What was AOE like compared to its descendants?

So I’ve been playing the AOE series since I was in elementary school, starting with me finding AOE2 in a Walmart many years after it was released. Ever since, I have always wanted to play the original, and moreso after I played the rest of the series. Now that the day has come, I still wonder what it was like and how different the original was to the rest. So what was it like?

Speaking for the Rise of Rome expansion: No rally points, no garrison, no formations, no farm queues, and the pathing AI is a bit thick in the skull. All of which adds up to it being sort of “more micro-heavy,” IMO. I feel like the tech tree is substantially less complex than in AoE2, but that might just be my opinion. Optimistically, I could say it has a greater focus on “fundamentals,” or just that it’s “more straightforward.”

It’s, uhhhh, it’s simpler. Doing a lot of micromanagement of ostensibly simple tasks is kind of fun in itself. Battles are pretty chaotic.

I do really like the Ancient A e s t h e t i c. Going from caveman to essentially Roman Golden Age. It’s a cool setting that suits the “simplicity” of the gameplay.

Pre-RoR AoE didn’t even let you queue up units at all, and lacked an idle villager button. RoR actually added the idle villager button JUST as a hotkey ( . ) So there was some hassle-reduction, at least.

AoE 1 is apparently big in China and 'Nam. I watched a Vietnam game between two seemingly very skilled players and they definitely took it to a high level of intense micromanagement, so it’s definitely a game that can be played very intensely, high APM and stuff.

I’m mostly comparing it to AoE 2. That’s the main point of reference. Some important contrasts with AoE 2 then:

  • Fewer naval combat units.
  • No market resource trading and no trade carts. (but there’s tributes and a boat trade cog system that’s like carts except that you have to sacrifice wood/food/stone for the gold.)
  • No unique units. (but there are some pretty intense unit-specific civilization perks that do make certain units very strong for certain civs.)
  • Buildings are smaller relative to units. (No huge looming castles, although Wonders are pretty big.)
  • No gates lol.

All of which can be seen as “missing features,” but can also be seen as “less complication.” A game with simpler rules can still be plenty deep if the way the fewer pieces interact is still dynamic.

Hahahah! The lack of trade carts and market resource trading was a nightmare for those gold expensive units in the later game without mention that there weren’t relics like AOEII does.

Also the variety of wild animals that could kill you villagers so quickly (Lions :lol: ) and the pathfinding was terrible when you wanted to gather a resource (villagers stuck intensifies).