YMMV / Age of Empires II

  • Anticlimax Boss:
    • In the Barbarossa campaign's last scenario, The Emperor Sleeping, after fighting your way through Damascus and the Saracen's camp, all spawning powerful units at will, you end up in a fortified but soldierless Jerusalem.
  • Annoying Video Game Helper:
    • In the vanilla version, Mangonels/Onagers will not stop to attack an enemy unit within their line of sight if one of your other units can be damaged.
    • If you don't set your units to "Defensive" or "Keep Terrain" mode, you'll often find later that they have broken formation and spread all over the map running after a random scout, if not gotten killed.
  • Awesome Music:
    • Several examples on the Conquerors soundtrack. Especially this, around the 1:15 mark
    • This from the original game.
  • Better Than Canon: An extensive community exists towards creating custom campaigns using the in game scenario editor, to say that some of these have such effort and commitment put into them as to shame the official campaigns as released is an understatement. They can be found here[1].
  • Casual/Competitive Conflict: Competitive players tend to ignore anything beyond The Conquerors. The most common reasons being performance bugs on multiplayer in the HD versions and many changes that disrupts the well-established metagame for said expansion such as several Tier-Induced Scrappy civilizations (both high-end and low-end of the trope) introduced in Forgotten Empires/The Forgotten and The African Kingdoms.
  • Complacent Gaming Syndrome:
    • Expect to see Deathmatch Hun only matches, and be criticized if you don't play Deathmatches as the Huns.
    • Most people try to avert this by having all players mandatory pick Random for civ selection, but this has its own problems.
    • The very popular Castle Blood Arena (CBA), there are only 5 non-faction specific units worth producing in late game. Arbalests, Heavy Cavalry Archers, Hand Cannoneers, Paladins, and Heavy Camels. Although Pikeman/Halberdiers can be situationally useful if fighting the Persians. The only reason to produce anything else is if you can't build any of those 5 units.
    • Knight rushes are very popular since they are Lightning Bruisers and can be trained as soon as players hit the Castle Age while their counters need to be upgraded first before they can even stand a chance against them.
  • Critical Research Failure:
    • In Age of Kings:
      • The final scenario for the tutorial campaign (the Battle of Falkirk) portrays it as a siege, and implies that William Wallace survives to continue his war with the English. While they were probably trying to avoid the historical Downer Ending, they could've just as easily given Wallace an Heroic Sacrifice.
      • The Battle of Falkirk should have had you playing as the English where you have to defeat William Wallace. It also should have been the second-to-last mission of the Tutorial campaign. The real final tutorial mission should have been the Battle of Bannockburn, where it reveals that the narrator of the tutorial campaign was Robert the Bruce.
    • In The Conquerors:
      • The religious building for the Mesoamericans are still called Monasteries, and the religious unit is still called "Monk". However, their monk actually uses a different skin than other monks, making them look like a Mayincatec priest. At least they got the blood on the stairs.
      • The Montezuma campaign repeats the popular myth that the Aztecs mistook the Spanish for gods.
      • In the El Cid campaign, El Cid was said to have been killed by an arrow and propped up on a horse in order to stop the truth from spreading. In reality, he died peacefully. This was probably done for the same or similar reasons as the Battle of Falkirk bit.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: For a very minor role in the first Genghis Khan level, Ornlu has gotten quite poular among the fanbase, enough for the developers to reference him in Age Of Mythology and Age of Empires III.
  • Even Better Sequel: While their predecessor got a high rating of 83% at Metacritic, this game got a 92%.
  • Game Breaker:
    • The Huns in The Conquerors don't require houses like everyone else. This means that, in Deathmatch (when you start with a huge stockpile of resources), the tactic of "Build a few Barracks, spam-click build Militia Button, and swarm everyone" ends up being this. Even in normal games this bonus ended up very powerful due to this game's wood-reliant economy. Unlike the Aztecs and Vikings, whose equally great bonuses are hindered by their infantry focus (yet they don't even get Halberdiers, a powerful Anti-Cavalry unit) the Huns have faster-producing Stables, fully-upgraded Paladins and the cheapest Cavalry Archers in the game to dispose most unit compositions. They are lacking in late-game sieging and their unique unit is less impressive Paladins but for the most of the game they are lethally viable.
    • The Mayans enjoy being in the top tiers despite their limited options due to their broken economic bonus (resources last 20% longer) and the ability to swarm the enemy with their El Dorado-boosted Eagle Warriors as well as cheap and durable Plumed Archers with those resources. The latter even has similar stats to Cavalry Archers, making them perfect for raiding enemy villagers.
    • The Vikings on water maps. Cheaper Docks and warships along with a strong economy makes them able to mass warships before everybody else can.
    • The Goths' ability to Zerg Rush. They get two unique techs, one that lets them build their unique unit, the Huskarl, at Barracks note , and another that massively boosts the speed at which Barracks produce units. Combine those with the rather hefty Conscription boost (further reduction of build-time for units) and several Barracks, and you've got hordes of Huskarls, which are designed to tank arrows, and get an attack bonus vs. buildings. This results in an army that can shrug off towers, town centers, and even castles — and is replenished at lightning speed.
    • The eventually patched-out Teuton Town Center range boost, which allowed the Teutons to completely lock down an enemy civilization by deleting their own Town Center and rebuilding it just out of range of the opposition's Town Center.
    • The Persians' War Elephants; they're slow, but so powerful that outside of units they're specifically weak against (monks, pikemen, siege weapons, which any reasonable army will have ways of dealing with), they're virtually unstoppable.
    • The various Korean onager bonuses allow them to outrange near enough anything and the onager's obscene firepower and area of effect damage means they will cause insane damage before anything can retaliate.
      • The Korean war wagons also count, though seeming unlikely at first. Building one war wagon is a waste: expensive, slower and less range than a cavalry archer, doesn't make as clear damage as one or a scorpion and is easily overrun by a cavalry charge and destroyed. But mass enough war wagons, fully upgraded, combine them with onagers and no enemy units will be able to make a dent on them.
    • British Longbowmen, once fully upgraded, can outrange any Castle except for a Teutonic Castle (a Castle's maximum range is 10-11 depending on the civilisation, the fully upgraded British Longbowman has 12 range, Teuton castles have 13). They can outrange any siege unit except for Bombard Cannons and Trebuchets (Trebuchets are damn slow and can't hit moving targets very well, Bombard Cannons barely manage to outrange British Longbowmen, are slower and not everyone can make them); they can even match, if not outrange, the aforementioned Korean Siege Onager. Suppose they are near the sea, and the enemy decides to use their navy to destroy the Longbowmen? Well, the Longbowmen can outrange any ship (except for the Cannon Galleon, which is also pretty damn inaccurate (unless you're Spanish). They don't even need to worry about cavalry, because large numbers of them can shoot down entire hordes before they can do any serious damage.
    • The Spanish in late game seem to excel at practically everything, with no flaws in infantry, ships, cavalry, monks and fortifications, and bonuses on gunpowder, trade, blacksmith technologies and villager attack. They even get two unique units: the only gunpowder cavalry unit and the only monk cavalry unit in the game. They have bad archers that make them weak in the early game, but if you let them get to the Castle Age and beyond you'll get screwed. Guaranteed.
    • The Slavic unique unit, the Boyar, is basically a super-heavy cavalry unit, having the attack of a Paladin and humongous melee armor, along with respectable pierce armor. A swarm of maxed-out Elite Boyars is virtually unstoppable; they can even go toe-to-toe with explicitly anti-cavalry units and come out on top.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Age of Empires II has gotten some popularity in mainland China to the point there is actually a larger competitive scene than Europe and America. note 
  • Good Bad Bugs:
    • In the fourth Attila the Hun mission, you are tasked with destroying three major cities. Destroying the third spawns the massive Roman Army, a force of over a hundred top-tier units...unless you found and killed the placeholder unit on the map, which causes the army to be instantly defeated.
    • In the fifth Saladin mission, Jihad!, one of the three cities, Ascalon, is intended to attempt a Wonder victory. However, sometimes the AI for Ascalon bugs out and doesn't do anything. Given as how Jihad! is That One Level even without Ascalon going for the Wonder, this is immensely helpful.
    • The in game scenario editor can do some interesting things with structures and terrain elements that shouldn't be possible. This has been abused thoroughly by the modding community creating custom campaigns.
    • In the first scenario of the Attila the Hun campaign, it's possible to fire both the "Bleda getting killed in the boar hunt" and the "Attila fleeing the Hun camp" events if your timing is good. Because of the first event, the Huns will argue over whether Attila is a worthy leader or an honorless cur, but the second event will make all Hun units instantly join your side upon Bleda's death. This has the practical benefit of giving you Bleda's entire faction with minimal bloodshed, as well as being hilarious to watch.
    • Another bug in the first Attila the Hun scenario can occur if the player allies with the Scythians. While the Scythians will break their alliance with the Persians, the Persians don't always do the same and won't even bother to fight back as the Scythians slaughter their way through their base.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks: While the Middle Eastern architecture set suits the Berbers, there's still the issue that 6 civs share the same set (Saracens, Turks, Persians, Byzantines, Indians and the aforementioned Berbers).
  • Memetic Loser: While still a decent civ, the Chinese are often mocked for not having Hand Cannoneers and Bombard Cannons despite being credited for inventing gunpowder in real life. Some people even forget that they have access to Bombard Towers and Cannon Galleons because of this in addition their unique technology, "Rocketry" (although it only boosts the damage for Chu Ko Nus and Scorpions only). Some speculated that this is for gameplay balance purposes, as they are supposed to function as the Jack-of-All-Trades civilization.
  • Most Annoying Sound:
    • The monk conversion noise, especially if it is successful.
    • In the Saladin campaign, from Medina and Aqaba:
    "Crusaders are attacking our trade routes!"
    • The "Under Attack" warning tone can also qualify, it's quite loud and plays on an interval of less than 5 seconds. Imagine hearing this for 10 minutes during a skirmish:
    "Ding-Dong!" "You are being attacked by the British"
    "Ding-Dong!" "You are being attacked by the Turks"
    "Ding-Dong!" "You are being attacked by wild animals."
    "Arrrgggh! Shut up already!"
    • The 'Shikkashikkashikka' that plays whenever one of your farms depletes. Apparently, even the developers found this annoying, and introduced the Farm Queue in the expansion.
    • The "attacked by wild animals" sound as noted above is even worse than the "Under Attack" sound- especially when you forgot to research Loom or the attacked villager is in low health.
  • Scrappy Weapon:
    • Camels are usually avoided because they cost a lot of gold yet are very frail. They die easily to building fire as they're classified as ships (which have a similar weakness) to differentiate themselves from Knights. This is one of the reasons why the Indians cannot utilize their camels prior to The African Kingdoms because their Knight line (one of the most powerful standard units in the Castle Age) is completely replaced by Camels, which due to the reasons above above cannot be used similarly to Knights.
    • The Champion line and most of the infantry Unique Units (with the exception of Huskarls, every single Malian infantry, Shotel Warriors and Woad Raiders) rarely see use in competitive play due to being slow, requiring obscenely expensive upgrades that barely do anything and having many common weaknesses, namely the commonly-used archers, gunpowder units, knights and Onagers.
    • Scorpions. They're essentially giant crossbows on wheels that fire penetrating bolts that pass through enemies, and thus can hit a whole line of enemies all at once. What's the issue? Their damage. In the original game, they had a base damage of 7, which gets reduced by pierce armor, meaning pretty much anything with upgraded armor can reduce it to Scratch Damage. Their dismal range, low mobility and poor health didn't help. Upgrading them to Heavy Scorpions, however, did give them a somewhat more respectable base damage of 16, and the later expansions raised their base damage to 12, making them at least somewhat situationally useful.
  • Spiritual Adaptation:
  • Surprisingly Improved Sequel: The original was OK, the sequels are universally acclaimed.
  • That One Level:
    • The Siege of Paris in the Joan of Arc campaign on any difficulty level other than "Standard": the English now have fully developed and highly aggressive Longbowmen that can snipe you dead from far away or lead you to their towers and castle's range. Once inside the city the simplest mistake will have you swarmed with all the possible enemy troops in the city, including the above mentioned Longbowmen, Champions, Halberdiers and Siege Onagers. Even if you manage to evade all these foes, there's still the matter of leading Joan and at least 6 out of 10 villagers through a huge Burgundy attack safe and sound.
      • The most difficult part of this escort mission is there are NO HEALERS to support your forces.
    • The Saladin campaign is by far the most difficult despite being numerically ordered as the third campaign in the Age Of Kings; made worse that you are restricted in the worst way possible every single scenario. Contrast this with how the Saracens are treated in the Barbarossa and El Cid campaigns, where they are already in Castle/Imperial Age with tons of armies at the start.
      • Lord of Arabia, the second scenario in the Saladin campaign. The level seems designed to screw you over in every way possible. You can't advance to the Imperial Age, start out with next to no resources and almost no units, and your opponents (especially Reynald's Pirates) can do everything you can't. It doesn't help that the Saracens have a lackluster early game, which you are stuck in for the majority of the scenario. Also, you get the privilege of defending two towns, Medina and Aqaba, who do virtually nothing for you and constantly nag you about crusaders attacking their caravans.
      • Jihad!, the second to last mission in the Saladin campaign has you up against Tiberias, Tyre, and Ascalon. You start out with very few resources, stuck in the center of the map, with Tiberias to your east, Tyre to the northwest across the ocean, and Ascalon to the south. Tyre and Tiberias will waste no time in hammering at your little fort, while Ascalon goes for a Wonder victory. Thankfully, the AI for Ascalon occasionally glitches and doesn't take any action, but it's still tough holding off two powerful opponents on both sides.
      • The Lion and the Demon, the last mission (again) in the Saladin campaign. Feeling good at building a huge wonder in Acre while repelling the continous assaults of Genoese (warships), Templars (rams and teutonic Knights), French (bombard cannons and hand cannoneers), Jerusalem (champions, camels and trebuchets) and Richard the Lionhearted, who can spam you with longbowmen and trebuchets AND has two unique trebuchets with crazily boosted range. Oh, and you'll have to defend the city from both north and west. Have fun.
      • On occasion, the AI might bug out after the initial assault and you'll get attacked by just Genoa with the other sides just hanging back and letting you win. However, that's the only way the mission becomes easy.
    • Into China, the third scenario from the Genghis Khan campaign. It pits you up against four Chinese factions: Tanguts, Hsi Hsia, Jin, and Sung. It would be a fairly standard scenario, if it wasn't for the fact that Jin starts building a wonder after not too long, located within its Imperial Age-level stronghold across the sea, forcing you to rush to the Imperial Age, while trying to scrounge enough resources to raise a force strong enough to punch through Jin's stronghold and destroy the wonder.
    • Barbarossa's third mission, Pope and Antipope, is like hell after the first two warm-up missions. The player must convert the Cathedral at Milan. While getting started isn't that hard, accomplishing the actual objective is. The player will be the target of frequent naval invasions, and even if one's defences are sufficient to ward them off, one still has to cross that river and fight Milan... and Milan not only has the resources to spam out troops at a horrendous rate, they also seem to have a fairly strong AI that makes them quite efficient at keeping their side of the river clean.
      • Just for that extra little irritation, the level starts you off with no villagers and a handful of monks, forcing you off to try to steal a villager from one of the opposing factions.
    • Barbarossa 4, The Lombard League, can be quite the nightmare as well, what with getting chased out of your base right off the bat and having to relocate to one of two places, neither of which has enough resources for you to beat all of your four enemies who attack you from both land and sea. Oh, and there's also the mission objective, which stipulates that you must build an obscenely expensive Wonder inside an enemy base. You know, those bases that are busy turning out soldiers faster than you can kill them and all that. Those bases. And there's one more detail that makes things more complicated than they really need to be: Henry the Lion betrays you again. No surprise there as if you needed another reason to hate him already.
    • Attila the Hun 4. You have three enemies: Burgundy, who is weakly defended and can be persuaded to join your side; Metz, a fairly well-defended town; Orleans, a massive stronghold that will frequently launch powerful attacks at your position. Even worse, once you finally destroy the center of Orleans, the Roman Army spawns, a massive force of top-tier units that can completely turn the tide of battle if you aren't prepared. Unless you can find the placeholder unit and break the script.
    • Genghis Khan 4, The Horde Rides West, and Barbarossa 6, The Emperor Sleeping, are also quite hard if played with the expansion due to not being rebalanced to account for the Persian unique technology, which makes their elephants faster. Let's hope you can micromanage your monks. The latter somehow subverts this since the Teutons get to upgrade their Pikemen into Halberdiers, which are absent in the original Age of Kings.
    • Attila the Hun 6. You have four enemies, all of whom try to defeat you with a Wonder victory, all of whom attack you with forces that are difficult to fend off, and all of whom are in fortified cities.
    • Attila the Hun 5 isn't any better, you are told in the briefing that the scenario will play out similarly to a multiplayer death match. God help you if you're not good at rushing. You will be attacked frequently and mercilessly by hordes of unit spamming.
    • The first Barbarossa mission is between this and a Wakeup Call Boss, because unlike the other first missions in the other campaigns, which are often the easiest levels. Holy Roman Emperor begins with you being surrounded by six enemies while collecting four of their relics. Better put the Teutons' defensive bonuses to use.
    • El Cid 4 Black Guards can be quite an annoying level, especially if you have it on a high difficulty. The goal: Keep El Cid and King Alfonso alive while you take out all of six docks from the Black Guards to win. Sounds easy, right? Well not so much. Your enemies will constantly send armies to attack your small base. The game tells you that if you can make a dock to do fishing you will have much more of an advantage, but there's just one small problem: Reaching the river is incredibly annoying because you have to take out at least one enemy to have any real chance of making a dock and keeping it intact without it being destroyed. Another small problem is the fact that there is a gold pile in the corner of the map which looks fine to mine up, except after a while the Black Guard Navy will notice and they will send their galleons to kill any villagers that try to mine the gold. There are some small tricks to make this slightly easier, such as bringing a monk to a mosque where you can learn all of the monastery techs. Plus if you pay attention to the attacks, your enemies almost always attack with horseback enemies. Horseback enemies are weak against pike men so one can create a good number of them to stop the attacks and since they don't cost any gold, they will save you a lot on resources. This definitely isn't the hardest level in the game, it's just that it can be a very annoying level.
    • Sforza 1. The enemy have a castle and two guard towers. You have two scorpions, which can't get out of the buildings' range while attacking them, no other siege weapons, and no base. The rest of your army is mainly condottieri, who are infantry units and have to get even closer to those buildings. The worst part is that your allies have things like a Siege Tower and a Trebuchet, but will neither give them to you nor make any attack on the enemy themselves.
    • Langshan Jiang, included in The Forgotten, requires that you protect five transports and build a monument in your town. Easy? Not when you have endless waves of enemies, east and west, army and navy, including Siege Weapons, and having only 25 minutes to clear enemy ships and towers for the transport ship. It can be alleviated slightly if you pay 2,000 gold to the green player to ally with them, but you'll really need the gold for just about everything else.
    • In the African Kingdoms, the last scenario, The Lion's Den, is infamous for this. You start off at the eastern corner of the map with a few units and some reasonable amount of resources. Easy right? WRONG! Your enemy starts off at the Imperial Age while you start at the Castle Age. The enemy will not only attack you constantly, but at some point during the game, they'll start building a wonder. To make matter worse, gold is incredibly scarce in this scenario and you'll need to secure some gold mines in the islands that are heavily guarded and you do not have an ally to trade with, and there are no relics in the map. And on top of that, the map is modelled after the Pyrrhus of Epirus map from the Age of Empires game, which was also infamous for being incredibly difficult, thus giving the players and impression on how difficult the first Age of Empires game was.
    • The third scenario of the Yodit campaign, A Fallen Crown, requires you build up an army in just under an hour and fight a boss with over 900HP, alongside his huge army of archers, elephants and monks. While there are ways to make things a bit easier, another enemy will constantly attack your villagers, making it harder to build an economy in time for the boss battle.
  • Tier-Induced Scrappy:
    • Koreans, Saracens and Turks in open maps. All three of them have poor early-game and open maps make them susceptible to being rushed. This is inverted in closed maps (e.g. Black Forest) where they dominate due to the nature of the map itself and they have access to many strong Imperial Age units and technology.
    • Infantry Unique Units mostly range between extremely situational to completely useless with a few exceptions, but among civs that get them the Franks got it the worst. Despite being billed as the "Cavalry" civilization their only relevant cavalry bonus is extra HP for Knights (which becomes insignificant when many other civs get Bloodlines; which affects all mounted units). Their Unique Unit the Throwing Axeman is regarded as one of the worst as it is easily countered, has the strength of a Long Swordsman even when fully upgraded, short ranged and ended up slower than most infantry due to them lacking Squires. They also got overshadowed by other civilizations with better cavalry and bonuses such as the Spanish, Persians, Huns, Magyars and Berbers. The Forgotten noticed this and buffed the Franks by making their foragers work faster, gave them Squires and most importantly a Unique Tech in Castle Age that makes their Stables produce cavalry faster. However, the Power Creep induced by The African Kingdoms civs makes them fall back to this again.

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