The "rush" strategy and "build orders"

My biggest issue with AOE3 was that attacking early was very overpowered. Towers were almost useless because of their cost vs attack. Trade routes made walling impossible. Barracks could only be built in age2 so if someone aged super-fast you could not even defend.

The game ended up being two players following a scripted build order found in online forums, attacking early in the game, and 90% of games ended in the colonial age. I believe there should be an element of “randomness” to make the game more interesting, so you cant just mindlessly follow an OP build order. If the card system is retained, perhaps some cards could come randomly. Or civs players could start with random offense/defense bonuses that they dont know until the game is already started.

A strategy game is no fun when it always ends in only 10mins

Randomness is an option, that’s one of the reasons random map generation has always worked so well for the series. Another option would be better defensive options, like counter units that come online a little before the thing they’re countering does, or better/cheaper defensive buildings.

As long as it’s not overshot to the other side of the balance. To me rushing is one of the more interesting sets of strategies in the games, it would be nice if it had value if maybe not immediate game winning value.

If you look at aoe 3 tournaments on youtube you will find quite a large amount of games that go much further then the age 2 rush. Allthough it is correct that a lot of players learn a build and stick with that rush build most rushes get hard countered by the fact that there are minutemen, unit shipments and a card that buffs your tc as well as a second minutemen shipment. Most rushes can be countered quite well, unless the opponent thinks he can go fast age 3 or something stupid like that. But in many matches you see age 3 and age 4 as well. Age of empires 3 is a very well made game. It is still underestemated in my opinion.