So it’s safe to say that this game is closer to SC2 than AoE2 when it comes to pacing and combat physics. In SC2, you are encouraged to spam 8+ production buildings from early “ages” because there is more emphasis on army over booming, and the game is faster-paced than AoE2. That’s fine, this is just a game design choice and not necessarily bad. It’s refreshing from AoE2 where you mass an army very slowly from say, 2 production buildings and then have 1 big fight at 30 min mark or so (not saying all AoE2 games go like this, but u get the general idea). AoE2 is a game where the defender generally has an advantage, because buildings are so bulky and walling is very easy to do.
However, if we want to take inspiration from SC2, this game also has far more production building types. Generally, advanced units are not an evolution of early game ones and also require separate buildings and a higher tier “town center” to be able to construct the production building itself. Think about Ultralisks, for example, who require a tier 3 base and a dedicated building.
In contrast, in AoE4 there are generally 3 production buildings: Archery range, Barracks, Stable. There is also a secondary production building, the Siege Workshop and everything comes from 1 of these 4. Furthermore, most tier 3 and tier 4 units are simply upgrades to the tier 1-2 variant, often adding a boring +15 HP, +1 attack and +1/+1 armor. This means that:
- tech switching is too easy
- there isn’t a big edge to be gained by advancing ages and gaining access to an advanced unit, other than the Blacksmith upgrades (incidentally, since the HP and attack compared to AoE2 got roughly doubled, I also think that the “+1 attack or armor” from Blacksmith are fairly mediocre bonuses that don’t influence combat as much as they should and should be raised to +2 across the board to make tech advantage feel more impactful).
especially point 2 makes the game feel a bit redundant in terms of strategizing booming over military. The correct strategy is generally to do a mix of both and then slowly upgrade your army, because the same army that is good in Feudal, is good in Castle and Imperial ages also, while this is not the case in a game like SC2 where early game units like Zerglings or Marines fade vs more “advanced” armies.
My suggestion to fix this is to make some units more “extreme” in their strengths/weaknesses, but also harder to access. For example, Zhuge Nu should be a tier 3 unit (currently tier 2, requiring both tier 1 buildings to be made), and could fire up to 5 arrows, instead of 3. Teching into Zhuge Nu should be hard, but the reward should be that it beats nearly every Feudal unit decisively. It should also be made from a separate building (e.g. Keep?) or at least tier 3 Archery Range AND requires a tech to make the base variant (again, teching into this unit should be hard and not require a mere 150w investment as in live game).
Likewise, Landsknecht (who also need a buff/cost decrease, but that is another topic) should be a tier 3/4 unit that is hard to tech into (maybe could require technology from Keep or so?), but once you unlock them they get something monstrous like +20/+30 bonus vs all infantry types while also having decent ranged armor (leaving Knights as only counter).
Knights could have their own production building (“Knight’s keep” or something), costing 300w and being a Castle Age building. Having Knights in same building as Horsemen feels a bit… uninspired.
Also, another very important aspect is that the game should have “scarce” resources (gold) and abundant ones (food, wood), currently due to how market works and the ease of gathering gold early on, gold is basically as valuable as wood, and as a consequence, “gold units” (which is a very important concept in AoE2) don’t feel inherently stronger than “trash units” (wood & food-based ones). This is a design philosophy also, as far as I know SC2 doesn’t have “elite” and “trash” units like AoE2, nevertheless there should be units that are harder to counter (Knights?) and ones that are easy (basic Archers?).
AoE2 also had an edge, strategy-wise (at least I think) because it has a “5-way” counter system, where it’s the classic Archer → Pikeman → Knight → Archer, but Monks and Mangonels come in the mix also, countering Knights and Archers, respectively, making it more interesting than the 3-way counter system of AoE4 (with caveats like Crossbowman countering Knight, granted).
In short, there should be more diversification and more strategic planning in unit composition, currently ALL units are too easily accessible and you just make the counter unit to what you see the opponent make, making it basically mostly a micro and villager allocation battle and not much more.
These are just some impressions I had, I am sorry if they aren’t properly written because they are half-formed in my mind also, but I hope they give inspiration for discussion.