or that is required by an action. Note that discounts or bonuses of the same resources type (like aztec relics giving extra gold) doesn’t fall under this category. Some of the examples are pole’s stone mining bonus, portugese berry bonus, Detinets changing some of the cost of castles and towers to wood, bengali trade bonus, Vietnamese Paper Money, and Keshiks and viking infantry creating gold while attacking.
This category has weird oddities, but is still okay for the most part, I think. The community generally dislikes “you get x type resource while doing y” bonuses, but these don’t feel totally out of place.
The last category that I want to propose among the general mechanics is “Transposition Mechanics”. This only applies to buildings and technologies(except UTs). This is when you allow one building to serve the function/create a unit of another standard building (building available to most civs and not unique buildings), or allow a building to serve a function it can do in another age.
An example of the first type is Khmer vils being able to garrison in houses, and teuton infantry being able to fire from towers and castles. Goth huskarl being able to produced from Barracks and Tarkans being able to produced from stables also fall under this category. afaik, there are no buildings that fishing ships can garrison in. Therefore, the gurjara bonus of fishing ships being able to garrison in docks does not fall under this category, in my opinion. Examples of the second type include cumans being able to build TCs and rams in feudal age, and bohemians being able to research chemistry in castle age.
These 3 main categories of Mechanics are what I would consider AoE2 Mechanics. These are broad categories that generally “feel like AoE2”. There are more than at least 5 civs that get bonuses or UTs from each of these categories, and most mechanics in the future should also stick to these, imo.
To avoid confusion, let me also describe what a mechanic means in this context. What is a Mechanic? I do not think that this is a super important question, nor do I think that one can give a perfect and definitive answer to this question. I’ll give a general answer, which is open to interpretaions.
A mechanic is the broadest set of rules that can encapsulate a phenomenon or occurrence. This set of rules cannot be the complete lack of existence of a thing. These rules should be described in terms of, and considered as being applied to general categories like “units”, “buildings”, “economic units” or “siege units” or “monk units” rather than individual units like “leitis” or “hussite wagons”, whenever possible. However, it can, and should, take partial occurrences and numerical differences into consideration. Two or more different mechanics shouldn’t explain the same phenomenon, and all mechanics taken together should describe the game completely.
There are a few other mechanics in the older civs (those included in the HD Edition). These include Feitorias, a building that can produce unlimited amount of resources, attacking through units in Kamayuks and Steppe Lancers, and a unit taking up pop-space which is not 1, in karambit warriors. Units being able to garrison in other units (Rams, Siege Towers), Units being able to pass over walls and buildings (siege towers), projectile blocking (rams, hussite wagons), Units being able to do splash damage (Slav infantry, Elite Battle Elephants, Siege Rams, Cataphracts, etc) .Please feel free to mention any which I might’ve missed.
SO, HERE’S THE PROBLEM. There are mechanics that does not fall with any of the generalized categories that I proposed, and their number has been increasing with each new expansion. Most importantly, these mechanics only applies to few units and civs. In many cases, these only apply to one unit or one civ. Let’s go over them. I’ll keep track of them in the format [EM1] (extra mechanics 1), [EM2], etc.
EDIT NOTE: The numberings are partly broken because a few changes from comments had to be included, and I don’t want to break any references.
LORDS OF THE WEST
- [EM1] “Charged Attack” with Coustillier. This mechanic has now also been added to urumi swordsman. So, this is a mechanic affecting 2 civs/units.
- [EM2] The more egregious example of a mechanic is the infamous “Felmish Revolution”. This is a mechanic that converts one unit into another unit in the game, and there is only one civ that is affected by this mechanic.
- [EM3] A non-villager unit is able to create a building. This is a new mechanic that only affects one civ as well.
- [EM4] The sicilians are able to create x number of units instanty with a UT, which is another new mechanic. This is now also present in Bengalis, where 2 vils instantly spawn (per TC), upon reaching a new age.
DAWN OF THE DUKES
- [EM5] Obuch. A unit which can reduce the melee armour of a unit which each attack. This is a mechanic that affects just Poles.
- [EM6] Poles get another unique ####### in the folwark, which collects x number of resources instantly from a resource.
- [EM7] Folwark is also the first building with an AoE (Area of Effect) mechanic. Hindustani Caravensarai and Celt stronghold castles have since been introduced, making it a total of 3.
DYNASTIES OF INDIA
- [EM8] A unit that can change its attack in the Bengali Ratha. No other unit in the game can do this.
- I wouldn’t consider this totally new, but Bengalis having a tech which changes the pop space of vils and monks is an oddity.
- [EM9] Arguably the worst civ for new mechanics, the Gurajaras. Shrivamsha rider dodging projectiles is the first one.
- [EM10] Herdables being able to garrison in Guraja Mills to produce food.
In the upcoming DLC, we get a brand-new mechanic.
- [EM12] Romans have a unit which can affect other units in an area around it.
Only two of the DLC civs lack new mechanics, Bohemians and Dravidians.
If we consider all the civs added in Definitive Edition, with The Last Khans expansion, we have the following additions to the list.
- [EM13] Bulgarians Konniks, which is 2 units in one unit. They turn into infantry after being killed in cavalry form. Note that Konniks spawning from Kreposts is not a new mechanic, and falls under Transposition Mechanics.
- [EM14] Lituanians Leitis, a unit which can ignore melee armour. Melee armour is something you can upgrade with blacksmith bonuses, while you have little to no control over bonus armours. This mechanic has since been repeated in the Dravidian UT, “Wootz Steel”
- [EM15] Tartars get flaming camel. This was the only civ unit locked behind a UT. Burgundian Flemish militia has since been introduced, making it a total of 2 civs/units.
- [EM16] Cumans UT allos their allies to create their unique unit for free. All of the other “shared units” are available as a team bonus, and not locked behind the civ’s UT (Genitour, Condottieros, and Imperial Skirmishers)
In my opinion, the addition of all these new mechanics will make the game feel disjointed and fragmented, over time. We know that the community has vocal against some of the new mechanics, but I think the issue is broader than that.
While these new mechanics might make these new civs feel a bit more special, there are a lot of negative effects
- It makes civs without any new mechanics feel a bit more stale
- It increases the complexity of the game without necessarily increasing its depth. New players have to learn that some of these new civs have mechanics which doesn’t fit in with the orignial game at all.
- It makes the game more difficult to balance. Some of these new mechanics, like Flemish revolution, can completely destroy balance.
- It makes the game feel fragmented. If you add like 10 more mechanics, this game will feel like a disjointed collection of civs which should’ve belonged to different games.
Here’s my hot take: A mechanic that only affects a single civilization, or a single unit, shouldn’t exist. I realize that this is not possible any more, but there is a fix. Don’t introduce new mechanics with any new civs. Make these “Extra Mechanics” part of a broader category. For example, add like 3 more civs with units which have charged attack, and now charged attack doesn’t feel like an isolated mechanic any more.
Maybe the devs can add in a new infantry unit which has an area of affect property, and give it to all civs. That mechanic will then feel like an inherent part of the game, and work better.
So, that’s my thesis. Please chime in if you have any opinions, I’d love to listen to some interesting theory crafting. QED.
The following entries are removed because of errors:
- [EM7] Hindustanis get a building with an AOE (Area of effect, heh) property which isn’t just arrow fire. With the latest update, celts get one as well, in their stronghold. Still, just 2 civs. Poles get the folwark, a building with an AoE effect.
- [EM11] Changing the environment to add new resources, in the guraja bonus of 2 bushes under TC Incas have a bonus of extra Llama spawns, and tartars have a bonus of extra sheep spawn. All these mechanics are functionally the same, in that they provide a means to produce extra resources which is not through farms.