Video Game: Age of Empires III

Age Of Empires III is the fourth installment (counting the Spin-Off series Age of Mythology as another series) in the Age of Empires franchise. It was released in October of 2005, and is set during The Colonial Period, with seven European civilizations (Spanish, British, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Russian and German) and the Ottoman Empire as playable civilizations. There's also a version for the N-Gage phone made by Giu Mobile in 2009.

While the gameplay remains similar to previous entries in the series, several new features were introduced here. For instance, the Home City feature allows shipments of troops, technology or resources to be delivered during normal gameplay. In order to be able to send shipments, the player must gain experience points which are obtained during normal gameplay. The ability to ally with native tribes was also added, with the opportunity to train units from said tribes to add to your military forces. Also, unlike in previous games, the civilizations are far more varied, with more unique units, technologies and bonuses, along with several completely unique Home City shipments. And, akin to Mythology's Age advancement system, the player must choose a Politician, who provides special bonuses, in order to advance to another Age.

The game features a single-player campaign made of three acts (Blood, Ice and Steel), which follows the story of the Black family over 3 centuries as they battle against the Circle of Ossus and take part in several historical events, with the Fountain of Youth as a key plot point across the three acts. The acts are narrated by Amelia Black, the protagonist of Steel.

The first expansion pack, Age of Empires III: The Warchiefs, was released in 2006 and featured three of the native civilizations of the first game as playable: the Aztecs, the Sioux and the Iroquois. It also had several other additions, such as new buildings (the Saloon and the Native Embassy), units (gunpowder cavalry, petards and spies), and the chance to advance to an alternative fifth era for the European civilizations; and unique twists to the three new civilizations, such as the firepit (where villagers can dance in order to obtain a bonus, like creating healing priests, gaining more experience and raising the population limit) and unique big buttons for many buildings.

The single-player campaign, this time composed of two acts, (Fire and Shadow) which extended the Black family's lore by focusing on Amelia's father and son respectively, with Amelia starring again as the narrator and providing a cameo appearance in Shadow.

Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties, the second Expansion Pack, was developed this time by Big Huge Games and Ensemble Studios, and was released in 2007. This Expansion Pack added another three new civilizations to the game, this time from the Far East (Imperial China, Japan and India). It introduced new unique bonuses for these civilizations, like the Export resource and the Consul.

The single-player campaign this time is set in three different historical events: the unification of Japan, the Chinese landing in the Americas and the Sepoy revolution in India.

After the demise of Ensemble Studios, Robot Entertainment (a development house made of former Ensemble employees) is developing the updates and maintaining the ESO service.

These games have a character sheet in need of some wiki magic love.

Age of Empires III, The Warchiefs and The Asian Dynasties give examples of:

  • A Commander Is You:
    • Europeans: The vanilla factions of the game.
      • Spanish: They have the easy to learn skills of a Generalist since they have most military units available in the game. They get Home City shipments earlier of an Economist and their units themselves can be used any time, anywhere of an Balanced. One of their best units is their Lancer cavalry which specializes in taking down infantry.
      • British: They get an extra settler whenever a Manor note  is constructed of an Industrial for that quick economic bonus early in the game. Their military units themselves are Balanced that they're not good at everything, but not bad at it either with the exception of having one of the best musketeer units in the game. They also have a Ranger elements of long-ranged attacks with their Longbowmen and Congreve Rockets.
      • French: Their Cuirassier cavalry have high hitpoints, high damage, and gives Splash Damage of a Brute Force faction, and their Coureur des Bois can gather 25% more resources than their settler counterparts of an Economist. Finally, their bonuses with allying the natives gives of a Spammer edge with a horde of native units.
      • Portuguese: They begin as a slow from a beginning but powerful late in the game of a Technical, they lack settler card bonuses, thus leading a slow economic build up but if players can memorize the map using the Portuguese explorer's ability to use the spyglass, and get a Covered Wagon with every advanced age. That means, players with experience in micromanaging, in the late game can spread their base around for resources while having great naval bonuses, excellent dragoons (Ranged anti-cavalry) and light infantry, and their musketeers that rival the British. They also gets Ranger elements for having the Organ Gun, an early ancestor of the machine gun, and have good ranged units like their musketeers, dragoons, and their cassadors (Which sacrifices what little hitpoints they have for increased damage).
      • Dutch: They are also slow to start with of a Technical since their settlers costs Coin instead of Food, but they're available to construct Banks that generates Coin to compensate this. Later on they get the best halberdiers the game has to offer, and one of the best naval city card bonuses including the powerful Fluytnote  ship. Their Coin generations gives them an Economic edge later in the game when they can afford the powerful mercenaries and their Ruyter ranged cavalry (which costs 1 population instead of the standard 2) gives them a Spammer elements as well.
      • Russians: The Spammer faction in the game since most of their units are weak but are created quicker than their counterparts and they arrive in large groups. The downsides besides their weaker stats (Their Cossack cavalry is cheaper but weaker version of the general Hussar for example) is their requirements for more resources. They also have elements of Guerrilla with their Oprichnik cavalry having bonus against villagers and buildings and Brute Force since they are capable of overwhelming their enemies in numbers.
      • Germans: An another Spammer faction since they get a free Uhlan cavalry with every Home City shipment. The Uhlan have highest damage but lowest hitpoints of the melee non-mercenary cavalry. Another factor is their discounts towards mercenary shipments, which means they can get mercenaries earlier in the game. The Germans have the Brute Force capabilities with their Doppelsoldners carry BFSs that can take out other hand infantry and cavalry, and their War Wagons are ranged cavalry with extra hitpoints, able to survive longer in battle. They also qualify as Ranger since they get Royal Guard upgrades to their Skirmisher which gives them more hitpoints and damage.
      • Ottomans: They are the Unit Specialist towards artillery and Ottoman players can create artillery units (Bomb throwing Grenadiers) earlier than the rest of the other factions. Their only infantry, however are the Janissaries and their answer to the Skirmisher (The Abus Gunners) can only be created Artillery Foundry. However, they do get decent cavalry as well since they get Royal Guard upgrades to the Hussar, and they get shipments of the powerful Spahi heavy cavalry which capable of Area of Effect damagenote . The Ottomans are also also Unconventional since they get free settlers at the catch of not stopping them at a certain limit.
    • Native Americans: All the three civilizations have aspects Guerrilla considering some of their units have the ability to use stealth and ambush the enemy. The following are: Aztec Jaguar Prowl Knightsnote , Iroquois Forest Prowlersnote , and the Sioux Tashunke Prowlersnote .
      • Aztecs: Brute Force since their Skull Knights are heavy infantry that specializes in Area of Effect damage, and the Noble Hut units are slower, expensive, but deal tons of damage. Plus, they easily get a large amount of units to become a Spammer with "War Hut" units are cheap, fast of their feet, and can be massed in a short period of time and their technologists instantly grants players a large army of units with a push of the button. The "Noble Hut" units cost more but they include the javelin throwing Eagle Runner Knights that counters cavalry, their hard hitting Jaguar Prowler Knights that are capable of stealth, and their Arrow Knights with their long range bonuses towards buildings and artillery and their answer to siege units. But they are definitely a Unit Specialist in that their entire ground troops consists of infantry and only three of their units are ranged. They do make it up for having the best navy of the three Native civilizations but still weaker to the European and Asian counterparts.
      • Iroquois: They are the only Native civilization with artillery and siege units to become an Industrial faction. The Iroquois's gameplay is very similar to the vanilla European factions, qualifying them to be a Balanced. While they have excellent infantry with ranged Tomahawk that counters cavalry, fast and cheap Aenna archers, and their Forest Prowlers are Skirmishers that can use stealth, but they have poor cavalry and a mediocre navy. Their Kanya Horsemen and Musket Riders are inferior versions of the European Hussars and Dragoons respectively.
      • Sioux: They are Unit Specialists specializing towards cavalry , with some mediocre infantry units as support. Their strongest unit, the Dog Soldier is essentially the French Cuirassier's high hit points with the Spanish Lancer's anti-infantry bonuses. The Sioux also don't need houses and starts the game with a full population of 200, more than enough to qualify them as Spammer. Instead, they construct tepees that boosts their attack and health points. Finally, most of their units are long-ranged of a Ranger faction. Their greatest weakness though is their lack of artillery and a poor navy even though their "Fire Dance" specialty gives them bonus points towards buildings and ships to make it up.
  • A.I. Breaker: The AI knows how to build troops and how to build ships, but the concept of loading troops onto ships for transportation is utterly foreign to the the AI. On any skirmish map where the player and AI are separated by water you are completely safe from attack.
  • Anyone Can Die: Armies aside, a fair amount of main and supporting characters bite the dust across the campaigns. The countdown includes Francisco Delgado and Alain Magnan in Blood; Stuart Black, John Black and Warwick in Ice; Major Cooper and Pierre Beaumont in Steel; Sven Kuechler in Fire; William Holme and George Armstrong Custer in Shadows; Daimyoes Mototada and Ishida (among many others) in Japan; Admiral Jinhai in China; and Colonel Edwardson in India, and one can assume that the Leaders of the Resistance also die, because historically, that war of independence failed. That's not counting the characters who died of old age.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Given how Ages work, this is inevitable.
    • The languages used, especially in the campaigns. It can be jarring, for instance, to hear Anglo-American heroes speak (more or less) Modern English while your British units still talk as though stuck in the 16th Century.
    • Some of the factions give off this vibe. The Chinese, for instance, are a mix of both the Ming and Manchu/Qing Dynasties. While the British can have longbowmen fighting alongside musketeers as late as th Industrial Age.
  • Anti-Grinding: The introduction of RPG Elements, in the form of the Home City and its shipments, also brought the expected problems, solved in the following ways:
    • Skirmish and Multiplayer matches have a cap of 30,000 XP per match.
    • Some campaign maps have a cap on the amount of experience you can gather, such as "Respect" (the sixth mission in Ice, where Kanyenke and John tries to gain the favour of the Lakota Tribe Chiefs). Other campaign missions, by way of being timed missions, don't let the player level up a lot, such as the first and sixth mission of Blood ("Breakout" and "A Pirate's Help") and the first and seventh mission of Ice ("Defend the Colony" and "Warwick's Stronghold").
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The "George Crushington" cheat unit. It's a giant, hopping bust of Washington that headbutts enemies to death with a BIFF! or a ZOINK! and shoots fireballs from its eyes.
  • Arrows on Fire: Archers pull these out when attacking buildings.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The AI just loves building armies entirely composed of Mercenaries in the Asian Dynasties expansion, ignoring the fact that Mercenaries are incredibly expensive and easily outperformed one-on-one by plain, ordinary units in the later ages.
    • Also, the AI players rarely upgrade their regular military units or research economic technologies, have trouble landing putting their units on ships, and never, ever build walls.
  • Ascended Extra: The Aztecs, the Sioux and the Iroquois were just native tribes in the original game. They were made playable in The Warchiefs and both acts of its campaign focus on the Iroquois (Fire) and Sioux (Shadow).
  • Ascended Meme: One of the pre-recorded taunts players can send each other is a hilariously British-accented "I'm in your base, killing your d00dz".
  • Author Appeal/Creator Thumbprint: One of the chief developers is an Aztec fanboy. This is why the Aztecs were upgraded to playable faction in the first expansion rather than the Inca, as most fans had expected.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The mercenaries are more powerful than the average units they are based on note  but they either cost too many coin or too many population to rely on them completely. Unless you're the Dutch in the later ages, where you have more than enough coin to field an entire mercenary army. In the end, you'll use more of your regular units throughout.
    • Going for a Revolution while playing as a European faction instead of advancing through the Imperial Age is cheaper with a 1000 each of food, coin, and wood compared to the 4000 food and 4000 coin. At first, you will unlock many unique units such as Gatling Guns, Ironclad Warships, and Colonial Militia units. However, doing so will permanently turn all your settlers into Colonial Militia, leaving players out with no way to gather resources unless they have a factory and trading posts ready prior to revolting. Unlike the Ragnarok god power in Age of Mythology (where this gameplay mechanic is inspired from), you are also barred from creating new settlers to replace your transformed ones. Furthermore, players will lose their Home City Cards in replace of new ones.
    • Advancing to the Imperial Age will grant players the most upgrades, but not only is it costly as mentioned above, but it's more effective just to use the resources at the Industrial Age.
  • Bandito: Some are available as mercenaries, while others are present as treasure guardians.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Black, Grizzly and Polar bears are the strongest wild animals in the original game, and will kick the ass of your explorer, once he has used his One-Hit Kill on one of them, if they are in groups. In Asian Dynasties, even the pandas cannot be trusted.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy:
    • Anything dealing with the very existence of the Circle of Ossus in III:
      • The main reason for the Great Siege of Malta, as seen in Blood, was so the Ottoman Turks could get info on the Circle of Ossus, the Fountain of Youth, and the New World.
      • The Seven Years' War in Ice was an attempt by the Circle of Ossus to obtain the Fountain of Youth by using the Russian Czar to conquer the Americas for them while the Western colonial powers were distracted and weakened from killing each other.
    • The Ming Chinese in the China campaign landed in the Americas and fought a secret war amongst themselves before erasing almost all traces of their presence.
    • And then, there are more "mundane" things like Turkish outposts in South America, the knocking off of an entire Spanish Treasure Fleet, the course of the Seven Years' War and Custer's Last Stand, and how many historical characters or organizations get involved in the plot.
  • BFG: The Monitor, the Ottoman Great Bombard and the mercenary Lil' Bombard. Guaranteed to ruin someone's day when they start firing. Ottoman Abus guns are portable cannons and the only infantry to deal siege-type damage.
  • BFS: The Chinese Changdao (literally "long sword"). If you're not paying attention, you might think these guys are actually carrying a spear.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • In "Breakout", from Blood, Alain Magnan comes with his cavalry to drive the Ottoman forces from Malta.
    • In "Temple of the Aztecs", also from Blood, the Aztec forces come to kick the Spanish out from their lands.
    • In "Defend the Colony", from Ice, John's Mercenaries come to defend the colony after the time is out.
  • Bilingual Bonus: A peculiar subversion. Native speakers of French, Spanish, German, Russian, Portuguese, Dutch, Turkish, Hindi (Indians), Mandarin (Chinese) and Japanese will have little trouble understanding the phrases used by these civilisations, as they use the modern variant of their respective languages, complete with regional dialectsnote . Native English speakers, on the other hand, are stuck with the British speaking in 16th century Early Modern English, though the American and British hero units in the campaigns and the Outlaw Riflemen mercenaries do speak Modern English.
  • Bling of War: Your units will wear increasingly colorful armor/uniforms as you upgrade them. Also a case where Informed Equipment is averted.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Downplayed. Units do have to reload, but they never run out of ammunition to reload with. They also have an unlimited supply of torches to throw at buildings.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Characters often explicitly refers to the fact that they are part of a computer game.
    • One specific example from the campaigns: in the Saratoga mission of Fire, Nathaniel Black mentions advancing to the Fortress Age.
  • Call That a Formation?: Generally averted, as the different formations available all have their uses in certain situations.
  • Captain Obvious: At the very beginning of the first campaign, "Blood", a crossbowman tells the protagonist, Morgan Black that the Ottomans have landed... as Morgan was looking over a cliff watching hundreds of them, including Sahin, laying siege to the fort!
  • Classic Cheat Code: tuck tuck tuck.
  • Crippling Overspecialization:
    • There are a lot of units with a low base attack damage but high multipliers against certain unit types, meaning that they're pretty rubbish against anything but those specific types. Culverins, for example, are nearly useless against anything but ships or other artillery.
    • Skirmishers have excellent ranged damage but very low HP and melee damage. Pretty much anything that engages them in melee is likely to win.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory:
    • The first two games have one and two-button interfaces. This series, only one.
    • The priests in the vanilla games do not automatically go to units and heal them, they have a skill button for it instead, which confuses players who shifted between the vanilla AOE3 to other AOE games-not to mention being very impractical due to the small area of effect and long recharge time. Fixed in the expansions.
  • Damage Is Fire: Justified: historically, professional armies (before the invention of electricity or reliable lighting) carried various unlit wooden torches with them into battle tucked into various places that they could light up and use in night fighting or when they had to burn something. The number a given soldier will use in short succession is still ludicrous, through.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Several characters and AI personalities, especially Queen Elizabeth (British) and Frederick the Great (Germans).
  • Defeat Means Friendship: The British army John and Kanyenke defeat in the the fourth level of Ice. But there's also another British army which subverts this: the one led by Warwick, a member of the Circle, who is also a renegade from the British army.
    • The Chinese explorer is a Shaolin master who can convert defeated enemy units into disciples.
  • Desperation Attack: If you've unlocked it in the XP ladder, you can unleash either one or (after you unlocked another) two waves of "militia", which have middling HP and decent ranged attack, their main advantage being the massive and sudden (you can train dozens in seconds) onrush of soldiers. The two waves can each only be used once, and their current health uniquely starts lowering immediately after they are trained, meaning that these units are only supposed to be used as an emergency last line of defense.
  • Easy Communication: The formation buttons.
  • Easy Logistics: Home City shipments can't get lost at sea or delayed due to bad weather, and paying for a blockade is a one-time investment.
  • Edutainment Game: The first purpose of the game is entertainment, but there's plenty of historical information available, with the multiplayer interface having a sidebar displaying various historical facts. Other examples include:
    • The first few missions of Blood happen during the Siege of Malta.
    • The fourth mission of Ice has the player fighting in the Seven Years' War for the French.
    • Fire takes place during The American Revolution.
    • The Japan campaign takes place during the unification of Japan and ends with the battle of Sekigahara.
    • The India campaign takes place during the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857.
    • Shadow takes place amidst the backdrop of Custer's Last Stand.
  • Enemy Exchange Program:
    • In The Warchiefs, the namesake Native American Warchiefs have the ability to convert treasure guardians.
    • There is a chance that any unit killed by the Shaolin Master will become a Disciple, which all look the same. Even if this unit is not Chinese. Even if this unit is not human.
    • The Asian civilizations in The Asian Dynasties can get support from other civilizations, even if that civilization is an enemy, which can lead to Redcoats fighting Redcoats.
  • Final Death: As per RTS standards, averted, thanks to the Gameplay Ally Immortality: this means that the campaign heroes, explorers, Warchiefs, and monks getting KOed does not mean Game Over. Other mission-critical units such as Bahadur Sah... not so much.
  • Firewood Resources: Averted, villagers don't need to carry the wood/food/gold to the nearest Town Center or specialized building. All resources go straight to the player's stockpile.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Firing muskets and cannons into a melee will only kill enemies.
  • Game Mod: Quite a few have come out for the game. Some of the notable ones are:
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • The in-game units' info shows the developers do know that the game representations aren't accurate, but nonetheless, there are many breaks from reality - for example, muskets can fire around every three seconds in-game, while they took significantly longer to reload in real life (the Musketeer's in-game unit info states that a competent musketeer could fire 4 shots per minute).
    • The Japan campaign allows the player to advance to the Industrial Age, which gives you access to your main anti-building artillery... and allows you to upgrade your Trade Routes to railroads. In 1600.
  • Gender Is No Object: Female villagers and some campaign heroes.
  • Generational Saga: The campaigns of III and The Warchiefs tell the tale of the Black family.
  • Genre Shift: To a degree; the introduction of storylines revolving around the Fountain of Youth and the Ancient Conspiracy pursuing it is a pretty noteworthy one for a series whose campaigns had previously been focused upon the relatively accurate retelling of actual historical events, though those show up as well.
  • Gentleman Adventurer/Great White Hunter: The explorer.
  • Geo Effects: Some missions in the campaigns (such as a mission in Los Andes in Steel after helping Bolivar, or Valley Forge in Fire after Saratoga) have the cold depleting your units' health.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: There's an unlockable visual customization for your Home City's harbor called 'A nice lady', further described as 'a soiled dove'. Guess what it means.
    • The randomized dialogue customization only amplifies it as her dialogue includes...
    "Hey, sailor."
    "Is it evening yet?"
    "Hey, it pays the rent."
    "You new in town?"
    "And now the money just rolls in." (referring to the recent sunset)
    • Digging about the files for the where the dialogue is stored (Age of Empires III/AI2/homecitychatsets) shows it to drop the charade, where the dialogue of the "nice lady" is under a section headed by <Tag type="HCChat" name="'''Prostitute'''" priority="Background">
  • Giant Squid: Appears in The Asian Dynasties, but in a completely different manner to most media portrayals. Rather than as grossly over-sized monsters from the deep, the squids are harmless creatures portrayed about the same size as in Real Life. Additionally, they never attack you and only are only there as a food source like salmon or cod. Also, they only appear in the Honshu map, where real Giant Squid also live.
  • Going Native: A recurring motif for the Black family, with Morgan's Scottish lineage being infused with Iroquois, American and finally Sioux blood. Tellingly, Chayton Black in Shadow is nigh indistinguishable from the Sioux tribesmen he ultimately sides with.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: In the first mission of Blood, the Knights of St. John are near defeat when the bombards show, so they send some settlers to light a signal fire to call for reinforcements from Alain.
  • Glass Cannon:
  • Russian Oprnichiks are fragile and have relatively low base damage, but have a very strong anti-building attack and a huge damage multiplier against settlers. A dozen of them can cripple an enemy's economy within a minute.
  • The Portuguese' unique version of the Skirmisher, the Cassador, amplifies this with even more ranged damage and even less HP and melee damage compared to the basic version.
  • Gratuitous Ninja: Ninja are available as mercenaries in the first expansion. The Japanese can also train them normally, with certain requirements.
  • Guide Dang It: Fun fact - most ranged attacks from infantry attack at half the speed of melee attacks. Notably, that means musketeers will generally do more damage if attacking in melee rather than ranged. Unfortunately, this isn't written anywhere in the game, even with the advanced stats option on, forcing players to rely on fan-made databases and wikis for such information.
  • Hit-and-Run Tactics: All ranged cavalry can fire on the move. Averted by the other ranged units, who must stop to fire.
  • Hold the Line: Several missions in the singleplayer campaigns: the ones which end after the line is held are "Breakout" in Blood, "Defend The Colony" in Ice and "Breed's Hill" in Fire; the ones where it doesn't, and you have to defeat the enemy to win, are "Temples of the Aztec" in Blood and "Hold the fort" in Steel.
  • Horse Archer: The Ottomans, Russians, Sioux, Chinese and Japanese each have their own versions.
  • Immortality Seeker: The Circle of Ossus is devoted to finding the Fountain of Youth in Blood, whose water is said to give eternal life to those who drink it. This plot was revisited in Steel. Morgan has found that the "Immortality" granted by the Fountain of Youth is no myth, as we find out in the closing cutscene of III.
  • Implausible Fencing Powers: The British Explorer can be given a special melee attack from a Home City shipment that allows him to spin around, causing damage around him. Tends to One-Hit Kill skirmishers. Several characters in the main campaigns also have a similar ability.
  • I Will Show You X: The lines policemen can say in your Home City after getting the customization for it includes much of these.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Ronin mercenaries and Japanese Samurai have some of the strongest infantry attacks in the game.
  • Large Ham:
    • The AI personalities engage in this to varying extents, but Cuauhtemoc of the Aztecs stands out. A Third-Person Person with a raspy voice and a lot of ego, he has such gems as:
    (When losing a Trading Post): "Cuauhtemoc did not need that trading post!"
    (Entering a large battle): "Blood! Ha ha ha ha! MORE BLOOD!"
    (Resigning): "No! Cuauhtemoc will NEVER surrender! ...Unless ... you let him?"
    • The Elmeti mercenary cavalry, who speaks Italian in a very over the top manner:
  • Lightning Bruiser: French Cuirassiers, Spanish Lancers, Sioux Dog Soldiers, and mercenary Elmeti and Hackapells are all fast cavalry capable of both absorbing and dishing out absurd amounts of damage.
  • Mayincatec: Aztec, Maya, Inca (and in The Warchiefs, Zapotec) villages all have the same type of buildings. As the Aztecs get upgraded to playable faction in the sequel, however, they get unique and more accurate architecture.
  • Mighty Glacier:
  • The Fort is one of the most powerful defensive buildings in the game, boasting high attack power from its cannons and high hitpoints. It also has the ability to train infantry and cavalry units. Its weaknesses are its slow rate of fire, making it vulnerable to large armies attacking it all at once, and units that outrange its cannons (e.g. Mortars, Monitors). It should also be noted that the Fort Wagon, contrary to the Fort it builds, is incredibly flimsy and can't defend itself. Even a small group of light infantry can take it down quickly.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: A few slip-ups appear regarding treasure guardians. Black panthers, tigers and giant pandas in Japan, snow monkeys outside Japan and Komodo Dragons in any map (none of the maps are located near Komodo).
  • Ms. Fanservice: Queen Isabella, the Spanish AI personality, purrs in a sultry Spanish accent. She says to "quit playing so rough" when she is losing a battle, and that she "can't handle all these men" when requesting help. When attacked by multiple opponents, she asks, "Why is it that I always seem to get double-teamed?". She calls the player "pet" as an ally. In addition, her picture in the game's encyclopedia looks quite lovely compared to the historical paintings. (At least, to a modern audience.)
  • The Musketeer: The unit is meant primarily for ranged attack with a musket, but actually deals higher damage-per-second (and receives a hefty bonus against cavalry) with bayonet melee attacks. Ranged cavalry, similarly, have an attack bonus against artillery just as melee cavalry does, but will likely do more damage against artillery in melee mode due to the higher attack rating and artillery's damage-reduction from ranged attacks.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The "Eye of Ornlu", a treasure that gives 200 EXP, is named after a certain wolf in Age of Empires II.
    • The Armor of Arkantos increases hero and explorer hitpoints when claimed.
    • The Germans have a shipment card, "Teutonic Town Center", which improves the defensive capability of town centers. Age of Empires II players may recall a certain Game Breaker when they see the name.
  • Naval Blockade: This is one of the high-level abilities where you can block off a player's regular shipments from their home city. Of course by the time you have that ability it isn't really needed, but still.
  • Ninja: Available as mercenaries in The Warchiefs. They serve mostly as assassins, dealing massive damage to Hero Units and other mercenaries.
  • Omniscient Council of Vagueness: About all that we know about the Circle of Ossus for sure is that they are the enemy, their elite units are called 'Boneguards' and they want to obtain the Fountain of Youth. Absolutely everything else is up for grabs.
  • One-Hit Kill: The European explorers have the Sharpshooter and, later on, the Crack Shot abilities: the first one allows you to kill a Treasure Guardian instantly; the second is a single high-damage shot that can kill almost any land military unit (with the exception of a few mercenaries and powerful special units) in one hit (but cannot be used against villagers and ships).
  • Panda-ing to the Audience: Averted. Pandas serve as treasure guardians here and they're some of the toughest ones around.
  • Panthera Awesome: Played straight. The whole package of big cats appears with The Asian Dynasties, jaguars, cougars, lions, tigers, white tigers, snow leopards and leopards, in the form of black panthers. They are all quite nasty to face, especially the ones available as trainable units.
  • Pirate: Both the regular kind and the Wokou (Japanese pirates) show up, the latter being introduced in The Asian Dynasties. The Warchiefs introduces a specialised building that can train mercenaries, amongst which the player can find pirates and corsairs.
  • Private Military Contractors: The player can recruit powerful mercenaries from the Home City at the cost of gold and a shipment card. The Warchiefs allows them to be trained at a saloon at a higher cost per unit, with their availability dependent on the current map.
  • Protection Mission:
    • In "Temples of the Aztec", from Blood, the player must not let the enemy destroy the Aztec temples.
    • In "The Rescue", from Ice, the player must not let the enemy destroy the outpost and trade post in the Iroquois village.
    • In "Respect", from Ice, the player must win the scenario before the Lakota chiefs are killed.
    • In "The Battle of Morristown", from Fire, the player must not let the Hessian mercenaries destroy the capitol.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: Tokugawa and Cuauhtemoc.
  • Purely Aesthetic Gender: Regular villagers can be either male or female, but do exactly the same jobs with the same amount of effectiveness.
  • Rhino Rampage: Rhinos might possibly be the only complete herbivore in the game to be a treasure guardian. But they also do this with style; being the most powerful animal in the game.
  • RPG Elements: Earning experience points during a match allows the player to send shipments from the Home City. They also go towards leveling up the Home City, which unlocks a wider variety of shipment cards and various cosmetic upgrades for the city.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: A recurring theme in the campaigns.
  • Savage Wolves: The wolves are enemies, appearing in most maps, second only to the cougar as animals go, bu are actually among the weakest of the animals in the games, and the explorer can dispatch a group of them with ease.
  • Scenery Porn: The game's graphics are a significant step up from both Age of Kings and Age of Mythology.
  • Seldom-Seen Species: With more animals than all previous games, including Guanaco, Giant Salamanders, Saiga, Ibex, Nilgai, Serow, Tapir, Capybara, Musk deer, and Rhea as huntable animals in some Maps.
  • Separate, But Identical: Once again, averted: every civilization has its unique quirks, especially the ones introduced in the expansions. For example, the Indians use wood instead of food to train villagers, British houses spawn a bonus villager when built and cost more, and the Dutch use gold instead of food.
    • This also applies to the Home Cities shipment cards. While some are identical across civilizations, (extra villagers, resources...) others are unique to that civilization.
    • All European civilizations have more powerful but also more expensive unique upgrades for their "Guard" units that replace the generic third-tier upgrade. For example, the British have Redcoat Musketeers instead of Guard Musketeers and Lifeguard Hussars instead of Guard Hussars.
  • Series Mascot: The Musketeers are promoted everywhere, and they are the most common unit in the vanilla game.
  • Shaggy Dog Story: "Ambushed!" in Shadow. This is a long, rough, labyrinthine map crammed full of War Huts stationed around the cliffsides. The player needs to get powder wagons to clear paths through trees, which can halt your progress until you get them to the area. And after all of your work in getting up, the player is taken to a cutscene where Holme screws up the entire plan, thus making the whole trip pointless.
  • Shoot the Medic First: Subverted. Priests, missionaries and surgeons heal units automatically, but the healing is done slowly and cannot be done while combat is going on.
  • Settling the Frontier: Every skirmish/multiplayer game has your chosen civilizations establishing settlements in America/Asia (with some supplies shipped from their home cities). Of the campaigns, the first few missions of Steel and Shadow are the only ones that focus on this.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The cheat code "sooo good" causes a little Teen Girl Squad-style message to appear whenever a unit is killed, such as "musketeer'd!" or "imperial howitzer'd!" All with a badass bugle sound included.
      • When "killed", some explorers will yell (roughly) "I've fallen, and I can't get up!" in their native language.
    • There is a basic red and gold customization for British harbors in their Home City titled "Edward Teach's Academy of Naval Competence". Edward Teach is a man better known as Blackbeard, a pirate.
  • Shown Their Work: Similarly to Age of Mythology, the developers had done their research, but nonetheless discarded the results wherever necessary for gameplay.
  • Siege Engines: Artillery units.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: As mentioned above, the "killin' your doods" taunt, and this gem from the same voice actress as the Queen Elizabeth AI;
    "Really... such a noob."
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: Inverted. The first three Big Bads are technically equal in threat, since they all run the same organization, but there's still a big disconnect in their day jobs, which regress from the Grandmaster of the Knights of St. John to a lowly fur trapper. As for The Warchiefs expansion, the first Big Bad is some two-bit mercenary captain, and the second is the Fort Laramie quartermaster. Makes you wonder where they get these huge armies to throw your way...
  • Speaking Simlish: Averted. Units speak in the language of their nation.
  • Spiritual Successor: The game owes quite a good deal to Age of Mythology.
  • Stuff Blowing Up:
    • Mortars, Monitors and Heavy Artillery.
    • No matter what graphics level you have the game at, destroying weapons caches in the Campaign will cause them to blow up.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: In the original game, you can build trade posts in Lakota, Iroquois and Aztec villages and get from them, respectively, native cavalry (Dog Soldier), ranged infantry (Tomahawk) and siege (Mantlet), and infantry (Jaguar Warrior) and ranged infantry (Eagle Warrior) units. In the Warchiefs sequel, the Lakota (now renamed Sioux), Iroquois and Aztecs become playable factions, and their former place in the map is filled with the Cheyenne, Huron and Zapotec, who provide you with cavalry (Cheyenne Rider), siege (Huron Mantlet) and infantry (Lightning Warrior) units.
  • Symbology Research Failure:
    • The Chinese "Confucian Academy" Wonder can automatically produce heavy siege weapons.
    • The Aztec barracks are sacrifice pyramids.
  • Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors: While it's less clear-cut than in the other games in the series, generally, Infantry > Cavalry > Artillery > Infantry applies. It generally gets a bit complex, but the intent remains clear.
    • Infantry is divided into Heavy Infantry (Musketeers and Pikemen/Spearmen) which are effective against both kinds of Cavalry, and Light Infantry (Skirmishers, some types of Melee Infantry, Riflemen, and Archers) which are effective against Heavy Infantry and Ranged Cavalry.
    • Cavalry is divided into Melee Cavalry which are effective against Artillery and Light Infantry, and Ranged Cavalry which are effective against Melee Cavalry.
    • For Artillery, the Falconet is better against infantry than they are against buildings, the Culverin is good against other artillery and ships, the Mortar can only target buildings and ships and annihilates those with ease.
    • Civilization specific units can also be effective against units that their unit archetype is not effective against.
  • Technology Levels: The Discovery Age, Colonial Age, Fortress Age, Industrial Age and Imperial Age/Revolution.
  • The Beastmaster: Explorers can get a canine companion to fight at their side. The Spanish Explorer can train more War Dogs. The Warchiefs can train animals and convert treasure guardians, so they often end up with a menagerie of wolves, jaguars and bears that follow them around and try to eat enemy soldiers.
  • Theme Park Version: Of the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. At the same time, no less. But they even it out by providing tons of detailed background information for every type of soldier, animal, and plant in the game's world!
  • They Killed Kenny: Your explorer. Technically "captured"/"fallen" rather than "killed" when his hit points drop to zero, and can be brought back either by being ransomed by the player or by having units sent to recover him. You can expect this to happen at least once per game.
  • Threatening Shark: Great White Sharks serve as naval treasure guardians in The Asian Dynasties. They can sink warships if you're not careful.
  • Timed Mission: The next-to-last mission of Ice requires you to destroy Warwick's Town Center in 15 minutes while stealing resource carts and having some settlers to collect these resources.
  • Units Not to Scale: When putting people inside ships and canoes. The in-game database entry about the canoes lampshades this.
  • You Are The Translated Foreign Word: The Ottoman character "Sahin, the Falcon". Şahin is a Turkish name meaning falcon.
  • You Require More Vespene Gas: Gold, Wood, Food, and XP, along with Firepit dancers or Export depending on the civilization.
  • Zerg Rush:
    • The Russians produce batch armies, which are cheaper per soldier.
    • The Chinese in The Asian Dynasties take this even further, producing mixed batches of cheap but pitifully weak troops.
    • The Spanish can rush enemies by spamming army shipment cards at the start. In the late game, it is possible via a combination of improvements and shipment cards to reduce the training time of their Barracks units to zero, allowing to you create instant armies with a few clicks. Just hope your opponent didn't build a lot of artillery.
    • There are also the minutemen: cheap and quick to train but they lose health as they live.
    • The Germans receive a unique cavalry unit, the fast but fragile Uhlan, for free with each shipment.
    • The civilizations introduced in The Warchiefs focus in this aspect (the Sioux, Iroquois, and Aztecs). However, the Aztecs pretty much thoroughly goes in rushing, as all their "big button" upgrades involve spawning a set amount of warriors, and their War Priests can dance in the Fire Pit with an improved dance unlike a typical Villager, so the production rate bonus is higher.